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


Maybe because he dreamed about emigrating to a Left-Handed Dimension, or maybe because his father was a professional storyteller, or maybe because of his brother Haroun's big adventure, or maybe for no reason at all except that that was the way he was, Luka grew up with a strong interest in, and aptitude for, other realities. At school he became so convincing an actor that when he impersonated a hunchback, an emperor, a woman, or a god everyone who watched his performance came away convinced that the young fellow had somehow temporarily grown a hump, ascended a throne, changed sex or become divine. And when he drew and painted, his father's stories of - for example - the elephant-headed Memory Birds who remembered everything that had ever happened, or the Sickfish swimming in the River of Time, or the Land of Lost Childhood, or the Place Where Nobody Lived came to wonderful, phantasmagoric, richly coloured life. At mathematics and chemistry, unfortunately, he was not so hot. This displeased his mother, who, even though she sang like an angel, had al ways been the sensible, practical type; but it secretly delighted hi s father, because for Rashid Khalifa mathematics was as mysterious as Chinese and twice as uninteresting; and, as a boy, Rashid had failed his own chemistry examinations by spilling concentrated sulphuric acid over his practical paper and handing it in full of holes.

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