“A Sackful of Seeds”
by Salman Rushdie
from the December 12, 2022 issue of The New Yorker
In February, Random House is publishing Salman Rushdie’s new novel Victory City. I’m assuming that “A Sackful of Seeds” is an excerpt. I cannot find an interview with Rushdie, which usually accompanies the piece; this might be due to the evil attack on his life this past August where he lost one eye and the capacity to use one of his hands. I haven’t personally loved much of Rushdie’s work over the past years, but I hope if he is willing that we do get more. In the meantime, I’m glad we have this, and I hope to enjoy it!
Here is how it begins:
The story of the city began in the fourteenth century of the Common Era, in the south of what we now call India or Bharat or Hindustan. The old king whose rolling head got everything going wasn’t much of a monarch, just the type of ersatz ruler who crops up between the decline of one great kingdom and the rise of another. His name was Kampila, of the tiny principality of Kampili—Kampila Raya, raya being the regional version of raja, king. This second-rate raya had just enough time on his third-rate throne to build a fourth-rate fortress on the banks of the Pampa River, to put a fifth-rate temple inside it, and to carve a few grandiose inscriptions into the side of a rocky hill, before the army of the north came south to deal with him. The battle that followed was a one-sided affair, so unimportant that nobody bothered to give it a name. After the people from the north had routed Kampila Raya’s forces and killed most of his army, they grabbed hold of the phony king and chopped off his crownless head. Then they filled it with straw and sent it north for the pleasure of the Delhi sultan. There was nothing particularly special about the battle without a name, or about the head. In those days, battles were commonplace affairs and severed heads travelled across our great land all the time for the pleasure of this prince or that one. The sultan in his northern capital had built up quite a collection.
The fable-like tone feels very much like Rushdie to me, particularly the Rushdie of the past 15 years or so. But I want to find may way into it. Please leave any of your thoughts below! Will you be reading Victory City when it comes out?