Rushdie’s East and West evokes the real and the fantastic, the everyday and the out of the box, the exuberant and the calm in order to weave somewhat of a narrative that pertains to his many ideas and thoughts about East and West. It seems as though Rushdie, through these stories, declares his refusal to declare one “home”, the East or the West, his true home. When he lived in India, the West seemed like a magical world of knowledge and prosperity, but now as a Westernized man, he somewhat sees India as the more magical, mysterious place of his past. If we think of the historical context, Rushdie is writing in a post-fatwa time in which he fears for his life. This anthology seems like Rushdie trying to understand his own thoughts by separating East and West and then reconciling them again.
When he does combine the two entities into “East West”, the focus of the stories is love, friendship, and relationships, and how they survive and adapt when cultures collide, which seems to me to be Rushdie’s way of saying that our relationships define our home and our life experiences. In both “East” and “West” we encounter things that are familiar, that we have read about before in this class or others or that we have encountered in our western lives. Rushdie juxtaposes the comfortable and familiar with the absurd and ridiculous. He paints a heightened and fantastic image of each place; the plots are twisted and ridiculous but reflect the struggle that comes from being a product of two places and, thinking back to “Imaginary Homelands”, to not knowing what is real and what is fantasy.
In “The Prophet’s Hair” we encounter a, for the most part, normal family, that is torn apart by fanaticism when a hair belonging to Muhammed comes under their roof. Rushdie interjects a curse and somewhat magical occurrences into a story that was originally representing the everyday. In “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers”, Western obsession with possessions and money is made ridiculous by the introduction of a world market and auction where everything is for sale, even people’s souls. In this way, East and West become similar as the West’s obsession with movie memorabilia is compared with worshipping a strand of hair from the head of Muhammed. Perhaps, in doing this, Rushdie is trying to show that when a person comes from two places and have two homes, neither home is based in reality, both are “imaginary”; aspects of both cultures will be exaggerated.
In relation to our own discussion of homelands and home, I think that Rushdie’s anthology contributes fascinating ideas about home. We have been trying to understand the authors and their stories and discover what these works are saying about home. I think that part of the closing from “The Courter” really sums up how Rushdie feels about home but also gives insight into other stories we have read and other authors we have encountered. He writes, "I, too, have ropes around my neck, I have them to this day, pulling me this way and that, East and West, the nooses tightening, commanding, choose, choose. . . . Ropes, I do not choose between you. Lassoes, lariats, I choose neither of you, and both. Do you hear? I refuse to choose” (Rushdie 211). Rushdie seems to be torn in this work, but not between two homes, between fantasy and reality.