13 November 2012
It was said that "a book is not justified by its authors worthiness to write it, but by the quality of what has been written.......the real risks of any artist are taken in the work, in pushing the work to the limits of what is possible, in the attempt to increase the sum of what is possible to think" (Rushdie 14-15). Literature has exemplified these certain risks for many years now, however although these artists are increasing what is possible for us to think, are each of them truly expressing what actually happened at that time? For some, literature is used to describe certain things that they have been told, or have heard about through generations of story-telling; for others however, it is simply an open canvas for them to use to paint a portrait of their life experiences. In Imaginary Homelands by Salman Rushdie, this is the very topic that is at hand, and he explains that the difference between one writing from experience, and one writing from an imaginative sense are monumental. For instance, an English man who writes about the components of India is more likely to generate a text based on what is perceived in his mind, more so than an individual living in India at the time. An imaginary Homeland, as described by Rushdie, is a fiction, not an actual city or village, but an India of the mind. In the Prophet's Hair, along with the various ways in which class, and religious barriers are broken through the magic realism of the narration, the concept of this imaginary homeland is also fulfilled.
The Prophet's Hair is essentially a story within a story, meaning that within the actual text, a story is being told by the main character. Huma is the sister of the unfortunate young man who was beaten and robbed by two men in an abandoned yard, and travels to an unknown city in search of a thief. She is taken into a dark alley where she comes upon a house, standing in the doorway is an elderly woman who guides her into an even darker portion of the house. After running into what she later finds out is a coffee table, she is introduced to her thief. As she begins to tell her story, it is apparent that the contents of that story can be seen as an imaginary homeland for the person on the other end. Huma's story of the hair is very long and detailed, however the true image of what happened at the time is only present in her mind, leaving the listener with only a figment of their imagination. Rushdie claims that "it may be when the Indian writer who writes from outside India tries to reflect that world, he is obliged to deal in broken mirrors, some of whose fragments have been irretrievably lost" (Rushdie 10-11). This is the case here, only the writer in this case is actually the individual on the other end of the story. The only pieces of the story that will actually be attained for a person who is of a different origin are the ones that are generated through that person's imagination, creating an imaginary homeland for the story-teller.
Now, the depiction of Rushdie's Imaginary Homeland does not have to be attained by a writer, or even a person at that, however in this story it is also depicted through the hair itself. Following the discovery of the hair, each of the individuals who posses it at the time believe that they know what is best for it, when really the only one who truly knew was the Prophet himself. The hair has created an imaginary homeland for each of the individuals involved in this text, instead of leaving as it is, a hair, each of them try to do with it what they think best for society as a whole. This is seen when he says "having found it by a stroke of good fortune, Hashim's duty as a citizen was clear to him: the hair must be restored to the shrine, and the state to equanimity and peace" (Rushdie 2857). This shrine, a state of equanimity and peace, was seen to be the homeland of this hair by each character in the...