In my Ghenglish class we’ve recently started reading the book Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, and it’s a really cute and imaginative book. Being a class assignment, we have to read certain chapters and annotate them for specific areas, including whatever group focus we’re in as a student. You can read the summary of the book here.
My first impressions of the book had to do with how detailed the book truly is and just how pretty so many of the scenes appear to be. As an artist, I’m making my own marks in the book whenever I come to a spot where the imagery of a setting is just so beautiful in my mind that I have to draw it. I haven’t gotten around to doing that, but I definitely will, as places like the Valley of K and the moon Kahani sound gorgeous. The book is what I was expecting, as the cover is detailed and crazy, and so is the story. It’s weird as the story is set in a world that seems pretty realistic with some magical, childish aspects, and then Haroun meets if and the world becomes completely fantastical. Something strange about the book is that almost none of the characters are open to each other and aren’t straightforward with what they are thinking, as seen with Iff, Rashid, and Snooty Buttoo. Predictions I have are that Haroun and his mother will probably reunite by the end, and Rashid will gain back his storytelling ability only to pass it down as a gift to Haroun.
I’m in the group of the Hero’s Journey, which means that I have to read the book and follow it according to the path the Hero’s Journey follows. The Hero’s Journey is a story line most books trying to teach a lesson follow, with the main character being special, called to fulfill a duty, his adventures to complete this including supernatural help, and the conclusion where the character overcomes their problems. This is clearly seen with Haroun needing to fix the issue of Rashid not being able to tell stories and finding magical help along the way through Iff the Water Genie and Butt the Hoopoe. As well as looking at the book like this, there are areas of thinking where we have to annotate the book, like Appearance vs. Reality. This category looks for places where the book blurs the lines between how stories come off and real life, and while the annotations I chose weren’t the best to capture this I liked their meaning. The two places I annotated on were the lines, “I am going to be wiped out, like a word on a blackboard, and one swoosh of the duster and I’ll be gone for good.” and “Haroun noted. ‘No more ark. Your crazy stories are starting to come back.'” I picked these quotes because I loved the connection made between the identity and language itself. By comparing a person’s existense to a temporary word, and saying that Rashid’s entire identity is defined by his storytelling, the novel basically says that a person’s being is a story. This directly relates to what we were taught in class through the readings by David Eagleman and John Gottschal. I really like this view from the book and those authors, because it’s interesting to think about the world and a person’s purpose in life as the continuation of one big story.
We also had a class discussion, or “Socratic Seminar” as us Ghenglish nerds call it, about the book last Thursday. The seminar was cool as it was good to hear what my classmates were thinking about the book, and my Hero’s Journey group and I made questions for the discussion beforehand. The best points I picked out of the discussion were the ideas that Haroun might be dreaming, and that the characters are described for a purpose. About Haroun dreaming throughout the story, one of my partners brought up the points that all of the magical things that happen to Haroun happen at night, or when he’s supposed to be sleeping. Also, Rashid likes to tell Haroun stories at night, so now there is the meta point that the story is a story within a story about stories. The other point was all about the question of Haroun being a children’s story or not. I personally believe Haroun is a children’s story also made for adults, as there are so many magical elements. The characters and places are described so richly as if they were from a child’s imagination, and the story is definitely a horrorscape with all of the traumas Haroun and Rashid face.
I’m really starting to love this book, and I can’t wait to draw scenes from it. I’ll be back next week with another reflection 🙂