Excerpt: Salman Rushdie's 'Luka and the Fire of Life'


But it is not yet time to speak - as we will eventually have to speak - of Cats. It is necessary, first of all, to talk about the terrible thing that happened on the beautiful starry night.


Luka grew up left-handed, and it often seemed to him that it was the rest of the world that worked the wrong way around, not him. Doorknobs turned the wrong way, screws insisted on being screwed in clockwise, guitars were strung upside-down, and the scripts in which most languages were written ran awkwardly from left to right, except for one, which he bizarrely failed to master. Pottery wheels wheeled perversely, dervishes would have whirled better if they whirled in the opposite direction, and how much finer and more sensible the whole world would be, Luka thought, if the sun rose in the west and set in the east. When he dreamed of life in that Widdershins Dimension, the alternative left-handed Planet Wrongway on which he would be normal instead of unusual, Luka sometimes felt sad. His brother Haroun was right- handed like everyone else, and consequently everything seemed easier for him, which did not seem fair. Soraya told Luka not to be depressed. "You are a child of many gifts," she said, "and maybe you are correct to believe that the left way around is t he right way, and that the rest of us are not right, but wrong. Let your hands take you where they will. Just keep them busy, that's all. Go left by all means, but don't dawdle; do not be left behind."

After Luka's curse on the Great Rings of Fire circus worked so spectacularly, Haroun often warned him in a scary voice that his left-handedness might be a sign of dark powers bubbling inside him. "Just be careful," Haroun said, "not to go down the Left-Hand Path." The Left-Hand Path was apparently the road to Black Magic, but as Luka didn't have the faintest idea how to take that Path even if he wanted to, he dismissed his brother's warning as the kind of thing Haroun sometimes said to tease him, without understanding that Luka did not like to be teased.

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