Salman Rushdie plays with video games in his new book
Video games guide the hero in Salman Rushdie's newest book, "Luka and the Fire of Life."
This story was originally covered by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.
It might be difficult to imagine literary titan Salman Rushdie sitting down for a game of Donkey Kong, but video games play a central role in his new book, "Luka and the Fire of Life." A sequel to "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," Rushdie's new book follows Haroun's younger brother, Luka, on his quest to save their father by finding the source of life: fire.
Video games may seem like an unlikely vehicle for a writer knighted by the Queen of England, but Rushdie points out that many games are retellings of classic stories. For example, the goal of Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers is to fight villainous creatures to save Princess Peach, who happens to be locked in a castle. "Let's say the best case scenario defense for video games is that they are quite closely modeled, many of them, on old classical quest narratives," Rushdie told PRI's The Takeaway. "And since at the heart of this book is maybe one of the oldest of all the quest narratives -- which is the quest for fire -- it seemed like just an enjoyable thing to do."
Rushdie knows video games well because of his thirteen-year-old son's passion for them. Rushdie does not claim to be a skilled player, but he says he enjoys a good game of Wii tennis, and he sees games as a source of empowerment and adventure for kids. He told The Takeaway, "I think video games exist to allow children to feel superior to their parents."
Although Rushdie is a writer of magical realism, he argues that fantasy is not a way to escape from reality. Instead, he says it's an instrument for addressing serious issues. Video games are an example of a surreal world offering commentary on the real. "I do think that one of the mistakes people make about so called magic realism, or fantasy, or whatever, is that it's an escape. I don't think that it is at all." Rushdie continues, "I think that it's a way of looking at what's going on in the world and turning it into story, and metaphor, and so on. And even here I mean, yeah, it's fun, this book, but I think it's -- I hope it's serious fun, because at the heart of it, there are serious questions."
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