Then the thing happened, the Unthinkable Thing. Rashid went out on to the stage in front of that vast jungle of a crowd, and Haroun watched from the wings - and the poor storyteller opened his mouth, and the crowd squealed in excitement - and now Rashid Khalifa, standing there with his mouth hanging open, found that it was as empty as his heart.
Set somewhere in the land of Aladdin and Sinbad, Haroun lives in a city so sad that it had forgotten its own name. The people had forgotten how to laugh or smile, and even the fish that lived in the nearby sea were called glumfish. In this land of the sad, Haroun's father, Rashid, was the cheerful storyteller, whose never-ending stream of tales made people either very happy or very jealous. One day, Rashid's wife runs away with the neighbor, leaving Rashid heart-broken and incapable of making new stories, and Haroun unable to concentrate on anything for longer than eleven minutes. On the eve of a possible career- and life-destroying performance at a political rally, Rashid and Haroun fret about their bad luck when a genie appears in Haroun's bathroom.
The edition I read actually has this less interesting cover, but I love the exuberant display on the above cover, plus it gives a face to all the myriad names and characters I came through in this book. I picked Haroun and the Sea of Stories, just to "sample" it. I had a feeling that I will not be able to even grasp the Rushdieness of this book, however innocent the title sounded. Funnily, if I were told to read the book and guess the author later, Rushdie would have been nowhere in the list of possible candidates, as this book was as different as possible from what I remember of my attempt at reading Midnight's Children.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories felt like a whiff of lively breeze. Reading this book made me remember the joy of reading magical books like Harry Potter and The Night Circus. While not as long or as atmospheric, Haroun and the Sea of Stories deserves its own place on that shelf of fascinating fantasy books. Although the fantasy in this book does have symbolic meanings and a few "moral of the stories", one could read this book for pure pleasure and nothing more.
I read Haroun and the Sea of Stories for Aarti's A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour, for which I am totally grateful, because I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have read this book (at least within the next five years), if not for the tour (and for the fact that my library had a copy of the book). I don't know if this makes me want to read more Salman Rushdie right away, but I'm definitely eager to read some of these speculative fiction books - 47, The Hakawati, Kindred, and more!
I borrowed this book from the library.