As a reader whose knowledge of medieval Indian history is sparse—if I can claim it to be existent at all—I was surprised to later discover just how much historical fact was embedded in Rushdie’s narrative ... Victory City is many things: a myth, an epic, a polemic parable, a real-world historical landscape flattened into a fable and embellished by fantasy. It is not, however, subtle in its messaging; it is a firm stand against the right-wing religious fanaticism of the day.
What’s important is that Victory City is a triumph—not because it exists, but because it is utterly enchanting. Words are the only victors ... Victory City is a cheerful little vessel, despite its ultimate destination. Its myths of origin are recounted with glee ... Rushdie plays adroitly with the metafictional and political implications of 'real' people and a 'real' polity being created out of imaginary backstories.
It’s impossible not to read parts of this grand fantasy as an allegory of the author’s struggles against sectarian hatred and ignorance. Indeed, given the physical and emotional sacrifices he’s made, some coincidences between this story and his life are almost too poignant to bear ...[An] ambitious reclamation of the imagination ... Despite its grand design, Victory City remains surprisingly modest in tone. The bombastic quality that sometimes burdened Rushdie’s recent novels is here tamed, replaced by a gentler humor, a subtler satire.
Mr. Rushdie’s most explicit imagining of Utopia, yet even this fairy-tale civilization is riven by human folly ... We don’t yet know whether Victory City was finished before he was nearly killed by a knife-wielding fanatic in August or whether he completed it after the attack. But the novel’s levity and friendliness seem profound in either case. Amidst horrific violence he has brought forth a work of cheerful fabulism that puts far more emphasis on 'magic' than 'realism'—a warm space in which we might imagine a better world than our own.
One of Rushdie's oldest themes ... These essentially political concerns have always been embedded — embodied — in the play of Rushdie’s own style, in the irreverent exhilaration of a prose that works by piling one thing upon another, a digressive grammatical plenitude in which there is room for all ... Nevertheless, everything here seems muted ... Pampa is the book’s only vivid character, and the life of her great city never takes a clear form in one’s mind ... What does come through is Rushdie’s own generosity toward his predecessors, his consciousness of working within a great tradition ... In its haunting, uncanny, predictive power Victory City shows once again why his work will always matter.
Rushdie is offering a female perspective on history, but this isn’t something he pushes very far. (A lot more space is devoted to what the women of Bisnaga look like than what they do) ... His main focus remains what it has always been: the power of stories to create entire worlds out of words, and to blur the line between what is real and what is true ... The final line of Victory City, repeated and italicized for extra emphasis, is both poignant and triumphant: 'Words are the only victors.' There are many readers round the world who will be relieved to discover that this is merely the conclusion to a giddily enjoyable novel.
A superb, complex celebration of storytelling that inhabits a unique space somewhere between an epic poem, a history book, and an adventure novel with magical elements, political commentary, and even a healthy dose of romance ... Proves, once again...that Rushdie is one of literature’s most vibrant voices ... The result is wildly entertaining and engaging, and it allows Rushdie to masterfully juggle two and a half centuries worth of events, changes, and an ever-growing list of characters ... Contains enough adventures and action to keep even the most demanding readers entertained, but it’s also the kind of novel that welcomes — no, that invites — introspection.
Rushdie’s relentless creative energy pairs well with his understanding of how history 'works,' and...this book can read almost more like a work of history than a fairy tale. So call it a feat of fidelity that later sections grow confusingly byzantine and the history lesson drags at points ... What Rushdie re-creates convincingly is the way that the divine is a necessary component in the creation myths of great cities and societies. The urge to understand ourselves in sacred terms developed not from the invention of history, but alongside it. It’s as if Rushdie has dropped a molecule of divinity into a petri dish containing the other basic stuff of life, and watched a civilization cultivate.
Warmed-over and didactic ... Victory City is, in many and the worst ways, classic Rushdie ... It is difficult not to read Victory City as a rehabilitative feminist fable, especially coming from a writer whose women have been criticized as reductions: sexless ice queens, villainous crones, fast-talking trollops ... My hope was that Victory City, an Indian novel through and through, would mark the return of Rushdie’s critical and creative faculties. No such luck. He has forgone the potent nebulousness of colonialism, displacement, and exile for mannerist expressions of his own prosaic wisdom ... If Victory City is any indication, late Rushdie is issuing an insouciant response to writers today: anything you can do, I can do more gratingly.
It will remind readers of his incredible imagination ... Rushdie’s epic tale plays out on a magical scale ... The novel’s magic realism—from the protagonist’s nose being shaped like a penis to a blind art lover—evokes the disorder many post-colonial countries experienced in the 20th century. Rushdie uses this style to pull readers forcefully into his fictional worlds ... Reading the novel is a truly surreal experience ... With his retelling of the lost Vijayanagara Kingdom, we are challenged to expand our understanding of the subcontinent’s many fabled myths and metaphors—for these too are history, even if fictional. Rushdie tells us that there’s a joyous pleasure taking this route because it creates a wholly immersive experience ... Rushdie’s return to magic, myth, and India’s ancient stories is dazzling.
Scaffolded on a mythologised lost empire, framed as a translation of an epic poem, Victory City is about an eternally youthful femme fatale fighting religious fundamentalism ... The story, sadly, is a bit knit-by-number and the pace lags in the middle ... The sentences in Victory City are simple by Rushdie’s standards, fairytale-style peppered with one-liners. Strip away the exuberant vitality of the prose that so enchanted readers of Midnight’s Children (1981) and his shortcomings as a novelist, such as thin characterisation, come to the fore.
The joke Rushdie spins out longest is that Victory City is but a 'pale shadow' of its 'genius' source. The conceit grows old fast, not least because of our nagging regret for the epic he might have written had he cut back on all the arch throat-clearing and devoted more energy to the actual action, typically summarised rather than dramatised. Instead, the book draws vital spark from the low-level comic voltage of clashing linguistic registers ... Against the largely unadorned dialogue, Rushdie’s voice can sound knowingly pulpy...as well as oddly corporate...Often, it’s just inescapably stodgy ... I couldn’t help but think of Rushdie himself, a novelist who has long outstripped his medium, as much a cause as an author, possibly now more than ever. Will anyone even care that Victory City is a letdown?
Victory City overflows with magical realism and myth, with court intrigue and epic battles, with sly satire and heartbreak. And all of it shows us, yet again, the power of writing despite those who would try to stop it.
What unites this bewildering mix of fantasy, Hindu myth, Sanskrit saga, actual history and satire is the voice of Salman Rushdie himself: funny, cynical and idealistic ... Sometimes our author’s imagination runs riot, but it’s a good fault. Bravo, Salman Rushdie.
There are a great many of these conflicts, lifted from the history books and Rushdie is bogged by chronology. An awful lot of people come and go in 247 years and many are viewed at the same middle-distance focal length, discouraging emotional engagement. The result is a sometimes plodding read, with fatuous asides from the author explaining the poet’s intentions or omissions. As a result, the narrative can wilt with fatigue ... This longevity does, however, allow for an examination of the impermanence of both good and bad regimes.
Rushdie has set himself a formidable tonal challenge. His habitual method, of course, is to dress myth in modernity’s clothes ... In the new novel myth is front and centre, with modernity, in the form of the nameless narrator, peeping out from behind the plywood ramparts of his medieval mise en scène to remind us, with the postmodernist’s knack for plausible deniability, that this is simultaneously in earnest and a bucketload of high-spirited codswallop ... As with all magic realism, the danger lies in a sort of inflationary weightlessness ... One solution is to be incantatory, to invest your prose...with such glittering specificity that it underwrites the fancifulness. In Victory City this option is, unhappily, put out of reach by the deal Rushdie strikes between pastiche and parody. For the most part the plot – the battles, the dynastic intermarriages, the machinations at court – progresses at a highly readable clip, accelerating at times to the pace of synoptic history, slowing down at others to attend in greater detail ... Fundamentally unsurprising.
Grand and conflicted ... Victory City is many things – an Indian historical epic, a centuries-long fable, a meditation on the self-ruinous nature of power – but perhaps more than anything else, it is a story about the immortality of stories, the way a tale told will always outlive a sword swung ... Victory City begins at the beginning and ends at the end of a life, even if that life is overrun with magic ... It takes a while for the story to dig its claws in, and there’s a stylistic cost to Rushdie’s very fable-heavy approach. A little too often, the narrator slips into jarringly ornate modes of speaking ... At his best, Rushdie composes with a scalpel – every observation at once transgressive and authoritative, a necessary opening up of things ... A conflicted piece of writing, too often a victim of the warring demands of wit, world-building grandeur and narrative pacing. More so, the aftertaste of Victory City is of a desperate plea for shared humanity, especially in our darkest times.
A deeply fascinating, richly symbolic tale that testifies to this power of words to conjure reality ... Accessible ... But Victory City is also interspersed with a nameless editor’s ironic, self-referential commentary, characteristic of Rushdie’s postmodern tricks. This hybridity, an ancient eastern wonder-tale wrapped inside a modern western novel, is one way in which the book propagates its vision of cross-cultural unity, giving form to fusion ... Rushdie has been transforming this dark lead of historical reality into the brilliant gold of great stories.
The themes of this novel are fantastical, yet it is also clearly a story about how power is oh so fleeting, but stories – good stories, kind stories – remain with us ... This novel is for all that understand that mythology is the perfect means of illustrating creation. This novel will be (eagerly) read by Rushdie’s fans, but it is also for those readers that want to take time out from their daily life and to head to a timeless space where anything is possible.
Rushdie’s courage and steadfast belief in free speech continue to be a source of inspiration and his exuberant writing remains a source of pleasure ... Rushdie...has long wrestled with arguments about reason and religion, creating nuanced stories in a world where complicated answers are not always welcome ... In Rushdie’s Victory City, power grows out of the tip of a sword. The stench of death is never far away in this book.
Every futuristic science fiction tale is unavoidably concerned with the here and now. The same surely goes for historical fiction. In the course of Victory City, Rushdie sporadically frames his invented past as a window on the present ... If this sounds fatalistic, the tone is anything but. On the page, Rushdie’s fairytale of futility feels positively jaunty, very nearly a romp, and it covers the ground at a brisk, steady clip.
Rushdie’s 15th novel is a compulsively readable take on the plain fact that human life has a tragic arc — consider how it ends for all of us — and a richly comedic texture along the way ... Pampa and Rushdie both spin magic worlds out of words; she is blinded before her death and Rushdie did lose an eye in the attack. An elegy on a writer’s art and purpose, Victory City is a great victory for Rushdie.
It doesn’t pretend to be a historical novel. No doubt much is rooted in history, but the treatment is fanciful and, one must say, self-indulgent ... For some, Rushdie is a great novelist, one of the very best English language ones of the last half century and more. For me, he is at best a splendid entertainer but one who leads you neither to think or feel ... That said, I approve and admire his dedication to our art or craft, and the courage he has brought to his life and work.
Rushdie tells his tale with a generous and irreverent spirit. Victory City is accessible in a way that suggests he had fun writing it, but this is no lightweight novel. Pampa is the incarnation of the humane values of this (or any) empire, and when she is in ascendance, the empire’s arts and beneficial technologies are ennobled. Women serve as warriors and empire officials. People of all religions are embraced. The empire comes close to being what today we would call an open society, and its collapse is a direct result of turning its back on these values.
Spellbinding and provocative ... With sly and incisive asides from the narrator about the vicissitudes of human nature and the tides of conquest and insurrection, tyranny and freedom, Rushdie’s bewitching and suspenseful, romantic and funny, tragic and incisive tale, rooted in the history of Vijayanagar, the fallen capital of a vanquished empire in southern India, is resplendent in its celebration of women and the age-old magic of storytelling.