by Salman Rushdie
This sprawling, ambitious work is the author’s first adult novel since Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or death edict, against him in 1989 for a purported blasphemy in The Satanic Verses. Since then the author has used this frightening situation as the inspiration for a series of metaphorical works.
Moraes Zogoiby—the Moor of the title—spent just 4½ months in his mother’s womb. Like his country, India, the Moor’s clan is a multicultural wonder—one side Portuguese Christian, the other Jewish and Arab. Now 36, he struggles to record his family’s exotic story of scheming women and evasive men fighting for a fortune built on the spice trade.
Zogoiby is imprisoned in Bombay after running afoul of a corrupt Hindu politician—a story line that has caused the novel to be banned throughout India. The lead character’s plight—and his rush to set his thoughts on paper—clearly reflects the author’s bitter existence in exile. Rushdie’s breakneck speed, underscored by his gymnastic use of wildly different writing styles, and his plot shifts make The Moor’s Last Sigh an exhausting read. You can almost sense the author’s pen struggling to keep up with the feverish mind creating the story. (Pantheon, $25)