Rushdie, Salman. Shalimar the Clown (2005)

September 13, 2007

Shalimar the Clown

“Freedom is not a tea party, India. Freedom is a war.”

Shalimar the Clown is another deeply metaphorical tragedy from the pen of Salman Rushdie. He returns to his old theme of partitioning and fragmentation not only geographical, but also personal. In this novel, he tells the story of Kashmir through Kashmiris as well as through foriegn interlopers and a strangers to the land. I am going to avoid plot summary here as it would only get convoluded, and jump right into the legal aspects.

Rushdie’s use of magical realism extends to his manifestations of the law in his novels. In Shalimar the Clown Rushdie goes a step or two further than he did in Midnight’s Children. He takes us outside the minds eye of a single person, and into numerous versions of the same story. These different characters also symbolize the numerous regions that these views and actions originate. This illustrates that the partioning that we understand as legal boundaries also has an effect upon his characters in creating identities that must engage with the legal landscape around them (which is created by the boundaries). All the characters have mixed identities, a fracturing which is enhanced by the legal implications of the borders. Enhancing these ideas and themes is Rushdie’s use of fractured storytelling.

Max Ophuls, in the story, is a European that was transplanted to the United States and later became the US Abassador to India (he is also a lawyer). After that he became a Ambassador to terrorists. He flew around clandestinely supporting movements on behalf of the US government. It is he who tells us the “freedom is war,” invoking the idea that one must struggle in order to have freedom, if it is given then it is not freedom. He also is representative of the Western World’s post World War II architecture of world order:

He tried to believe that the global structures he had helped to build, the pathways of influence, money and power, the multinational associations, the treaty organizations, the frameworks of cooperation and law whose purpose had been to deal with hot war turned cold, would still function in th future that lay beyond what he could forsee.

Max forsaw and helped create the structure of world peace and security as we know it. In the Story, it is his musing on International Relations that helps to create the United Nations. The UN adopts Western ideals about international law, and as it gained power these ideals were carried worldwide.

Rushdie is not entirely damning of the idea that the West created and forced its vision of world order on everybody else, though. By making Max a French Jewish survivor of WWII, he shows us what the Western world feared, and the gravity of the battle just fought. Its vision of order was indeed one sided, but it also meant well in that it was trying to avoid another event as catastrophic as WWII. The West’s identity was fragmented due to the nationalism that results from war. Identity became fluid in the west as Europe’s borders became fluid. This is represented by Max’s work during WW II forging passports an papers to get people out of the battle zone. The West’s vision of order sought to reaffirm and resolidify those identities.

Max represents the Western force that acted on the Eastern world. The Eastern world is represented by Boonyi and Shalimar. The two live in a small village in Kashmir, which boasts a mixed population of both Hindus and Muslims. Boonyi is Hindu and Shalimar is Muslim. They fall in love and despite the religious differences they are allowed to be married. In Kashmir as this story unfolds the idea of partition is beginning to occur. As both Pakistan and India make claims on Kashmir the people of Kashmir are forced to choose a political side. Initially the claim seems to be “Kashmir for the Kasmiri’s,” but as the violence escalates power begins to overtake the people, who are forced to choose political sides. The political division runs down religious lines with Muslims wanting to join the Muslim state of Pakistan and Hindu’s wanting to join the more appealling secular state of India.

That the law in this situation becomes magically real can be found in a a passage in which Rushdie explores the legal pposition of Colonel Kachhwaha of the Indian Army: “[t]he legal stance of the Indian military presence in Kashmir had the full support of the population, and to say otherwise was to break the law.” Kachhwaha makes it clear the breaking the law and being criminal are the same thing. What we see from this is that the law has magically created a situation in which full support of the population is given. The right to dissent is undermined , by the idea of a thought crime. The result is an illusion, but one that is still none the less a fact.

Later, Kachhwaha realizes that the Kashmiris on the Indian side of the partition are ungrateful for the war, that they still sought self determination. On that side, only Kashmiris are allowed to own land, but on the far side anyone can the land was being populated by non-Kashmiris. Kachhwaha sees this as the answer “the valley should be emptied of all these people and refilled with others.” Kachhwaha’s sentiments demonstrate the meaning of identity under the law. On the Pakistani side Kashmiri meant land ownership in Kashmir, an the Indian side it meant something deeper and more historical. Kachhwaha endorses a change in the law to redefine the identy of the people in Kashmir in order to garner support needed for his conquest, a use of the law for political ends and not necessarily justice.

The severe problems in Kashmir arguably could be traced back the West’s disengagement from its colonies in the region, which left a semblence of the Western order, but one that was having trouble adapting to Eastern ideals. It is not fair to say that these former colonies were completely abandoned, the West still sought to control them. Thus Max Ophuls enters the story as the US Ambassador to India. He is sent in the midst of the US trying to exert its power in this part of the world, and India is a problematic area for them. The US is cozy with Pakistan at the time and willing to turn a blind eye on Sino-Pakistan relations. This of course causes tension with India, who is at war with Pakistan. Thus Max is sent to give “those Indian gentlemen . . . a good old American spanking.” Max symbolizes the West’s attempt to re-exert its power and values on the region.

Max attempts to resolve the problems between the two countries by attempting to get them to engage in International Cooperation. At the same time though he has inserted himself between the two. As represented in his seduction of Boonyi and her estrangement from Shalimar. He negotiates a “joint statement of accord” between himself and his new mistress, and she leaves her village, her husband, and more importantly her identity. When Max no longer needs her she is abandoned, pregnant with his child.

Boonyi returns to her village, but finds that she has been declared dead in and official and legal sense. She has been made a ghost by the law as “the dead have no rights” and no property. This idea plays directly into Rushdie’s commentary on identity. The law can change ones identity quite easily, i.e. from Kashmiri to Indian to Pakistani. This identity changed again for Kashmiri’s when Kashmir was declared a “disturbed area.” The criminal code gave immunity to public servants (including soldiers) for crimes committed in the line of duty. Furthermore, “in a disturbed area, search warrants were not required, arrest warrants ditto, and shoot-to-kill treatment of suspects was acceptable.” Thus Boonyi’s fear of attempting to come back to life and claim her rights only to be murdered is realized for the whole region. By asserting rights the ghosts that were citizens can be murdered. The criminal procedure was amended to allow torture and jailing without charges (particularly if the person challenged India’s territorial integrity in Kashmir. A presumption of guilt was allowed, and a failure to disprove the presumption would result in the death penalty.

Shalimar, becomes a terrorist and an assasin. his sole goal in life is to Kill Boonyi and Max (or maybe their mataphorical counterparts. In this we can find what I think is the most important message of the book. Effects of these turmoils are felt world wide. Insurgents in Kashmir tap into a network of terrorists who rely on different nations with shifting allegiances for funding and weapons. Max is one of the people that doles out this secret assistance. Shalimar comes to the states to assassinate Max. He lives with Max and understands Max, but Max never understands him. Thus killing Max can only be an external message (i.e. terrorism), because Max will never understand. This is a wonderful metaphor for terrorism in general. Terrorists often insert themselves into a culture in order to carry out their missions. So often though the people that become their victims have no real understanding of what the terrorists complaints are. It is an external message only.

The book ends with two significant items. First, Shalimar is taken into the American Justice system where justice is given. However, Rushdie doesn’t leave it at that. While the American justice system is one of the most highly developed in the world it has its moments where it is “a mirror of everywhere else.” Rushdie points to high profile Los Angeles cases as examples including the gas chamber, Rodney King, and O.J. There is a wonderful bit of lawyering where Shalimar’s Lawyers attempt to use a sorcerer’s defense wherein he argues that Shalimar has been bewitched by India/Kashmira (Max and Boonyi’s daughter). The defense claims that Shalimar was under the belief that sorcery was real and that he was under “extreme vulnerability to external manipulation.” His case however is lost when India/Kashmira testifies that Shalimar also killed her mother. While Shalimar’s case is interesting it isn’t the legal thrust of the book (but is probably worth a more in depth look than I have given here).

The second event of signifigance is that after Shalimar kills off an old ideal (Max), we find that he too is an old ideal. His ideas about identity are just as out moded as Max’s, thus he has to now confront India/Kashmira who represents a new globalized world. One which recognizes its Western legal traditions, but at the same time is willing to embrace new ideas emerging from around the globe. Significantly, Rushdie leaves us at the moment of confrontation and with no resolution.

Salman Rushdie

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Harris, Thomas. Hannibal Rising (2006)

May 22, 2007

hannibalrising“It’s a juvenile crime, Etienne, a crime of passion. I don’t want a conviction, I want him declared insane. In an asylum they can study him and try to find out what he is.”

We should have seen it coming. With the horrendous ending that Thomas Harris gave to Hannibal (luckily rectified in the movie), why would he bother to give Lector a beginning that was worthwhile? I read one reviewer that said that Harris had “gone gay” for Hannibal. I disagree, if he had he might have bothered to write this book with some tender loving care instead of making it read like an “I’m drunk and need money” read (not that I know if Harris is even prone to drinking, but that is what it reads like . . . comparable to Ringo Starr in Shining Time Station.)

Hannibal Rising tells the story of a young Hannibal Lector and his journey from a priviledged child prodigy in Lithuania to his college days in Paris with his Japanese aunt, Lady Murasaki. The story lacks the psychological intrigue that made the previous novels in the series such gripping books. We learn that Lector is twisted due to the fact that his sister was eaten by starving war criminals and . . . and well thats it. I’m not saying that this wouldn’t be traumatic, but it is a hardly adequate explanation for Lector’s perverted predilictions. The book leaves the reader empty in that it is all story and no development, and thats what the reader of this book wants: the development of the monster. Instead, Harris shields Lector within Lector’s own mind. We learn how he gets his skills, but not why he exercises them after his gains vengeance for his young sisters death.

The legal thrust of the book is mainly in the realm of International Law and specifically International Criminal Law in post World War II Europe. Once the war enters the storyline the reader is treated to a series of war crimes committed by a group of pseudo German soldiers or Hilfswillige. For instance at one point Grutas (the antagonist) and his band of merry bad guys go looting disguised as the Red Cross. They also carry a barrage of false documents in order to seem like legal operatives to whomever they may encounter. Of course their war crime of eating Hannibal’s sister is included in the series of atrocities they commit.

Soon after the war ends and the post war era begins, there are references to the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg. The first of which is a newspaper headline runs “Doctors Indicted at Nuremberg.” Then the reader meets Inspector Popil who delivered evidence at Nuremberg. Popil, as an investigator of war crimes, comes to the small French village to investigate the murder of the butcher that Hannibal kills. He comes because the butcher was suspected of war crimes and these “do not end with the war.” Popil investigates these because he lost his own family in the war. Later it is revealed that Hannibal is hunting (in vengeance) a few war criminals who were charged in absentia at Nuremberg. The result is that there is a conflict of sorts between Hannibal’s substantive justice and Popil’s formal justice. Popil wants to see these men go through the proper channels to recieve punishment. Hannibal, on the other hand, simply wants to see them punished.

The book also deals with crimes of art theft in the post war period. Specifically, a painting that Hannibal’s family owned appears on the market. According to the book it must be exhibited so anyone with a ownership rights my make a claim. When the art is confiscated, Inspector Popil demands the invoice and the Arts and Monuments advisory that is “required” to be on the premisis. The investigator and Hannibal then set a trap for the person that owns the mate to the painting. This man attempts to get Hannibal to sell to him due to the backlog of hearings (created under article 46 of the 1907 Hague Convention) that could keep Hannibal from actually getting ownership until he is an adult.

There are also aspects of general criminal law represented in the book. After Hannibal’s first violent outbreak he is questioned by the French Police. There is false testimony presented to try and protect Hannibal, but the commander is more concerned with protecting Hannibal himself. Thus he takes Hannibal into a jail cell and tells him, “Use judgement and you will never occupy a cell like this.”

Hannibal is later arrested, there is very little evidence against as pointed out by the prosecutor and he secures his release based on good behavior and good references. Hannibal’s incarceration is interesting because it helps to display a bit of the Lector character. He doesn’t feel guilt because he feels that his murders are completely justified. However, there is a gap in his thinking. Because he will kill if there is an attempt to bring him to justice. These enforcement officers are by all means innocent, yet they also recieve his retributive justice. This is the main failing in Hannibal’s thinking. This isn’t fleshed out in the book at all, but just something that occurred to me.

Later in the book, when Hannibal is in medical school, he must get death sentenced inmates to donate their bodies to science. To do this he must get them to sign a release. In probably the best few moments of the book, he must negotiate this deal with an inmate who acts as the lawyer for his client (a pile of clothing). The negotiation ends with the prisoner donating his body for a dose of laudanum before the execution. Inspector Popil is there and doesn’t want it administered because he feels that it diminishes the actual punishment that has been sentenced. Popil, “believe[s] in consequences.” In reality though the inspector wants one last chance to interrogate the prisoner about Klaus Barbie.

This is also a small question of Tax Law. When Hannibal’s uncle dies his chateau must be auctioned off in order to pay for the death taxes that have been levied. Since Lady Murasaki’s “resident status” comes into question with the death of her husband the tax collector cannot accept her sureties.

There is a bit of animal law also. We find out that the law of importation of insects in the “new republic” was “fuzzy” from a cricket dealer, and there is an ordinance against serving a local bird called an ortolan, that “came and went.”

Thomas Harris


Lukefahr, Oscar. “We Believe…”:A Survey of the Catholic Faith. (1995)

April 30, 2007

We Believe…: A Survey of the Catholic Faith : Revised and Cross-Referenced to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

“Laws are necessary and good, but Christ’s followers must constantly strive to view them according to their mind and heart.”

Oscar Lukefahr, in “We Believe…”, attempts to give a straightfoward and short introduction to Catholicism. Its main audience is intended to be those that are new to the faith, but it could probably be handy for tried and true Catholics as well (not being Catholic myself I’m only assuming). His text covers many parts of the faith and cross references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church making it very easy to reference back to the source of the official doctrine. It is an easy read and is very accessible to the average unitiated reader.

There are three different types of references to law that can be found in the book. The first is references to occurences of law within the Bible. The second is to Canon Law itself. Finally, there are references to the role of the Catholic Church in the political state.

His references to law in the Bible aren’t by any means a full treatment of the subject. Instead, they are incidental to the story that Lukefahr is telling. He begins with a brief history of the nation of Israel. He notes that in 63 BC the Romans conquered Jerusalem and made Palestine a vassal state. This event created, of course, conflicting regimes in the area: Roman Law versus Jewish Law. He states that throughout its long history “the Israelite nation had little political or military influence” (barring a brief period under David). He then goes on to discuss the formation of the Bible itself as the telling of this history, noting that among the different items collected into the document are laws, which is what the Jewish priests were trained in.

After his discussion of Jewish history he moves into the life of Christ (and the beginnings of Christian history). In describing the political climate, he relates the different sects of Jews that were active at the time. Of particular note are the Sadducees and the Pharisees both of whom strictly followed the written law that could be found in the Torah. Also, he mentions the Zealots, who believed the Messiah would be a military leader and a political leader.

Christ’s tensions with these groups came partly, according to Lukefahr, from his resistance to their observance of “thousands of detailed regulations.” The Sadducees feared that he would cause a “civil disturbance,” whereas the Pharisees accused him of breaking the law. This, of course, leads to one of the most monumental moments in history and an interesting bit of conflict of laws. The Pharisees tried Christ in a secret “unfair trial” and sentenced him to death. They then took him to Pontius Pilate in order that he might be condemned under Roman Law also. Lukefahr claims this is because they didn’t want to bear the blame and because they wanted Christ “to undergo the humiliation of a Roman crucifixion.” They accused him of treason, but Pilate found him innocent. As we all know, though, the Pharisees were persistent and eventually forced Pilate to sanction the execution.

After the death of Christ, the apostles go on telling his story. This is when Canon law begins to develop. One example that can be found in Lukefahr’s work is that many Christians of Jewish background were upset that Paul and Barnabas did not require new converts to follow Jewish Law. This view was rejected by a council in Jerusalem in 49 AD. This council reflects one of the early law making bodies in the church. Councils like this dealt with theological and rule making matters (and still do today). Lukefahr takes note that some people believe that “Christ never intended a Church with its leaders, rituals, laws, and potential for scandal and sin.” he makes the argument though that the Church was intended to have standards of membership and portrays Christ as a rule giver. He states that the church is a society and that “no society can exist without” rules and leaders.

As to specific rules of Canon law, his references are sparse. Propbaly the best place to find them are in his description of the sacrement of Marriage. He discusses specifically the capacity to be wed noting that a marriage can be invalidated by the Church if it violates either Church law or civil law. He also discusses the process for a annulments that are given by a diocesan tribunal. The anullment does not have civil effects and does not affect the status of children. He then discusses the Pauline Priviledge in which the Church amay disolve the marriage of unbaptized persons (and the similar Petrine Priviledge between an unbaptized and a baptized). Finally, he addresses divorce. The Catholic Church does not view civil divorce as ending a marriage, an annulment must be granted. Lukefahr does note though that the civil divorce does not exclude a Catholic from practice of the faith and that the civil divorce may be a necessity in order to protect people from abuse.

He also addresses the Ten Commandments. He argues that if the commandments are kept by all then we can truly be free. For example. if nobody steals then we are free from having to lock up out things, etc. It is an interesting argument, but not terribley well developed.

When it comes to the Church and its functions in the State, Lukefahr begins with the Decree of Milan issued by Constantine in 313 which granted religious toleration to Christians. While he notes that Constantine’s effots ended many problems, he is wary that this “opened a door to church-state entanglements that would create new problems for the Church.” This door is taken advantage of as the Roman Empire begins to collapse allowing the Church to “bec[o]me a civilizing force,” and again when Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 and “renewed church-state ties, laying the groundwork for corruption and decay.” This corruption persisted until, he claims, the Council of Trent, after which there has been a steady movement “away from secular entanglements.” He even goes so far as to mention the US Constitution as a “new understanding” of the church state relationship.

This book functions as a handy introduction to the Catholic faith and includes both Theology and a little bit of law. While it is targeted more towards those actively trying to enter the faith, it could prove handy to someone needing an introduction to Catholic teachings.

Oscar Lukefahr