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A good person

November 14, 2001
The Iranian

From Fury, a novel by Salman Rushdie (2001, Random House).

In his comfortable Upper Westside sublet, a handsome, high-ceilinged first- and second-floor duplex, boasting majestic oak paneling, and a library that spoke highly of the owners, Professor Malik Solanka nursed a glass of Geyserville zinfandel and mourned. The decision to leave had been wholly his; still, he grieved for his old life. Whatever Eleanor said on the phone, the break was almost certainly irreparable. Solanka had never thought himself as a bolter or quitter, yet he had shed more skin than a snake. Country, family, and not one wife but two had been left in his wake. Also, now, a child. Maybe the mistake was to see his latest exit as unusual. The harsh reality was perhaps that he was acting not against nature but according to its dictates. When he stood naked before the unvarnished mirror of truth, this was what he was really like.

Yet, like Perry Pincus, he believed himself to be a good person. Women believed it too. Sensing in him a ferocity of commitment that was rarely found in modern men. Women had often allowed themselves to fall in love with him, surprising themselves -- these wised-up, cautious women! -- by the speed with which they charged outward into the really deep emotional water. And he didn't let them down. He was kind, understanding, generous, clever, funny, grown-up, and the sex was good. It was always good. This is forever, they thought, because they could see him thinking it too; they felt loved, treasured, safe. He told them -- each of his women in turn -- that friendship is what he had instead of family ties and, more than friendship, love. That sounded right. So they dropped their defenses and relaxed into all the good stuff, and never saw the hidden twisting in him, the dreadful torque of his doubt, until the day he snapped and the alien burst out of his stomach, bearing multiple rows of teeth. They never saw the end coming until it hit them. His first wife, Sara, the one with the graphic verbal gift, put it thus: "It felt like an ax-murder."

"Your trouble is," Sara incandescently said near the end of their last quarrel, "that you are really only in love with those fucking dolls. The world in inanimate miniature is just about all you can handle. The world you can make, unmake, and manipulate, filled with women who don't answer back, women you don't have to fuck. Or are you making them with cunts now, wooden cunts, rubber cunts, fucking inflatable cunts that squeak like balloons as you slide in and out; do you have a life-size fuck-dolly harem hidden in a shed somewhere, is that what they will find when one day you are arrested for raping and chopping up some golden haired eight-year old, some poor fucking living doll you played with and then threw away? They'll find her shoe in a hedge and there'll be descriptions of a mini-van on TV and I'll be watching and you won't be home and I'll think, Jesus, I know that van, it's the one he carries his fucking toys around in when he goes to his perverts' I'll- show- you- my- dolly- if- you'll- show- me- your's reunions. I'll be the wife who never knew a thing. I'll be the fucking cow-faced wife on TV forced to defend you just to defend myself, my own unimaginable stupidity, because after all, I chose you."

Life is fury, he'd thought. Fury -- sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal -- drives us to our finest highest and coarsest depths. Out of furia comes creation, inspiration, originality, passion, but also violence, pain, pure unafraid destruction, the giving and receiving of blows from which we never recover. The Furies pursue us; Shiva dances his furious dance to create and also to destroy. But never mind about gods! Sara ranting at him represented the human spirit at its purest, least socialized form. This is what we are, what we civilize ourselves to disguise -- the terrifying human animal in us, the exalted, transcendent, self-destructive, untrammeled lord of creation. We raise each other to the heights of joy. We tear each other limb from fucking limb.

Comment for The Iranian letters section


Another look at Rushdie
Torments of a soul lost to "soft siren temptations"
By Ahmad Sadri


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