It’s hard to get your head around Salman Rushdie’s latest novel Quichotte, which has been shortlisted for the Booker. It’s a literary embarras de richesse, whose centre can’t really hold, yet it’s written with the brilliant bravura of a writer who can really, really write. More to the point, it’s also funny and touching and sad and oddly vulnerable, rather like its eponymous hero.
His name is taken from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, via its Frenchified version, courtesy of the composer Massenet (one cultural allusion at a time is never enough for Rushdie, whose references range from Prospero to Pinocchio, from Ionesco to Oprah, from Wordsworth to The Wizard of Oz). This Quichotte is an Indian-born immigrant to America, a small-time sales rep for a pharmaceutical company, ageing and down-at-heel, who becomes as addicted to trash TV as Cervantes’ original was to the chivalric romances of his day.