Luka and the Fire of Life
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A propos de cet article
Titre : Luka and the Fire of Life
Éditeur : Jonathan Cape, London
Date d'édition : 2010
Reliure : Hardcover
Etat du livre :Fine
Etat de la jaquette : Fine
Signé : Signed by Author(s)
Edition : 1st Edition
A propos de ce titre
Like all children about to set off on an adventure, Luka Khalifa is a special kid. For one thing, his father is the famed storyteller Rashid Khalifa, “the Shah of Blah,” “the Ocean of Notions.” For another, Luka’s older brother, Haroun, had already had an adventure of his own, travelling to a previously unknown moon and overthrowing a terrible enemy who threatened the Sea of Stories. Finally, and most importantly, Luka’s mother announced on the day of his birth that her newborn son had the power to turn back time; after all, he had been born well after his parents’ youth. Plus, he was left-handed. So it is only a matter of time before Luka finds himself in the midst of a great adventure.
It begins, however, with something Luka gives very little thought to. When the Great Rings of Fire circus comes to the city of Kahani, Luka stops to watch the animals and performers troop through the streets. When he sees that the gentle beasts are treated cruelly by the brutish leader of the circus, the hard-hearted Captain Aag, he does what any other kid would do: he curses the circus master.
The difference between Luka and other kids, however, is that Luka’s curse comes to pass. An evil fate befalls the circus, and the next morning, outside Luka’s door are waiting a circus bear named Dog and a circus dog named Bear. They have come to be Luka’s companions.
But curses are not things to be thrown about lightly, and Luka’s first experiments with magic soon come back to haunt him, as a mysterious illness takes hold of his beloved father. Just when it seems that Rashid Khalifa will fade away altogether, Luka is visited by a flock of hideous vultures bearing a message from Captain Aag, threatening vengeance for the boy’s curse.
The next morning, he looks out into the street and sees an apparition that looks exactly like his father. As he dashes out into the street to try to make sense of this double, he stumbles, and when he regains his balance he realizes he has somehow stepped into the World of Magic.
And so begins his adventure.
In the company of Bear, the dog, and Dog, the bear, and led by this troubling version of his father, whom he calls Nobodaddy, Luka must do what his mother said he was born to. To save his father, he must work his way upstream, against the current of the River of Time, and do what has never been done: he must steal the Fire of Life.
The episodes of his quest are hair-raising and often hilarious. Luka and his companions must make their way past the many dangers of the River of Time as they head upstream. Some, like the Old Man of the River, are there to guard against intruders. Others, like the rats of the Respectorate of I, are merely ill-tempered. And the most perilous dangers aren’t enemies at all, but the simple fact that it’s difficult to go upstream, and if you do you’ll have to pass the Swamp of the Mists of Time and the Whirlpool of El Tiempo, to say nothing of the Rings of Fire.
But the World of Magic is not all hostile, and as he works his way towards his goal, Luka makes many friends, receives help from strangers and even falls in love. By the end of his adventure, the whole World of Magic has been stirred up like a hornets’ nest by the young intruder.
Still, the best adventures aren’t about swashbuckling or narrow escapes; they’re about learning something about the world and about yourself. As Luka is drawn deeper and deeper into this strange world populated by nearly forgotten gods and figures from exotic myth, it is not the World of Magic that comes into focus for him, but his relationship with his beloved father back home in bed, the storyteller who conjured this whole world out of nothing by the sheer force of his imagination.
In the end, Luka’s adventure is quite literally a race against time. But to succeed, the young boy must not only make his way to the Fire of Life – to return, he must convince the angry gods of the truths he has learned on his quest. Only when he has changed the World of Magic can he return to his own world and his father’s bedside.
Weaving together bits of mythology, fairy tales, children’s puns, metaphysics and echoes from well-known tales as different as The Matrix and The Wizard of Oz, Luka and the Fire of Life becomes a story about things as intimate as a boy’s love for his family, and as sprawling as the meaning of life itself.
Salman Rushdie on Luka and the Fire of Life
There’s a line in Paul Simon’s song St. Judy’s Comet, a sort of lullaby, about his reason for writing it. "If I can’t sing my boy to sleep," he sings, "it makes your famous daddy look so dumb." More than twenty years ago, when my older son Zafar said to me that I should write a book he could read, I thought about that line. Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written in 1989-90, a dark time for me, was the result. I tried to fill it with light and even to give it a happy ending. Happy endings were things I had become very interested in at the time.
When my younger son Milan read Haroun he immediately began to insist that he, too, merited a book. Luka and the Fire of Life is born of that insistence. It is not exactly a sequel to the earlier book, but it is a companion. The same family is at the heart of both books, and in both books a son must rescue a father. Beyond those similarities, however, the two books inhabit very different imaginative milieux.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories was born at a time of crisis in its author’s life and the fictional Haroun’s quest to rescue his father’s lost storytelling skills in a world in which stories themselves are being poisoned was a fable that responded to that crisis.
Luka and the Fire of Life is a response to a different, but equally great, danger: that an older father may not live to see his son grow up. In the earlier book, it was storytelling that was being threatened; in the new one, it is the storyteller who is at risk. Once again, the book grows out of the reality of my own life, and my relationship with a very particular child. Luka is my son Milan’s middle name, just as Haroun is Zafar’s.
As well as the central theme of life and death, Luka explores in, I hope, suitably fabulous and antic fashion, things I have thought about all my life: the relationships between the world of imagination and the "real" world, between authoritarianism and liberty, between what is true and what is phony, and between ourselves and the gods that we create. Younger readers do not need to dwell on these matters. Older readers may, however, find them satisfying.
It has been my aim, in Luka as in Haroun, to write a story that demolishes the boundary between "adult" and "children’s" literature. One way I have thought about Luka and Haroun is that each of them is a message in a bottle. A child may read these books and, I hope, derive from them the pleasures and satisfactions that children seek from books. The same child may read them again when he or she is grown, and see a different book, with adult satisfactions instead of (or as well as) the earlier ones.
I don’t want to end without thanking the boys for whom these books were written and who helped me in their creation with a number of invaluable editorial suggestions. Luka and the Fire of Life has been the most enjoyable writing experience I’ve had since I wrote Haroun and the Sea of Stories. I hope it may prove as enjoyable to read as it was to write.
(Photo © Alberto Conti)
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