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Shalimar the Clown
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Shalimar the Clown

B

In 1991, in L.A., a killer slashes an old man’s throat as he stands on a doorstep. The victim, Maximilian Ophuls, is a former ambassador to India and thus a veteran of the conflict in Kashmir, the region disputed by India and Pakistan. The murder is a crime of passion as much as an assassination: Decades earlier, Ophuls bedded the Hindu wife of a Kashmiri Muslim, and the strongest parts of the myth-riffing Shalimar the Clown give lust and betrayal their primal due. Regrettably, the author’s got bigger ideas, and he flashily tries to magic-realize a fable of Major Significance. (For starters, the ambassador’s name points us toward the German-born director Max Ophüls — more a distraction than a historical comment.) Trumping up connections from his love triangle to a half century’s worth of geopolitics, Salman Rushdie overwhelms his own characters.

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