Short summary - Shalimar the Clown - Ahmed Salman Rushdie

British literature summaries - 2020

Short summary - Shalimar the Clown
Ahmed Salman Rushdie


A tragic story about the fate of the disputed Indo-Pakistani territory of Kashmir, about its unfortunate inhabitants forced to live in an atmosphere of hatred and fear, about their broken destinies.


Los Angeles, early 1990s. India Ofals, daughter of former US Ambassador to India, is depressed after killing her beloved father. She is a troubled person, driven by obscure desires, living in a boarding house among immigrants. The daughter of an American and an Indian woman does not identify with India, where she was born, but considers her a real Yankee. She is intensely involved in sports and studies art.

The girl recalls how she met her father’s new driver, Kashmiri Shalimar, and became interested in him. He was lost in her presence. The heroine warned her father about this driver, but her father trusted him.

India adored her father, admired him, already old, but still domineering and significant. Father was the creator of the post-war world, foresaw the many consequences of the Cold War. He believed in a better future, in the human mind.

Many signs preceded the death of the ambassador, for example, his unsuccessful appearance on TV about the "Kashmir issue." Then the former diplomat drew the attention of spectators to the plight of Kashmir and its residents, who were forced to survive in the conditions of a long Indo-Pakistani conflict. His speech was censored, distorted to please indifferent Americans. Then the ambassador driver Shalimar decided to quit, it was he who stabbed Max Ofals in front of his daughter's house in front of her eyes.


The 14-year-old Noman and Bhumi, a Muslim and a Hindu, a clown and dancer with the scenic names of Shalimar and Bunnyi, fell in love in the Pashkhigam village of Kashmir, populated by folk theater artists and culinary specialists. Their fathers - sarpanch (head of the village) Abdullah Noman and pandit (teacher) Pyarelal and their mothers - Firdous and Pampush, who were simultaneously expecting children, were friends. The deceased Pampush was a cheerful woman with great ambitions, which she could not fulfill in a conservative rural setting. Bunny helped raise a sensible large Firdous. She was friends with the seer Nazrebaddauer, who lived alone in a high-mountain hut. Dying, she prophesied great troubles to Kashmir.

In the earthly paradise, Kashmir, Indians, Muslims, Jews, all lived side by side, all worked in the tourism business, arranging performances and banquets for spectators. The villagers competed in craftsmanship with the villagers of neighboring Shirmal, whose headman Bombur Yambarzal was a friend of Abdullah. Both villages shared a religious holiday in the Mughal Garden when Noman and Bhumi were born. That night of 1947, peace and quiet left the blessed, tolerant Valley - Pakistani Islamist forces attacked Kashmiris, initiating the war. Kashmir has become a territory of contention between India and Pakistan.

A girl with many, like her mother’s desires, the desperate Bunny doubted her love for Shalimar, not understanding either her chosen one or her feelings. Nevertheless, she decided that she was in love forever.

Before the birth of her son, Firdous felt bad forebodings and fear. Clown Shalimar, a pensive, bright teenager, kind, adoring parents, sincerely and recklessly fell in love with Bunny. He knew how to walk on a wire high above the ground without insurance, dreamed someday to walk through the air and believed in magic.

After a night of love spent on the meadow, Shalimar threatened to kill Bunny and her children if she ever abandoned him. A woman, uninhibited, courageous, greedy for pleasure, woke up in a heroine intoxicated by love. The guy was restrained.

Colonel Hamir Kachhwaha, a soldier, was the commander of an Indian military camp located in the Valley. Kashmiris did not like soldiers for violent acts. The colonel fell in love with Bunny, but was rejected and ridiculed by her. Since then, he hated freedom-loving Kashmiris and prepared revenge.

The secret connection of lovers revealed. At the council of elders, they decided to urgently marry the teenagers. The whole village was noisily celebrating the wedding, and Bunny felt cheated. She realized that quiet family life in the village was completely not what she wanted.

In 1965, an Islamic preacher, Steel Mullah Bulbul Fakh, appeared in Shirmal. Rumor had it that he was a robot. He incited disobedience and resistance to the Indian authorities, preached religious intolerance towards the Indians. Many residents succumbed to Islamic propaganda and committed crimes. Warden Yambarzal ridiculed the fanatic and forced him to get out; A brewing inter-religious conflict did not happen.

Kashmir was rapidly militarized; an Indo-Pakistani war broke out. After the Indian army occupied the state, the arrests of the discontented began. The military patrolled and cleaned the villages; lists of the unreliable were created, in which the Nomans fell. Residents supported separatist sentiments.

The average son of Nomanov, Anis, went to the partisans. The tourism industry has almost disappeared, as Kashmir has become dangerous.

To entertain the American ambassador Max Ofals, who visited Kashmir, the villagers arranged a feast and a theatrical production, in which Bunnyi danced.


Max Ofals is a Jew who lived in Belgium before World War II. His parents died in a Nazi concentration camp. The hero entered the Resistance, prepared false documents to Jews and partisans. Thanks to courage, he became a partisan legend. He worked for the French and English intelligence against the Nazis. Fell in love with a fighting girlfriend - the Englishwoman Margaret (Peggy). They fought together, got married after the war. The young were unhappy due to the frigidity and sterility of his wife. Soon, Max began to change Peggy.

After the war, he was asked to develop a plan for the restoration of the European economy, as well as move to the United States and work at the university, at the UN. Disappointed in European values, Max agreed.

In 1965, after another Indo-Pakistani conflict, he was appointed US ambassador to India to establish peace between the warring parties. Max had a hunch that this mission was the most important in his life. The ambassador favored India, unlike the United States, which supported Pakistan. Standing on the Indo-Pakistan front line in Kashmir, the ambassador saw the horrors of war, remembered the Second World War and decided to prevent a new massacre. Through diplomacy, he tried to bring India and the United States closer, to restrain Pakistani aggression.

At the performance, the ambassador became interested in the dancing Bunny. The girl took his interest as the only chance to end the hateful village life. The ambassador invited Pachigam artists to play in the capital. There, the fifty-year-old Ofals and the eighteen-year-old Bunny agreed that she would not return to Kashmir and become his containment. The heroine was convinced that she no longer loved her husband, who sent her love letters, and that the ambassador would make her happy. The girl became a relaxed lover and at first was happy with everything.

Bunny’s views on the Kashmir issue influenced Ofals and formed his opinion: he took a pro-Kashmir position. The intervention of the ambassador did not like the Indian authorities and the media, he was sharply criticized.

The heroine failed to fall in love with Ofals, while he fell in love. Bunny experienced nostalgia and regret, she dreamed dreams of her homeland and family. She desperately told herself that her former life was a prison for her, “but her heart called her a stupid girl. The heart said that she mixed everything up. ” Loneliness and remorse plunged the girl into a severe depression, because of which the ambassador cooled down to her. She started smoking, taking antidepressants, drugs and eating excessively - self-destruct.

The girl became pregnant by deception, despite the contract with Ofals. Before the breakup between the lovers, a heavy, full of accusations conversation took place. The wife of Ambassador Peggy Ofals arranged a secret birth for the heroine and persuaded her to give her a child. Bunny understood that she, alone and sick, would not be able to raise her daughter, and gave her to Kashmir, named so in honor of her homeland. Peggy renamed the girl in India and took her to England, forbidding Max to visit her daughter.

After a grand diplomatic scandal, where a middle-aged ambassador was declared a rapist, he was expelled from the country. Spouses Ofals divorced. Since then, Max has secretly worked for the CIA, organizing local wars around the world in the name of American interests.

Clown Shalimar

After the betrayal of Bunny, her relatives were depressed. Shalimar became isolated and hardened, which affected his artistic abilities. He wrote his wife false love letters, forcing her to return to take revenge. The hero stopped loving his wife, "the crater formed as a result of destroyed love was immediately filled with emetic bile of hatred." The deceived husband vowed to kill the ambassador and his wife when his parents died.

Bunny returned home to Pachigam, but the villagers forbade her to live in the village, declared dead and documented this. The girl went into the mountains, into the dilapidated hut of the sorceress Nazrebaddaur. Her relatives secretly helped her survive. Bunny was cleansed of sins, but she became mentally ill from loneliness: she communicated with ghosts. A telepathic relationship was established between the former spouses, but the heroine kept the birth of her daughter secret from everyone.

Calm, tolerant Kashmir died. “Religious violence has occurred within the community. When it knocked, not strangers were killed. The neighbors were killing, Suddenly hatred flashed in their hearts, and with torches in their hands in the middle of the night they began to burst into your house. ” The Indian military presence has increased significantly due to the constant terrorist threat.

In Shirmala, the headman got the first TV, the villagers watched the programs for a fee. Shalimar with a theater troupe spoke at the front, what he saw changed his worldview, and he decided to join the separatists, like brother Anis. Parents did not restrain him, indirectly supporting the partisan slogan “Kashmir for Kashmiris”.

Together with his brother, the hero fought in a terrorist organization. At first, the inhabitants treated such gangs sympathetically, supporting their struggle for freedom, until the terror affected civilians as well. Shalimar, against the will of his brother, joined the radical Islamists. In the border mountains, he met Steel Mullah and other criminals who turned into associates. Fakh preached blind fanaticism; Shalimar hated fanatics, but pretended to be the same.

In the 80s, the hero met Mujahideen in the camps who fought with Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan, and the Taliban - new fanatics who hated everything non-Islamic. At the same time, CIA agent Max Ofals was here, secretly financing and supervising the militants, but so far the enemies have not met. Shalimar occasionally conducted telepathic conversations with Bunny, telling her about his partisan life. The heroine retold what she heard to her father, predicting terrible events. At first, she hoped that she and her husband could still be happy, but later became convinced that he lived only with hatred and a thirst for revenge.

In Africa, Shalimar first killed a man by order of a writer criticizing Islam. Although he had a gun with a silencer, he stabbed the victim and cut his throat - so he tested himself. The hero became a popular killer, traveled to many countries, learned languages, got a lot of passports and names. Years passed, the heroes had already exceeded forty.

In 1987, democratic elections were held in Kashmir. The results were rigged so that the pro-Indian candidate won, not the pro-Pakistani one. This caused a new surge in resistance of Kashmiris. Border bandits intensified, continuing the terror of the army and civilians.

Sarpanch Abdullah was already old, sick, poor, pessimistic. His wife Firdous saw snakes everywhere, ready to attack. Patrons of the folk theater, businessman Yuvaraj and his father, as they could, supported the actors. While the troupe of Abdullah gave a performance in the half-empty hall of Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, a popular uprising began, and the army shot a crowd of protesters.

After the uprising, the President of India imposed martial law in Kashmir. “... In the“ high-tension zone ”, arrest warrants were not required and shooting to kill was considered a perfectly acceptable measure ...” General Kachkhwaha, the Hammer of Kashmir, has long been waiting for the moment to avenge the Kashmiris for their freedom and hatred of the Indian army. Now his hands were untied, he gave the order not to stand on ceremony with the population. The army unleashed terror against dissidents, mostly Muslims.

Ethnic cleansing began - the genocide of the Hindus by terrorists, and the Indian army did not prevent this. "... the Indian army and Muslim militants fought for the possession of the tormented, bloodshot Valley ... Why was this possible?" General Kachkhvaha did not intervene in the civil strife of the militants, expecting that various groups would kill each other, making the army easier. He agreed on this with Pakistani intelligence.

Anis Noman returned to Pachigam with a detachment to protect the village from the Islamists.

The first Indians left the village, fearing ethnic cleansing. In 1991, the pandit Pyarelal, the father of Bunny, died. After the Indian soldiers defeated the Anis group, and he himself was tortured in prison, General Kachkhwaha had a legitimate reason to get even with Pachigam village.

Patron and friend of Abdullah, Yuvaraj, did not have time to protect the villagers. The soldiers killed all the residents of Pachigam, burned houses. Some people who found shelter in Shirmala survived. Before her death, Firdous called on the snakes to avenge the innocent victims.

Steel Mullah prepared suicide bombers and sent them to carry out terrorist attacks among the Indians. When the gang of Fakha entered Shirmal, it was given to the authorities by the family of the headman of Yambarsal; the bandits were destroyed. Shalimar managed to escape; he went to the mountains where he killed Bunny. After the murder of the Mullah fanatic, General Kachkhvaha, bitten by cobras, died in a dream, Firdous's revenge happened.

Shalimar rejoiced at the death of Fakh. He escaped from Kashmir and put an end to terrorism. Having learned the address of Ambassador Ofals, the hero hired a driver to him, put his trust in him and found out that his enemy had a daughter from Bunny, India, surprisingly similar to his mother.


After killing her father, India finds out that the killer was going to kill her too. Police are looking for a killer, but so far to no avail. The girl begins to prepare for a possible meeting with the enemy: she trains in archery, in a shooting gallery, in the ring. She obsessively tortures the body to heal the soul from depression. Only after the death of his father does his daughter learn that although he was the head of the counter-terrorism department and worked in the hottest spots on the planet, "there must be some amount of ... quite visible blood left on the hands of the invisible world to Max." Now the girl does not know how to relate to the memory of her father: “... the one she knew disappeared, and in his place another, completely alien Max Clone appeared. He moved through the burning, devastated land - a supplier of weapons, a manufacturer of puppet dictators, an inspirer of terrorists. ”

Finally, the investigation establishes the true reasons for the murder of the ambassador: the revenge of the deceived husband, whose wife was seduced by Ofales many years ago in India. For the daughter, this is a revelation: the father and the adoptive mother never told her about the past, about her mother.

India recalls her bleak childhood in England with Peggy Ofals. She lied to her about her real parents, and only at the age of seven did the girl meet her father and love him. After India, in spite of her mother, nearly died from drug addiction, her father took her to the United States. She was treated for a long time, after the girl lived with her father and no longer met with Peggy. She graduated from the university and became a documentary filmmaker, about to make a film. The death of her father destroyed her whole life.

The heroine is visited by Peggy Ofals, apologizes for her lie, talks about Bunny and shows her photo. The girl finally learns her real name - Kashmir - and feels a strong spiritual craving for a real mother. The heroine flies to Kashmir, and in Los Angeles there are Negro unrest against the arbitrariness of the police.

Kashmir, as the heroine now calls herself, turns for help to Yuvaraj, who once knew her whole family and supported the actors of Pachigam. A young man falls in love with her and is taken to a destroyed village. On the way, he tells her about Kashmir’s pain: “Zealots kill our men, and the military will drive our women.” In the ashes of the village, Yuvaraj recalls Nomanov’s friend, Yambarzal, and the heroes travel to Shirmal.

After the death of Steel Mullah, the Islamists frightened the villagers: they no longer entertain tourists, vegetate in poverty, women dressed in burqa, the elder Bombur was blind. His wife leads the heroes up the hill to the hut where Bunny lived and died. On the overgrown grave of Kashmir, she feels that unknown forces are instilling into her, as if her mother were giving her her dreams. Upon returning to the house of Yuvaraj, the girl is sick, the guy nurses her. Before the heroine flies to the USA, he confesses her love to her, but, excited by the learned facts, the girl is not ready for a relationship.

Soon after Kashmir’s arrival home, they arrest Shalimar, who was caught hungry and tormented in the mountains. The girl is upset that the capture of the killer, the court and punishment are not dependent on her. To restore justice and mental health, she writes letters to Shalimar, where she tells him about herself, her parents and threatens revenge. Now Kashmir feels ownership of the fate of his mother and his torn Motherland.

Shalimar awaiting trial suffers from a mental disorder: it seems to him that a female demon has penetrated into his brain. Having received letters from Kashmir, he realizes that the demon is she, the daughter of the Bunny killed by him, and she takes revenge. The heroine dooms herself to voluntary imprisonment and loneliness, passionately training her body and will. She feels herself in a war, like in Kashmir.

The trial of Shalimar attracts the attention of the whole country because of the scale of the identity of the victim and the religion of the criminal, since after the terrorist attack of 1993 the hostility towards Muslims is growing in the country. Experienced lawyers strive to introduce the killer as a victim and a zombie weapon of the Islamists. But the performance of Kashmir Ofals puts everything in its place: Shalimar is the ruthless killer of her parents.

Peace has returned to Kashmir, she is restoring a normal life, making films, responding to Yuvaraj’s feelings. Lovers live in two countries, visiting each other. She receives a letter from Shalimar: he writes that he does not repent of his deeds.

A detached and indifferent hero has been awaiting the death penalty in prison for many years. Prisoners and guards beat him several times, he defends himself fiercely and makes friendship with prison authority, and appeals. There is an escape in prison; right from the roof of the building, the clown Shalimar, as if by wire, runs through the air and disappears. Kashmir is informed of the danger that threatens her. The heroine, armed with a pistol and a bow, is waiting for the killer in her house, where Shalimar secretly penetrates.