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Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie
Shalimar the Clown begins with the murder of Max Ophuls, who was once a French resistance fighter and American ambassador to India. His murderer is Shalimar, a Muslim assassin working as his chauffeur. Salman Rushdie (of Kashmiri descent) moves his novel back to a village in Kashmir in the 1960s, where Shalimar was a clown and teenager expected to marry the Pandit dancer, Boonyi. She, however, wants to see more of the world and makes her way to India, where she meets and falls in love with Max. Kashmir soon falls prey to religious and nationalist violence, and Shalimar is drawn into the world of Islamic extremists while a pregnant Boonyi is soon discarded by Max. As their lives move toward their ultimate conclusion, the paradise of Kashmir is destroyed by outside interests whose violence knows no boundaries. Shalimar the Clown has received glowing reviews with the Seattle Times calling it "a masterpiece - a beautiful, painful, terrifying book, both fantastical and harshly realistic, filled with complex and memorable characters, and completely unpredictable in its blend of political thriller, folktale, melodrama, reportage and even science fiction."