Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 127: Victory City by Salman Rushdie

by | May 16, 2023 | 2023 Book Reviews, Book Reviews, Wisdom From Kammbia Column | 0 comments

“The city had grown.  It was by no means certain that the people would choose sophistication over barbarianism. The party line regarding members of other faiths—we are good, they are bad—had a certain infectious clarity. So did the idea that dissent was unpatriotic. Offered the choice between thinking for themselves and blindly following their leaders, many people would choose blindness over clearsightedness, especially when the empire was prospering and there was food on the table and money in their pockets. Not everybody wanted to think, preferring to eat and spend. Not everybody wanted to love their neighbor. There would be resistance.”

Salman Rushdie writes this paragraph nearly halfway through his latest novel, Victory City. These words could have been posted on a blog or social media recently or spoken over a YouTube channel as well. However, this sentiment came through the protagonist Pampa Kampana about the city she created, Bisnaga.

Pampa experiences tragedy at the age of nine when her mother dies right in front of her.  She becomes a vessel for a goddess with the same name and is given an assignment to make the city of Bisnaga, a place where women would have true equality and where modernity reigns supreme. Over the next 250 years of Pampa’s life, she will record the rise and fall and rise and finally the fate of the city.

She is determined to make Bisnaga a success for equality and a progressive way of life.  But Pampa will learn that politics, status, and human nature always stand in the way to a city’s progress.  I had one question while reading Victory City: Can a pluralistic society accommodate both monotheism and polytheism?

Rushdie does seem to answer my question in the novel with Pampa taking the side of polytheism (which is a part of medieval India’s history), but (it is a big one) monotheism appears and reappears like a thorn that grows alongside a beautiful flower in a garden. The first paragraph in this review brings home dilemma that Pampa deals throughout her life.

This is the first Salman Rushdie novel I have ever read, and it will not be my last.  Unfortunately, it took the brutal attack on his life last summer to finally read one of his books.  Victory City is a literary epic fantasy novel that can be enjoyed by longtime fans of the author as well as fans of Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R.R. Martin.  It is an entertaining, frenetic, and highly imaginative story that tries to answer to the big questions of life I could appreciate even if I did not always agree with its conclusions. Well done, Salman Rushdie!


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