Global Migrancy and Diasporic Memory in the Work of Salman Rushdie examines Salman Rushdie’s major works for the ways that they consistently affirm the power of memory to construct a concrete, rooted identity for characters and nation-states despite the prerogative of migrants to translate themselves into new creations through a dismissal of the weight of the past. Stephen J. Bell conducts an in-depth, comprehensive postcolonial and postmodern analysis of Rushdie’s ideas as expressed through the author’s work. If “exile is a dream of glorious return,” as one of his characters reflects in The Satanic Verses, few diasporic writers living today rival Rushdie for the singular inspiration he draws from memories of home and the past. So vital is the idea of home and belonging to Rushdie that, notwithstanding the frequent charges of his critics that he represents no more than a disconnected cosmopolitan, Bell would categorize Rushdie’s position as one of “centripetal migrancy” (with centrum—“center”—and petere—“to seek”—forming the idea of a constant quest for the center). Rushdie thus qualifies as the quintessential “centripetal migrant,” whose slippery critical location is balanced Janus-faced between the future and the past.
Stephen Bell is professor of English at Liberty University.
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Remembering the Past, Writing/Righting History
Chapter Three: The Politics of the Palimpsest
Chapter Four: Pitting Levity against Gravity
Chapter Five: Of Untranslated and Translated Men
Chapter Six: Conclusion
About the Author
Stephen J. Bell’s Global Migrancy and Diasporic Memory in the Work of Salman Rushdie provides an important reevaluation of Rushdie’s place in the postcolonial canon. Bell’s theoretically grounded and often beautiful readings of Rushdie’s major works overturn the scholarly consensus around Rushdie’s privilege, giving readers new insights into both Rushdie’s politics and his relationship to postmodern and postcolonial thought. In Bell’s deft hands, the connection between memory and migrancy in Rushdie’s fiction disrupts the easy binary of cosmopolitan rootlessness and national grounding. This brilliant, deeply humane study rediscovers in Rushdie a moral agent, not merely a disconnected cosmopolitan—one attempting to preserve the past from ‘the annihilation of time.’
Bell’s book is a significant contribution to the Rushdie scholarship. Focusing on the historicized artistic craftsmanship in a rich range of Salman Rushdie’s postmodern and postcolonial novels in the global context, Bell’s writing is rigorous, poignant, sophisticated, and poetic.