It was a hot June afternoon in Seville, I was stuck indoors, and there was nothing on TV in English. Looking back now, I am glad that Spanish people don’t have the courtesy to put English channels on TV, because in the four hours I had to myself, I discovered Haroun and the Sea of Stories. To this day it’s been the longest period of time in which I have both been conscious and silent.
Even though it’s a very short book (about 200 pages), it is one of the most entertaining stories I’ve ever read. I found this book fascinating because the author uses fiction and a very creative plot to answer the question that not many of us know the answer to, “What does human creativity stem from?” No one will ever know for sure, but Haroun and the Sea of Stories takes a jab at explaining the origins of our storytelling powers.
Haroun lives in the country of Alifbay, in a sad city with no hope, except for Haroun’s father, Rashid Khalifa, whose tales never cease to amaze its depressed inhabitants. However, all is not well in the Khalifa household, and very soon after the story begins, Haroun’s mother leaves Rashid for her neighbor. Right after she leaves, Rashid finds that he’s lost his ability for storytelling. This is a big problem because Rashid’s main source of income is telling wild stories at rallies for politicians who use him to woo voters.
Haroun will do anything to help his father regain his wonderful gift but he has no idea what to do.
One night, Haroun hears peculiar sounds coming from the bathroom. What he finds is a leads him on an adventure of epic proportions.
Through his magnificent journey, Haroun learns how important storytelling is. Without it, our lives would lack color and significance. This message, though not blatantly stated, is made very clear, and if you look past the story’s entertainment value, you see how beautiful our gift of telling stories is. It’s one that we take for granted and Salman Rushdie illustrates what happens if humans lose this right. It’s a world I would never want to live in.
The Sea of Stories is also a story about Haroun’s love for his father and how much he is willing to do to help him. It is a mixing bowl for a host of interesting characters, each of whom brings his or her own quirky humor to the proceedings. Haroun’s own values – courage, ingenuity and perseverance – stay strong throughout the story. If you look at the story from just his perspective, you see that all Haroun wants to do is make everything right in his father’s life which will in turn make everything right in his own life.
The main reason I love this book is that all the elements are bound together with humor and wit to make not only a great story but an even better underlying theme. The way the book combines its unique characters and enthralling plot line to present its message – that our right to speech is quintessential to our existence – is superb.