The Aesthetics of Disfiguration & The Politics of
Transfiguration in Salman Rushdie's Moor's Last Sigh

 "Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."
(Mac Beth Act V, sc. V) 

The Aesthetics of Disfiguration

In The Moor's Last Sigh, nothing is kept whole, normal. People, places, ideas, language and moral principles are being turned upside-down, inverted or disfigured. Moreover, Salman Rushdie's novel seems to be relying quite extensively on representations of handicapped, crippled characters whose body or mind suffer from one deformity or another. All the characters are hence purposely disfigured. Some are mentally or psychologically twisted (Aurora, Abraham, Vasco Miranda…), some are physically crooked (Moor, Raman Fielding, Chhaggan, Sammy Hazaré, etc.) and some are both mentally and physically insane.

Such representations seems to constitute the motives of an aesthetics that not only works as a narrative strategy in this novel, but seems to be a recurring scheme in most of Rushdie’s prose. This way of describing characters as unwhole, incomplete or deformed isn’t just a literary trick. It is a deliberate strategy used by Rushdie to enhance the expressivity of his textual agents. This strategy is repeated throughout the novel and evokes what we could call the "Eloquence of the Grotesque". The figure of the Grotesque, is the means by which the narrator addresses and challenges the reader’s conception of reality and normality by juxtaposing antagonistic traits of a real/imaginary, believable/unbelievable, sane/insane characters and situations. It is therefore a way of introducing an eloquence into the literary discourse by emphasizing on the motives of deformity and alterity. The voice of alterity, embodied in a tragicomic and often grotesque Moor, is the voice through which one can infringe on the orthodoxy of language, religion and the law. This exaggeration or distortion constitutes a "meta-morphosis" that works as a claim for redemption. It is the means by which orthodoxy is forced into paradox, a slight but necessary shift out of logic and conformity that produces laughable results but also philosophical break-through. However, the purpose of this strategy is not only to give more voice, more wealth to the narration, it is a sub level of textuality through which Rushdie funnels his own political and cultural manifesto, which seems to end up as a Politics of Transfiguration. In this essay, we are going to analyze the uses of disfiguration and its epistemological implications in The Moor’s Last Sigh.

A face, a figure, —and by extension the whole body— is the territory onto which identity draws its borderlines, its history and its memory. It is the physiognomy that defines and identifies a person, that attests of its individuality. The entire human body carries a history that talks about ourselves. Facial or bodily traits tell a story that has to be endlessly retold, but which above all needs to be ceaselessly renewed. The repetition of this story and the social agreement about this story is what shapes our identity. The story can be stone-fixed or open to changes, in evolution. Identity, in Rushdie’s terms, is the creative process of retelling and reinventing oneself through time and space, the need to avoid being stuck into our own, rigid story. With the figure of the Moor, Rushdie confronts the reader with his/her understanding of identity through the notions of normality and abnormality, of origin and history, of "in-betweenness" and alterity.

To disfigure is to rip off one's history, to ban someone into the dimension of endless doubt, of nothingness, or unreality. It is also depossessing someone of his own time and space. A defaced person is equivalent to "no-body", not by absence of body but by absence of a distinct, recognizable identity. It is like drawing a no man’s land. But disfiguration is also a way to escape from a fixed, immutable definition of oneself, especially if this definition is socially, culturally and politically imposed. It is therefore a necessary erasure of the traits that have turned people into statues of salt. When Moraes Zogoiby, the first-person narrator of The Moor’s Last Sigh says "my peeling skin took with it all elements of my personality. I was becoming nobody, nothing; or rather, I was becoming what had been made of me", he clearly expresses his consciousness of being more than what people want him to be. Adding "I must peel off history, the prison of the past. It is time for a sort of ending, for the truth about myself to struggle out, at last, from under my parents’ stifling power" (p.136), the Moor proves his awareness of this painful but necessary process .

The Moor is born with physical, genetical and even —we could argue— mental deformations. This premature "high-born cross-breed" baby with a crippled right hand, an asthmatic condition and suffering from Werner’s syndrome (accelerated aging) is also an exhausted, left-handed, mixed-up, cross-born hybrid naively trying to deal with personality disorders, secret identities and a psychotic family. His physical configuration amounts to a monstrous and often grotesque description. The Moor’s body is presented as a battlefield, as a warzone onto which are carved the chaotic scares of his story. However, his ailments are not only constitutional of the narrator’s personnalization of the Moor, they also serve as narrative agents, as self-contained stories or stories within stories.

The Moor is the product —or the by-product— of two worlds, of the Da Gama’s Christian and European ancestors and of the Zogoiby’s Indian Jewish family. The mixity of the Moor’s origins is already a kind of cultural disfiguration in that it reunites the somehow opposing genealogical and religious backgrounds of his two parents to form a shapeless, borderless and unidentifiable entity. His heterogeneous background looks like a curse which conditions the way he reacts. His genetic inheritance is also what makes his richness and ambiguity. It is also the compost from which someone else, another self is going to emerge.

One the genetical and physical level, Moraes Zogoiby is even more "abnormal". A genetical defect, accelerated aging, conditions the speed at which he grows and lives. An asthmatic condition inherited from his ancestors, and the fact of being a (four months!) premature-born child enhances even more the breathlessness of the Moor’s existence. His wheezyness obviates his ability to run a normal life and dictates the temporal urgency of his destiny. Both of these conditions can be seen as an emblematization or an embodiement of the history of India, that shares the same features, namely uncontrolled, chaotic growth and an impossibility to keep the same pace between its different parts, regions, and cultures. It equals to the paradox between secular vs. modern India, islamic vs. indhuist states, etc. Each of the Moor’s deformities or illnesses, if taken separately, amount to an independent, fragmented and allegorical constituent of the country’s history. The mixing-up of origins, the bastardization of the Moor physical and psychological traits represents the corruption of a multicultural history that pretends to have a clear, distinct and almost "pure" origin and the need for the construction of a story with "surplus" history, a history that would generously embrace all aspects at the same time.

The Moor’s deformities and "psychosomatic" ailments not only tell the story of his life, they also express other autonomous stories. On the one hand, the Moor is the result of his polymorphic cultural and genetical background, which situation doesn’t leave much room for self-expression under the weight of traditions. In this position, he is at first what other people say he is or should be, in other words his mother’s loved and hated son, his father’s first son, only male and inheritor, etc. The Moor’s identity is therefore influenced and somehow conditioned by the external signs and symptoms of his abnormality. His messed-up right hand determines other people’s reaction to him, from attraction to repulsion, from love to fear. But the same crooked hand also represents the condition for his job as Raman Fielding’s bodyguard and thug, through which he finally come to accept the terms of his own definition of himself. The narrator assesses this idea when he voices Moor’s discovery of his real self: "I found, for the first time in my short-long life, the feeling of normality, of being nothing special, the sense of being among kindred spirits, among people-like-me, that is the defining quality of home". (p.305) Here, he has come to accept his difference as an expression of life itself and doesn’t need to fight against other people’s definition. However, His identity is not only defined by his wretchedness and illnesses but also through the same deformities and ailments taken as stories.

In his brilliant book, Arthur W. Frank explores how the ill body disrupts one’s sense of identity and obliges the subject to rephrase his/her own definition of him/herself by reinventing his/her own story. He states that "the ill body is certainly not mute — it speaks eloquently in pain and symptoms — but it is inarticulate". When the constitution of the body is in some ways altered or genetically warped, it raises questions about the constitution of the self. Moreover, when the crippled, the man-with-no-figure, the misshapen body has to get rid of his past, when his face no longer represents the personality he’s supposed to be, then this character has to look for another identity that will be built not on familial inheritance but on personal efforts. "The body-self whose foreground is dominated by threat is unmade, but unmaking can be a generative process; what is unmade can be remade". In the Moor’s case, it is clear that his body offers us many stories that speak of history, identity, exile, belief and spiritual redemption. A body that has been hurt or that is submitted to a degenerative sickness eloquently talks of the fall from an ideal state of original purity, of an exile from a kind of metaphysical Paradise in which everything is perfect but static, to a state of unbalance, of suffering and indeterminacy and doubt that is sometimes the necessary condition for a painful re appropriation of one's self, in reality. This is essentially done by and through the act of retelling stories. "The body sets in motion the need for new stories when its disease disrupts the old stories". Illnesses and deformities are like an additional voice through which something else is said, that speaks about people’s story. It is a kind of disfiguration of the body wholeness, of its physiological equilibrium that expresses the need for a change. Disfiguration allows Rushdie to use the character’s body as a silent call for a better listening. In this sense, the body is not only the mediator of speech by voicing out a message, it is a message itself. Above all literal meanings, the Moor's right hand tells another secret story of disgrace: his exile is multiplied by the fact he has to eat and wash with the hand he uses to clean his behind, a sacrilege in many religions and countries.

The hybrid is the figure that problematizes the notion of mixity and by extension that bring forth the question of purity of the race, of a politics based on such ideas as exclusion, preservation, secular identity, including the concepts of eugenism and genocide. What Rushdie addresses in the Moor’s hybridity is mainly the danger of refusing the richness and prolixity of such hybridity, in the name of doctrines and beliefs based on exclusion and purity. He is well aware of the danger of such discourse and of the importance of miscegenetion. Hybridity is, however, evoked parodically in The Moor’s Last Sigh. The conjunction of antagonistic traits in a character often produces laughter. It also leads to rejection from the group, to a distanciation of a single individual from his community. Otherness is rarely a good feature for socialization in closed societies. The crippled, impure body of the Moor makes him a "stigmatized" being, whose physical difference provokes his fall and exile from society. Disfiguration works therefore as a fatwa. (Incidentally, the red fortress-prison-labyrinth, the Alhambra that appears in most of Rushdie’s stories, as in Shame or Midnight’s Children seems to represents this place of rootlessness where someone is secluded).

Beauty and ugliness are very relative in Rushdie’s world. People with exceptional attractiveness are depicted as having the blackest soul on earth whereas, the Moor, a paradigm of ugliness, is capable of spiritual beauty. Rushdie’s strategy of disfiguration is also a strategy of disbelief. By ripping off one’s face, he rips off one’s history. This is done to most of his characters. Nadia Wadia, the beauty queen is defaced with a knife; Sammy Hazaré, the perpetrator of this crime is himself a kind of cyborg, an ugly assemblage of flesh and metal, a can; Raman Fielding’s peculiar ending — he is smashed to death and awfully disfigured with a frog-like telephone —is again a defacement. They all seem to share the same physiognomic destiny, to be, at times, nearly faceless. However, Aurora and Abraham Zogoiby’s depictions are nothing but monstrous, but on a more abstract, psychological level. Their ambiguity and their manipulative minds make them look ugly to the reader, even if they are sometimes described as beautiful persons. The tendency that seems to be subtended here is that nothing and no one is worth "by definition", dogma or in theory. However, although Rushdie’s sharp depictions of characters does illuminate his writing project (blending reality with fantasy to produce monstrous figures that mirrors the monstrosity of our own world), we find it is a pertinent but unsatisfactory problematization. Rushdie’s attempts to disfigure things, to emphasize on their perversion and crookedness can be seen, in psychoanalytical terms, as an infantile and compulsory fixation to the anal stage, which is eventually sublimated into a more acceptable form: writing as an expression of Freud’s shameful "instincts de mort" and "principes de plaisir". To repeatedly dirty things sounds like an obsessive call for recognition, a scream against indifference. The disfiguration of nearly every characters in the Moor’s Last Sigh could as well be interpreted from this perspective. Incidentally, it is not so surprising that Rushdie's own life is the eloquent —and perhaps even grotesque— exemplification of this problem. It is nevertheless the biblical notion of Redemption that lies beneath his stratagem of defacement, as we shall see below.

Language and disfiguration

Rushdie also offers the reader many exemplifications of the notion of hybridity in the language he uses and creates to depict people and situations in his novel. His novel, when regarded as another metaphorical "body of text", presents similitudes with his depictions of bodies in the Moor’s Last Sigh. Interestingly, Rushdie challenges the normality of language and of English literature by twisting and torturing words and sentences to constrain them to the apoplectic complexity of the novel. Within his many strategies of disfiguration, the hybridization of language is one of the ways he uses to produce, again, the grotesque blending of reality with fantasy which creates an exaggerated and unnatural disruption of the reader's sense of normality and harmony. The anachronistic hybridization of words from different languages, namely between English, Portuguese and Indhi tends to induce this awkward reaction in the reader’s mind. This reaction is often the result of the same fusion of opposites that generates grotesque representations. This is done by means of figures of speech, puns and other verbal artifacts that are the "interfaces" between his language and his literary goal. The use of weird-sounding verbs, of English and Portuguese words in Aurora’s talk "One day you will killofy my heart (p8); It stickofies too far out (p.12);" etc.… are a mixture, a "bastardization" of the purity, the normality or the orthodoxy of language. It is similar to the aggregation of words, to Naseem Aziz’s "whatitsname" in Midnight’s Children. Although this technique is not new in literature, It is used strikingly here to account for the blending of two culture, of two or more language. It also speaks of families’ stories that are often made of verbal tics. Families invent their own vocabulary, have their own verbal habits, that are a trait of their storytelling. The identity of the family and its perpetuation relies on the specific language it uses. This attempt to reinvent language by introducing "mulatto-like, nigger's talk, mixed-up spicy aromatic" words, or a syntax that is unconventional, does indeed questions the reader's position as a culturally-defined person. It seems that to Rushdie, language has to be disfigured, manipulated, intertwined to question our use of it and to allow its renewal.

Rushdie continuously challenges the notion of interpretability and significance, often in provocative terms. Not only does he play with words, syntax, language, but he literally fools with the letters of our alphabet. Aoi Uë — "Her name was a miracle of vowels… The five enabling sounds of language, thus grouped, constructed her."(p.423) — whom the Moor encounters in Vasco Miranda's fortress is the personification of this dynamic principle of language. She appears when the Moor's quest for meaning, for roots, for identity is canceled by Miranda's unveiling of Abraham's possible involvement in Aurora’s death. In opposite, The Moor's says:

We were consonants without vowels: jagged, lacking shape. Perhaps if we'd had her to orchestrate us, our lady of the vowels. […] There is in us, in all of us, some measure of brightness, of possibility (The Moor’s Last Sigh, 428).

The importance of language as a possibility for breaking the notion of identity as a synonym to identicality is a major concern for Rushdie. His art of storytelling is an art of stormy tellings, of disruptive stories. His prose is also a call for the disruption of belief.

In his essay on the philosophy of Talmud and Hermeneutics, Lire aux éclats: éloge de la caresse, Marc-André Ouaknin addresses the problem of the interpretation of sacredness in a way that is closely related to Rushdie’s concern with language, meaning and history. Ouaknin poses that the Old testament, in the talmudic tradition, is nothing but the essential pretext for an open —endless and disruptive!— reading, based on linguistic particularities of Semitic languages. The main characteristic of Hebrew is that in this language, words are formed of triconsonantic roots, to which are added vowels-signs that give "life" to both their sounding and meaning, that constitute the moving, open, changeable elements upon which the meaning depends. These vowels represent the versatility of possible meanings, an essential mutability of the text that make the dimension of interpretation almost infinite, a reflect of the divine nature of language. In this system, nothing is ever fixed, no interpretation of the sacred text is definitive, no words carry a single meaning. Moreover, Hebraic hermeneutics works along several schemes: numerological (Guemetria), esoteric (Khabbalah), homographic, homophonic, traduction, etc.) This way to conceive the text and its meaning as temporary comes from a certain understanding of language as a god-given vector of communication, a living medium in which questions are more important than answers. Judaism is therefore a religion of the Question, of the perpetual creation of the What, of the manna (man-hou means: what is it?), which is nothing but the food for change, for new questions.

Disruption, disfiguration would then be the necessary process of deconstruction, of breaking totemic hermeneutic patterns, wherever they appear, be it in Literature, Religion, Epistemology or Society. It would also constitute the tools for a "meta-morphosis", a parallel or superposed embodiment, that would enrich our life by threatening our calcified stories. It is an opening of time that do not posits the past as the condition of the future, but which brings the future into the past to set the present free from any kind of limitations. According to this view, translation is a necessary betrayal (traduttore, traditore) that opens new dimension to interpretation, that break the dogmatic immutability of the text, a question we also find in the Moor's last Sigh as well as in Shame, Midnight's Children and a few of Rushdie's short stories. Betrayal, that is the corruption of an ideal, the mutilation of someone else’s certitude is clearly a recurring motif in The Moor's Last Sigh. It signals the ossification of ideas and thoughts by highlighting the dangers of a fixed meaning. The aesthetics of disfiguration that we infer from Rushdie's narratives would strongly depend on such "iconoclasm", on the betrayal of a forcefully imposed religious or political system of belief, to challenge its dictatorial definitions and representations of the world.

No aesthetics can be a constant, except an aesthetics based on the idea of inconstancy, metamorphosis, or, to borrow a term from politics, ‘perpetual revolution’. (Imaginary Homelands, p.418)

Rushdie’s aesthetics shows an obsessive attachment to monstrosity, corruption and mutilation. The same fascination for disfiguration is acted out through Rushdie’s treatment of religious themes.

Genesis of an Apocalypse

Biblical and religious references punctuate this novel. Far from being anecdotal, these mentions are organizing principles of the text, themes around which are gathered all the episodes of this tale. Rushdie's Moor is a representation of a theological cocktail, "a jewholic-anonymous, a cathjew nut, a stewpot, a mongrel cur." This grotesque depiction is ambiguous in that it makes fun of the main character and it is also a parody of his religious hybridity. However, such a collision between Christianity and Judaism (same book, different reading!), between Islam and Hinduism is central for Rushdie. The way he deals with religions is always iconoclast, even if he shows a certain reverence to the wonderful stories they have generated. The message that seems to leak out of his parodizations is a contemptuous view of the abusive and unquestionable dogmatic power of religions, another disfiguration. Offense to Holiness is an address to the dangerous sacralisation of history, of an history that mainly relies on the institutionalization of Religion. As he states in Imaginary Homelands, Rushdie calls for a deconstructive approach toward history that is the only way to leave room for innovation, self-expression and evolution.

…events in history must always be subject to questioning, deconstruction, even to declarations of their obsolescence. To respect the sacred is to be paralysed by it. The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas —Uncertainty, Progress, Change— into crimes. ("Imaginary Homelands", p. 416)

Rushdie’s concern in the Moor’s Last Sigh relies on the same problematics. Firstly, by questioning a dogmatic and static hermeneutics of Time and History, of Belief and Faith. His aesthetics of disfiguration does it quite well. Secondly, the necessity of changing our approach to life by allowing questions to be asked, by developing an ethics of reconciliation with the present. It is done by celebrating the value and richness of cross-ethnicity, of mixity, a strategy that underlines the discrepancies between the past and the present. And Thirdly, the benefits found in breaking with the Past and of making the apology of a new creative and prolific Hybridity. We find it in Rushdie’s affection for monstrous, handicapped, crooked characters, lovely bastards and cute Elephant men whose metamorphosis is considered as the dynamic and therefore essential factor.

If the reader tries Rushdie’s method of deconstruction and reconstruction in reading his stories, s/he will soon find out amazing possibilities. The title alone contains a profusion of meaning that can be understood only if words are metamorphosed, if they are taken "beyond the letter". In fact, by using the same creative methods as Rushdie himself to give meaning to his title, the combinatory arrangement of all the letters from the title offers more than 100'000 permutations! "The Moor's Last Sigh" can be read as "The Last More Sigh" or "Amor's Lost Sight", but also as anagrams like: "Isothermal Ghosts", "Logarithm Hostess", "Hamlet shoots Rig", "Hologram sets Shit", etc… Interestingly, the "anagrammic" reading by far surpasses the grammatical reading in that it breaks the boundaries of a fixed, limiting interpretation, which is precisely the kind of reading that opens the text to other surprising, creative dimensions. Thus, in his peculiar way of quarreling with the text, of playing with sounds and meanings, Rushdie is not only a word maker, a creative user, an innovative twister-trickster of language, he is also a world maker, a magician who transcends the alphabet, who generates new textual and contextual possibilities. Hence, the Moor represents the "More", the additional value, the excess that is needed to create something new. This is where Rushdie's contest of the reductionists models of art, literature, religion, is enhanced by the generative and prolific "pyrotechnics" of his art, and constitutes the pathway that leads to the understanding of his "Politics of Transfiguration".

The Politics of Transfiguration

" Can the religious mentality survive outside of religious dogma and hierarchy?…Can art be the third principle that mediates between the material and spiritual worlds;…might it[…] offer us something new —something that might even be called a secular definition of transcendence?" (Imaginary Homelands, p.420).

In this statement, Rushdie poses the cornerstone of his art, and, at the same time, the cobblestone of his political memento. To understand Rushdie’s political and religious agenda in The Moor's Last Sigh, it is necessary to turn an eye to the thematic structure of the novel. At the first glance, the story seems to be an awkward amalgam of disorderly assembled stories without any uniting principle besides the genealogical pretext. The reader, however, is able to distinguish among this seemingly chaotic narration the elements of a messianic project. As we have already said, biblical references abounds in the novel: Good, Evil, Paradise, Hell, Fall, Exile, Genesis, Confession, Grace, Eucharisty, Crucifixion, Nails, Revelation (the Moor's tale), Trinity (the trinity of Ina-sisters: Christ-ina, Ina-morata and Philom-ina), Absolution, Redemption, Sin, Suffering, etc.… are disseminated all over the Moor's Last Sigh. The Moor's story start as a literary Apocalypse, with the "Revelation" of his story of his "fall from grace", his confession and testament, nailed to the door as a crucifixion (or is it a cruci-fiction?) to ‘sing of endings’. It is, in his own words "a Moor's tale, complete with sound and fury, a last sigh for a lost world, a tear for a passing… a last hurrah…"(p.4). At the same time, it is the account of his family story, a teleological telling of his apoplectic life, the voicing out of his Genesis. Ontology and Teleology in the same cocktail mixer, turned upside-down. This reversal of the biblical textuality, in which time starts when it ends, is indicative of Rushdie's contempt with intangible structures, dogmatic laws, fixed structures and definitive hermeneutics. It is this conscious and purposeful configuration that establishes, among many other things, his "Declaration of the Independence of the Imaginary" as his political manifesto in which disfiguration is the necessary condition for the transcendence of human beings and their transfiguration. Transcendence also occurs through the mediation of Art, which, not accidentally, plays such an important role in this novel. But like religion, art is capable of the better —opening the human soul to the divine— or of the worst. Aurora is clearly a figure that merges such opposites. The possible value of art would not resides in its results but in its making. The artist, facing the incommensurable realm of the possible is in the same state of in-betweenness as the rootless, immigrant person. Accordingly, each brush stroke would resemble a small part of history that gets attached on an empty —still faceless— frame. Aurora blank faces in the "Portraits of Ayxa" (p.304) look like "translucent images of a woman and a man". Are they like Adam and Eve, before the Fall and the beginning of History?

The Moor's account of his life, from birth to his awaited death, can be seen not only as a Fall from Paradise but also as a tale of Redemption. Rushdie’s messianic project starts to appear clearly when we consider his treatment of love and death. Birth, Love, Death, "moment(s) of transcendence which we spend our lives to understand" (Imaginary Homelands, p.421) are the backbones of the novel, the alchemic prima materia from which Transfiguration is obtained.

In this sense, disfiguration is the necessary operation one has to perform on oneself to reconquer, regain or re-claim his own identity. And this identity has to face its own ugliness, its duality and to fully accept it to be able to be liberated from roots that are nothing but the chains that prevent someone to express its individual "origin-ality". Disfiguration would therefore be like the notion of "anti-belonging" and rootlessness Rushdie mentions in Shame: "Roots, I sometimes think, are a conservative myth, designed to keep us in our places" (Shame, p.86). Breaking the traditional patterns and the sacredness of his bloodline, flushing the toilet of his lineage, Moor reveals his detachment from the ancient world and his attachment to the indeterminacy and possibilities of his own life. "I must peel off history, the prison of the past" (The Moor’s Last Sigh, p.136). Moor’s family saga seems to be a fast-forwarding of history, a cleaning up of time in order to achieve a blank, virginal state of being onto which another history, another great story can be written.

It is no surprise that the Moor tells his tale from a graveyard, a hole waiting to be filled by his own body. He is ready, waiting, transfigured, no longer the grotesque toy manipulated by his own passions or the others' pretenses, but fully conscious of his humanity. The Moor is no more, He is "More", someone with a surplus identity, a Subject not an Object, a man awaiting death in the nakedness of his peaceful soul. "I was a nobody from nowhere, like no-one, belonging to nothing. That sounded better. That felt true. All my ties had loosened. I had reached an anti-Jerusalem: not a home, but an away. A place that did not bind, but dissolved."(388) Belief is therefore not as important as relief, and understanding less precious than inner peace. It is in this state of mind, this state of regained grace that the Moor tells his story.

Salman Rushdie's develops in The Moor's Last Sigh a carcinomic but "not-so-idiotic" tale, "full of sound and fury", a monstrous account of monstrosity, a beautiful story of hope and forgiveness, which however relies as much on his Aesthetics of Disfiguration as on his Politics of Transfiguration.


Frank, Arthur W. 1996. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness and Ethics. Chicago: ?University of Chicago Press.

Ouaknin, Marc-André. 1994. Lire aux éclats: éloge de la caresse. Paris: Seuil.

Rushdie, Salman. 1995. The Moor’s Last Sigh.London: Jonathan Cape.

----------.1992. Imaginary Homelands. London: Granta Books.

----------. 1995. Midnight’s Children. London: Vintage.

----------. 1995. Shame. London: Vintage.

by Nicholas Palffy, © 1996