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Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
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Book Name: Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher(s): Granta Books/Penguin (US) Puffin (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): YA Fantasy / Childrens' Fantasy
Release Date: November 1, 1991 (US) March 25, 1993 (UK)

This is one of the tenderly beautiful children’s books that is written with wit and an elegant simplicity for all ages. A close comparison that I’m sure many of you know is The Last Unicorn. If you enjoyed The Last Unicorn, you will enjoy Haroun and the Sea of Stories. That is as much of a guarantee as I can give. Salman Rushdie’s story is more of a fairy tale, though, and lacks Peter Beagle’s lyrical prose. It is also funny and clever and will make you remember a piece of childhood’s joy.

‘How much have you seen, eh, Thieflet? Africa, have you seen it? No? Then is it truly there? And submarines? Huh? Also hailstones, baseballs, pagodas? Goldmines? Kangaroos, Mount Fujiyama, the North Pole? And the past, did it happen? And the future, will it come? Believe in your own eyes and you’ll get into a lot of trouble, hot water, a mess.’

So. What is the story about. The hero is a happy, clever boy named Haroun who lives in “a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad it had forgotten its name.” His mother elopes with their neighbor, a Mr. Sengupta. Naturally, Mr. Sengupta hates all things creative and imaginative. He’s a square, fun-loathing adult and enemy of children. A villain of the highest order. This leaves Haroun alone with his father, Rashid, a storyteller of great renown. The problem is that since his wife eloped, Rashid has been unable to tell stories. The magic spark is gone. Kaput. Finished. Khattam-Shud.

As Haroun discovers, stories do not come from nowhere, or from an elusive muse. No, in fact they come from the waters of the Great Story Sea, as dispensed by invisible Story Taps installed in homes by Water Genies. Marvelous, isn’t it? Haroun was dubious at first, but soon found that how any of this works is simply P2C2E – a Process Too Complicated To Explain. This, Iff the Water Genie tells him with a wicked grin.

Haroun has no choice but to travel to the Sea of Stories and have his father resupplied. Traveling to this magical world, to the source of stories, is not something anyone can do, of course. As the Water Genie replies to Haroun’s request: “No can do, it’s off the menu, don’t even dream about it. Access to Gup City in Kahani, by the shores of the Ocean of the Stream of Story, is strictly restricted, completely forbidden, one hundred per cent banned, except to accredited personnel; like, for instance, me. But you? No chance, not in a million years, no way, José.” But Haroun is able to coerce the Water Genie to help him, and so makes his way to the Sea of Stories to have his father’s water supply restored.

Once there, however, he finds that a greater trouble than his own is afoot, and growing. The Sea of Stories is being polluted by Khattam-Shud, “the arch-enemy of all stories, even of language itself. He is the Prince of Silence and the Foe of Speech.” A most suitable antagonist for a novel, I think. What happens next – well, that’s what you’ll buy the book for, right?

Haroun and the Sea of Stories should be on every child’s bookshelf for them, and their parents, to enjoy. It demonstrates how language can be ridiculous and expressive while still being simple and easy to read. Which is always a good thing, for readers of all ages, to experience.

And if you are very, very careful, or very, very highly skilled, you can dip a cup into the Ocean,’ Iff told Haroun, ‘like so’, and here he produced a little golden cup from another of his waistcoat pockets, ‘and you can fill it with water from a single, pure Stream of Story, like so’, as he did precisely that, ‘and then you can offer it to a young fellow who’s feeling blue, so that the magic of the story can restore his spirits. Go on now; knock it back, have a swig, do yourself a favour,’ Iff concluded. ‘Guaranteed to make you feel A-number-one.’

Haroun, without saying a word, took the golden cup and drank.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, 10.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
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3 Comments

  1. I read this something like 20 years ago – I remember enjoying it, but very little about it. I must revisit it sometime (and The Last Unicorn, too).

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