Luka and the Fire of Life

Salman Rushdie

First Sentence:  There was once, in the city of Kahani in the land of Alfibay, a boy named Luka who had two pets, a bear named Dog and a dog named Bear, which meant that whenever he called out ‘Dog!’ the bear waddled up amiably on his hind legs, and when he shouted ‘Bear!’ the dog bounded towards him wagging his tail.

Like Haroun and the Sea of Stories before it, Luka and the Fire of Life is ostensibly a childrens’ book written by Rushdie for one of  his sons. Luka is Harouns’ younger brother and many of Harouns’ adventures are alluded to throughout the book. This book is once more concerned with storytelling as a sacred tradition, but Rushdie brings it bang up to date by portraying Lukas’ adventure as a kind of real life platform computer game, complete with levels to pass, and lives to be lost along the way, while also incorporating the ever-present army of discarded divinities. Most ancient civilisations have at least one God representing them in this mishmash of forgotten myth and invented wonder. Lukas’ father has fallen into a deep sleep and is slowly losing his life after Luka, somewhat rashly, curses the local circus for mistreating their animals. When Luka accidentally steps into the magical world, he meets Nobodaddy [basically his fathers’ personal Death, who explains that Luka must steal the Fire of Life if he wants to save his father’s life] and so the classic hero quest begins. As Luka progresses through each level accompanied by [the now talking] Bear the dog and Dog the bear he meets countless half-forgotten Gods and heroes from ancient stories. It is also very much a current book however, in that it speaks of our “High Definition and low expectations”, presumably a dig at what passes for entertainment on television these days. I found this book to be quite entertaining with some of Rushdie’s trademark lyrical acrobatics. I just think it seems to be neither a fully fledged childrens’ book, nor an out-and-out adult’s book, but some sort of halfway hybrid and, in my opinion, it suffered as a result. Enjoyable but not his best.

* * *

Last Sentence: And we’ll leave them there, the rescued father, the loving mother, the older brother, and the young boy home from his great adventure, along with his lucky dog and his brotherly bear, up on the roof of their home on a cool night under the stationary, unchanging stars, singing and dancing.

Last Sentence explained: The book ends with Luka successfully completing the 9 levels of his task and stealing the Fire of Life, thus saving the life of Rashid Khalifa, the famous Shah of Blah, Ocean of Notions (his father). The final sentence pretty much sums it up with no further explanation needed really. It is hardly a P2C2E (Process too complicated to explain). This is a childrens’ story after all…


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