Writing the Postcolonial
Indiana University Bloomington
The Ambivalent Tourist: The 'Colonial' Male Spectator in the Global City in Salman Rushdie's Fury
In Power Politics Arundhati Roy locates the responsibility of translating the invisible hand of globalization "into the realm of common understanding" in artists. This task of political translating then opens up a new space, for writers, painters, songwriters, etc., in which the transcendental marketplace can be grounded in concrete cities, people, and experiences. By doing so, artists decolonize the content of multinational business plans and profits margins that is typically hoarded by the coven of "experts" in neoliberal economics. The non-experts then have access to the reasons behind their forced relocation, their suddenly privatized utilities, and their country's economic collapse. The "newness" of Roy's formulation, however, does not refer to the motivations and procedures of capital acquisition; rather she suggests that the reconfigurations are different and deliberately mystified-the inequalities continue as before. Assumedly, artists interested in confronting previous colonial experiences would be the appropriate translators of neoliberal policy and practice. Yet Roy's call for translators may insinuate a lack of artistic engagement with current geopolitics, as well the historical limits of postcolonial theory's relegation of the colonial moment to some recent past. Indeed, as Arif Dirlik argues, many postcolonial theorists' disregard for 'colonial' meta-narratives of capitalism or nation disables any serious engagement with current economic oppression that operates under capitalist imperatives. Putting postcolonial narration and theory in conversation with the varied experiences and discourses of globalization reveals the continuation of colonial projects, arriving on 'native' shores in, perhaps, less nationalist and material vessels. As Anne McClintock argues in Imperial Leather, the contemporary economic hegemony of U.S.-based multinational corporations "can exert a coercive power as great as any colonial gunboat" (13)-power expressed and experienced in heterogeneous ways.
Such historical similitude between the colonial and its 'post' period doesn't call for an extension of postcolonial binaries. Rather, the theoretical and narrative challenge is to revise postcolonial binaries into frameworks that capture more complex, web-like power distributions along ethnic, classed, and gendered lines. Mapping the strands of postcolonial power needn't resemble a postmodern celebration of 'pastiche' or uncritical celebration of hybridity. Conversely, portraits shouldn't simply be a study of American pluralism, which amounts to little more than, in Timothy Brennan's words, the "reassert[ion of] U.S. national identity at precisely the moment that the breakdown of national borders is vigorously and messianically announced" (At Home in the World 313). Still, the picture that Roy encourages of artists of the word, sound, and image to create could come into focus, giving people beyond the academy ways to process and theorize meaningful resistance to new global capitalism, without their complete interpolation into Americanized global culture.
The search for a postcolonial artist confronting past and present Western empires would undoubtedly bring us to Salman Rushdie, as he holds a prestigious position within that counter-canon. Lest we commit the authorial fallacy, we should gesture towards one of Rushdie's numerous claims to postcolonial authorship. On the socially critical imperative of literature, Rushdie comments that "liberal capitalism or democracy of the free world will require novelists' more rigorous attention, will require reimagining and questioning and doubting as never before" (426-27). This quote is indicative of Rushdie's general leftist perspective that frequently appears in The Guardian and The New York Times, and corresponds to Roy's artistic imperative.
Oddly enough, the post-9/11 Rushdie has aligned himself with the present postcolonial bully, the United States. We must note that Rushdie describes his current position as one aligned with those rooted against fundamentalist violence on innocent people-an experience he knows well. Furthermore, his defense of the United States operates as a critique of European geopolitical hypocrisy: disdain for America's insatiable neoimperialist consumption, without implicating their homelands' similar efforts. In essence, he objects to the "sanctimonious moral relativism" with which Europe pegs the blame for September 11th on America itself. Rushdie's individual experiences with the fatwa aside, his sudden rush to defend the actions of rightwing American presidents warrants some consideration. In his more recent work, Timothy Brennan reads Rushdie's more muted criticisms of the Thatcher-esque conservatism after the fatwa as a direct result of the latter. With his life at stake, Rushdie found himself incredibly dependent on the British government, with its long history of working-class and immigrant repression. Thus, "the Rushdie that the fatwa kidnapped" (120) was the serious and savvy writer who openly opposed imperialism, orientalism, and anti-democratic movements.
Fury, his latest fictional work, does little to explicitly recover that Rushdie. The failure is painfully ironic, as Fury's geographic and historical backdrop, New York City in dot-com boom of the early 21st century, seems the perfect ground for a postcolonial confrontation of neoimperial practice. On the surface, Fury engages crucial postcolonial issues, location and belonging, in a historical moment enriched by new global capitalism. Yet the novel's protagonist, Professor and puppet master Malik Solanka, suffers from perpetual identity crises that continually distract him from meaningfully engaging his surroundings. At first, his crisis is gendered-the male mid-life nightmare figuring women as emasculating and treacherous, with his prized puppet even adopting the stereotypical demon-woman role.
A closer reading of the narrative reveals more than a crisis of masculinity; Rushdie also articulates an ambivalence towards the postcolonial migrant's negotiations of the neocolonial order-an ambivalence that could translate into critique. Solanka is simultaneously enamored and disgusted with the glittering spectacle of American wealth, thus lending a critically interesting ambiguity to his perceptions of New York as the representative American space: one he believes is dominated by the towering, immigrant-loving lady of liberty, and one he excuses for its ravaging of the developing world for cheap labor and resources. Moreover, Solanka embodies the "locational ambivalence" of migration that so intrigues Rushdie; Solanka is a man who has traversed and settled on three continents. Partially out of wanderlust, Solanka arrives in America to find a release from the horrible fury that grips him-an unconscious rage that led him to draw a knife on his sleeping wife and child. He survived a disturbing childhood in a colonized land (in India), matures within in the racially isolating educational system of the colonizer (in England), and flees both pasts for the mindless self-absorption of the present neo-imperial power (the U.S.). A text so saturated with ambivalence may reveal the ways in which postcolonial subjects and narratives can challenge the democratizing rhetoric of the new global/information age, which Roy opposes. That is to say, Rushdie may be subtly critiquing (and implicating himself in his approval of) America's global oppressive hegemony in economic and cultural realms. As Homi Bhabha theorized, the ambivalence of mimicry and colonized identity can propose a means for national resistance-acting as a living reminder of the paradox between Enlightenment philosophy and colonizing practice. In Rushdie's text, Solanka's migrant position may allow him that same subversiveness in the context of globalized finance and multinational corporations.
Critique comes in the form of orientation, as recent arrival Solanka settles into his new surroundings. Opening with a survey of the metropole's wealth, Rushdie establishes Professor Solanka's voyeuristic relationship with the city. At first, he seems to be there to watch the spectacle of the opulent city unfold. Unencumbered by work or financial need, Malik spends much of the book playing the affluent tourist or flâneur. But he is no vapid tourist. Both Solanka and narrator are attuned to the ludicrous consumption that surrounds them, as affluent Americans register their 'worldly' intelligence and taste through rampant consumption. Rushdie fills the opening pages of Fury with wry cataloguing of the spectacular wealth:
limited-edition olive oils, three-hundred-dollar corkscrews, customized Humvees, outsider art, featherlight shawls made from the chin-fluff of extinct mountain goats. So many people were doing up their apartments that supplies of high-grade fixtures and fittings were at a premium. In spite of the recent falls in the value of the Nasdaq index and the value of Amazon stock, the new technology had the city by the ears: the talk was still of start-ups, IPOs, interactivity, the unimaginable future that had just begun to begin. The future was a casino, and everyone was gambling, and everyone expected to win.(3-4)
The rapid-fire descriptions of cosmopolitan goods and business rhetoric convey both the whirlwind atmosphere of Malik's new environs, as well as the seductive lure of the wares themselves. Rushdie's characteristic sarcasm is unmistakably heard in the lines quoted above, but the speedy sentence structure does more than illustrate the metaphor: it also imparts the siren's song of America's conspicuous consumption in Solanka's ears. The quasi-carnival that greets Malik from his apartment-window gazing is not explicitly negative to him or narrator. The tone imparts a subtle mockery of globalization's hallmarks, American nouveau riche commodities and dot-com lingo, but as Malik's story unfolds, we see his easy affiliations with both. Early on, Malik continuously wanders through streets that offer makeshift bazaars, then identity parades, and finally spontaneous dance parties. Yet, the deeper he digs into the city, the more Rushdie distances Solanka's experiences from any potentially savvy global critiques. Oddly enough, the distance comes with Solanka's rather smooth transition into New York City life. As he sheds his touristic and flâneur-ish perspective, his critiques all but vanish. Solanka is at home in this world-he speaks the language, secures rental property, socializes with old friends, takes several younger lovers, and helps create a successful website.
Situating Solanka's critiques within a more cosmopolitan context, we begin to see Rushdie's creation of a "globetrotter," to borrow Zygmunt Bauman's concept: a wanderer by choice, easily adapting to homogenized niches, carved into local landscapes by highly mobile elites. Within the same paragraph that critiques American culture as costly spectacle, "there were circuses as well as bread" (6), Solanka marks himself as a "metropolitan of the countryside-is-for-cows persuasion" (6) who gladly walks alongside his "fellow citizens" (6) of the American global city. Despite this egalitarian vision of the global city, Rushdie grants Solanka a modicum of class awareness, as he ponders the ease with which he has abandoned his London-based family and home. He cannot translate his flight into a Hindu rejection of the material world, as "a sanyasi with a duplex and gold card was a contradiction in terms" (82). The professor's methods are self-consciously "first world" (in Bauman's terms) as he travels unimpeded by spatial, national, or economic constraints. Ever the cosmopolitan, Solanka can uproot, traverse the globe, begin housekeeping, and rebuild himself-wherever his gold card is accepted.
Rushdie's deliberate inclusion of a cosmopolitan protagonist also mirrors a troubling trend in theories of global culture and postmodern nations. Timothy Brennan's analysis of 'cosmopolitanism' and its potential subversion of colonial power structures speaks directly to Rushdie's latest narrative engagement with neo-imperialism. Explaining the crux of his catholic reading of cultural figures and texts, Brennan elucidates the limits of cosmopolitanism as a perspective: it is a subtle product of its subject of critique: American economic and cultural hegemony. Cosmopolitanism's inefficacy is compounded by "an [American] argument about the importance of a white, middle-class minority in the political sense of the term" (310) -a minority that defines the parameters of what Stuart Hall calls "global mass culture" (378). To Hall, the easy, instant arrival and absorption of American images across physical and linguistic boundaries is a form of cultural imperialism. Linguistically localized as Anglo-American, these pop cultural signs are rendered universal because of their 'accessibility.' Thus, the continuities between cosmopolitanism and American cultural/economic hegemony prevent the former from thinking beyond the national, classed, racial, and (I would add) gendered norms that American cultural exports impose and/or sustain.
Rushie repeatedly illustrates the limits of cosmopolitanism as meaningful critique of globalization. Solanka's critiques skim the surface of globalized production and wealth, which one scene illustrates well. On his first walk through the neighborhood, Solanka notes a street vendor's imitation designer handbags and references a name-brand secondhand store, labeling both as signs of global economic inequality. The crime resides in America's apathy towards its wealth, which drives the upwardly mobile of developing nations mad with envy. Rather than turn his flâneur-ish eye onto the manufacturing sector, perhaps stumbling across an apartment-turned-sweatshop or a homeless person, the professor's thoughts circle around the wealth itself-and its poor distribution amongst the world's bourgeoisie. He cannot look behind the label (or imitated label), so he never questions the possibly exploitative production involved in manufacturing the clothing. Nor does he pause to describe the actual persons hawking the illegal wares, who are unlikely to participate in any lavish consumption. A strange oversight, as critics of Rushdie typically hail his class savviness.
One might argue that Solanka's indifference to working class struggle is in itself a critique, both of the situation and of the protagonist himself. Timothy Brennan's explanation of the 'Third World,' cosmopolitan writer's treatment of post-nationalist life offers an explanation for Solanka's class-based apathy, as the writer "join[s] an impassioned political sarcasm (a situated satire) with ironic detachment, employing humor with a cosmic, celebratory pessimism" (At Home, In the World, 41). Even if Rushdie is mocking Solanka with his tepid criticism of globalization and the third-world bourgeois, the very effect of that criticism is detached and cursory, resulting in an implicitly fatalistic vision of global class structures as imperturbable. Moreover, Solanka's stumblings into other overly political metaphors do not speak highly of his critical acumen. The spectacle of New York and his neediness are too distracting. Coming upon a celebration of sexual and then of national identity, Solanka represses his troubling memories of violence (realized and potential) within his various families, all while "rub[bing] shoulders and [getting] jiggy" (7) with the masses. The crowds become spaces in which to dissolve, as Malik sees the gay pride marches and Puerto Rican girls there "to lose themselves" (7) as well. It is an ironic interpretation, as both gatherings are the public performance of marginal identities; this publicized naming and claiming of otherness draws Solanka in, which he interprets as "the unarticulated magic of the masses" (7), promising the "satisfying anonymity" (7) he desperately desires. Solanka's reading of collective self-negation can only be a projection of what he needs New York City, and by extension, America, to be: the ahistorical, apolitical country; the land of perpetual, self-centered self-construction.
Solanka's embrace of American vapidity becomes his central desire. For the first half of the text, New York City figures as the ultimate panacea for the migrant man's mid-life crisis:
It was precisely his back-story that he wanted to destroy. He had come to America as so many before him to receive the benison of being Ellis-Islanded, of starting over. Give me a name, America, make me a Buzz or a Chip or a Spike. Bathe me in amnesia and clothe me in your powerful unknowning. Enlist me in your J. Crew and hand me my mouse ears! No longer a historian but a man without histories let me be. I'll rip my lying mother tongue out of my throat and speak your broken English instead. (51)
The soporific thrill of American ignorance to global realities-criticisms for which Rushdie later upbraids British journalists covering Ground Zero-this is the viagra for Solanka's creative impotence. To drug himself with culturally sanctioned amnesia means to forget history, including the foreign policy that signifies the U.S. as a globally oppressive force. Indeed, Solanka readily jumps into the cyber-market that elides the reality of the sweatshop, the death squad, and perpetuation of global poverty. Parroting tech-marketing rhetoric, Rushdie celebrates the Internet's revolutionary time-space collapse as "available to all, at the merest click of a mouse" (187). Never does he mind that the chip-manufacturing sector relies heavily on female sweated labor. For this cyber venture, while augmenting Solanka's already impressive wealth, assuages his masculine crisis. Thus it is the unapologetic and uncritical participation in the new global economy that Rushdie sites as curative for Solanka's anxieties of age, gender, and identity.
Technology is not the only problematic solution for his migrant hero. Rushdie rather dramatically turns Solanka towards women as a site of psychological relief. As Ambreen Hai suggests in her essay, "'Marching in from the Peripheries,'" Rushdie's feminism is an ambivalent one, revealing potentially liberating and insightful critiques of patriarchy. Indeed, both central women in the text, Mila Milosevic and Neela Mahendra, share the protagonist's migrant and cosmopolitan identity. Interesting to the context of globalization is the considerable scholarly work and human rights reporting that continually describe women as the most exploited of those who suffer the short-ended stick of our new global economy. Rushdie could locate more subversive critiques of neo-imperialism and gender within female characters that are periphery to the narrative but central to the theme of neo-imperialism.
Initially, Mila's entrance into the text offers the potential for migrant bonding, as she and Solanka immediately recognize each other as 'outsiders' in America. Sharp-eared Mila detects the colonial accent in Solanka's voice and hails him as a fellow European migrant. She too has caught Solanka's wandering eye-and not for wholly sexual reasons, at first. Despite her decidedly American dress, baggy clothes, black D'Angelo Voodoo baseball cap, Mila appears too striking to pass for the khaki-clad, Nike-wearing denizens of Solanka's treasured America. Her appearance is doubly significant, molded as it is after Solanka's beloved and first puppet character, Little Brain. Now lost to her global-cultural icon status (a loss that figures as a primary source of his creative rage), Little Brain once signified for Solanka spunky intellectual vivacity: L.B. is "his hip, fashion-conscious, but still idealistic Candide" (17) who travels through time to interview famous, male (of course) philosophers. Rushdie deliberately sends Mila into the narrative as Solanka's first human, creative lifeline, as she mimics a past sign of artistic energy.
Mila's compassion for the ruin inflicted by Solanka's fury comes from her own experience of a father destroyed by the demons of nationalism and historical conflict. After the professor confides in Mila about his loss of Little Brain and his flight to New York, she explains the death of her mother, a life on the literary superstar circuit with her talented, ex-pat father, and his sudden death during his return to Serbia. The explanation reveals her as another well-educated globetrotter, raised in the conference rooms of prestigious, international literary gatherings and educated by the finest tutors. Also a victim of childhood trauma, Mila shares in Solanka's desires to dissolve painful pasts into American pop cultural oblivion. More importantly, though, she illustrates the failure of that self-abnegation. Later, when Malik enters Mila's apartment he's quick to notice that even the room "was trying hard to be an all-American apartment but failing badly" (176), with posters of American pop icons overshadowed by massive bookshelves filled with Eastern European literature. As neither she nor Solanka can forget their pasts, Mila decides that Solanka must revitalize himself through artistic creation-by bringing another puppet world to life. So he does, with Mila's help.
Her particular method of assistance is where Mila's character settles into a portrait of perversity and feminine deviance. As is common in Fury, Solanka's late-middle-age charm ultimately drives the young beauty mad with passion for him. Indeed, part of Solanka's artistic flow is dammed by more than fury's scars and international homelands; Mila adores the earliest, original version of Little Brain, from whom she takes her current hair and clothing style. Thus, the professor's newest friend and confidant is an older, real version of his doll-daughter. Afternoon discussions between the professor and woman take a disturbing turn when the encounters gradually become sexualized. Getting her own key to his apartment, Mila comes to the professor every afternoon, dressed in a baby-doll nightie, and sits upon a pillow perched on the professor's soon-to-be excited lap, and gropes him for several hours. Mila explicitly labels herself in these scenes as a lustful Lolita, living doll for his 'cathartic' amusement : "Everybody needs a doll to play with You don't need it anymore, all that rage. You just need to remember how to play" (130).
Indeed, Solanka's passive acceptance of these daily seductions does help the furious outbursts to momentarily cease, though he still takes to the streets when left alone. He goes so far as to concede that Mila's behavior, never his (of course), may be spurring these late-night wanderings (129). The acknowledgment of trouble precedes Mila's explicit labeling of their encounters as incestuous, with her naming Solanka "Papi" (130). While this clues Solanka in on Mila's molestation by her father, Solanka and the narrator re-assert her Lolita-ness, imagining the incestuous encounters as brought on by the daughter "to fill the forbidden, vacated maternal space more fully than it had been filled by her dead mother" (132). Solanka calls Mila out after her slip of the tongue, indicating that he now understands the destructiveness of her relationship with her father, but Mila won't have it. She continues with her pawing and denies the existence of incest now or at any time, which Solanka interprets as her dependency on "men like Solanka to raise her lover very, very slowly from the dead" (133). Thus, Mila has a quintessentially sexualized identity that transcends even childhood innocence and paternal psychosis.
As Solanka and Mila's encounters become more problematic, Solanka's powerlessness is continually reiterated, as he fails to refuse Mila and to process the city that he once imagined as gleefully harboring. Indeed, the global city all but dissolves, as Rushdie situates the narrative in the private space of Solanka's bedroom. It isn't until the sexual culmination of their illicit afternoons, rather than the acknowledgment of their mutual perversity, that Solanka emerges out of the bedroom and out of his funk. After one of their petting sessions, Solanka keeps Mila from leaving by sharing with her his hypothesis on the varying translations of the fellatio in English and American contexts. Fellatio is rare and signified as extremely intimate in England. For the Americans, Solanka contends, oral sex is "the most common way for young girls to preserve their virginity while keeping their sweethearts satisfied" (137). Narratively, the tirade gives Mila the 'inspiration' and excuse to remove the pillow in "an unexpected and overwhelming escalation of their end-of-afternoon routine" (137). Through a narrative jump in time, Rushdie elides the highly probable oral sex scene between Solanka and Mila, through which she can conveniently satisfy the professor without asking him to transcend too taboo a boundary-no matter how metaphorical it is between them. That evening, the professor renews his old creative pursuit of dollmaking with "new fire" (137), after a pep speech from Mila heavily laden with twisted sexual innuendo:
There's so much inside you, waiting, she had said. I can feel it, you're bursting with it. Here, here. Put it into your work, Papi. The furia. Okay? Make me dolls that come from [the original Little Brain's] neighborhood-from that wild place in your heart Blow me away, Papi. Make adult dolls, R-rated, NC-17 dolls. I'm not a kid anymore (138)
Sexual metaphor saturates Mila's talk and inspires Solanka to start creating those wilder dolls to fulfill Mila's desire. Mila ceases to be a sexual deviant,, becoming a less disturbing muse, albeit still a figure whose power comes from her sexuality. She is now "genuinely inspiring" (138), with her "potent urgings," Solanka's "long congealed and damned" ideas to "burn and flow" (138). Interestingly enough, Mila's removal of her childlike, doll persona in the speech becomes narrative reality. The afternoons with Papi cease, though not for any ethical reasons. Solanka finds a more beautiful muse to replace her with, Neela-who ends up, not dumped, but dead.
Borrowing from Aijaz Ahmad's "symptomatic reading" (In Theory 152) of misogynistic feminine representations in Shame, I suggest that Rushdie's continual figuring of women as vampiric virgins or sexually empowered muses negates any possible critique of neo-imperialism.
If one's desire is to complicate neo-imperial power games, than reproducing misogynist images of women negates genuinely complex thinking. Indeed, as Anne McClintock suggests, ignoring gender difference ultimately elevates "masculinity as the invisible norm of postcolonial discourse" (65). Rushdie's call for "rigorous attention" to current geopolitical events sounds rather weak, if his "reimagining" ratifies gender inequalities (426-27). His obsession with creating a sexually potent and irresistible protagonist overrides any potential narrative resistance, as illustrated by the book's final conflict. Solanka and Mila continue with their business relationship, as the professor's sci-fi doll world creates an international stir-particularly in his new woman's homeland, Lilliput-Blefuscu. Neela's people, the Indo-Lillies, adopt globally exported simulacra of resistance to express their material rebellion; more specifically, they don the identities of Solanka's doll world, which seems an exercise in postmodern absurdity. Yet the possibility of neo-imperial subversion again appears with the entrance of a local rebellion that utilizes the Internet for politically empowering and ethnically liberating purposes. Rushdie may be signifying the Internet as a tool of Zapatista-esque global change, when the cry for mass resistance utilizes the neoliberal tools to deconstruct internationally oppressive economic conditions.
Rushdie's only portrayal of nationalist revolution is tainted by its intersections with his protagonist's love interest. After a terrible fight with Solanka, the gorgeous Neela heads to Lilliput-Blefuscu to finish a documentary on the Indo-Lilly people's resistance to the island's (most likely Sri Lanka) dominant power-and staying with the dashing rebel leader, Babur, whom she met in New York. The professor follows Neela into the revolutionary climate, seeking to regain his love. The revolution ceases to have much political or narrative importance. And Neela's potentially empowered role as the documentarian of third-world revolution is supplanted by her position as lost feminine object. On arriving in Blefuscu, Solanka collapses national events with his love life: " 'You are not a party to these events,' Professor Solanka rebuked himself for the umpteenth time, and himself replied, 'Oh yeah. Then why is that hairless flag-waver Babur hanging out with my girl, wearing a molded-latex mask of my face?'" (235). Undoubtedly reassuring is the fact that Babur's impressive political feat came while mirroring Solanka's older visage (Akasz is physically modeled after Solanka). But this recognition of self doesn't translate into realizing his complicity in neoliberal exploitation-as the industries circulating his website and manufacturing those costumes 'require' cheap, often South Asian, labor. Far from globalized critique, the revolution is a disturbing example of this mimic man's overt interpretation of world events as gendered threats to his heterosexual fantasy: revolution becomes a vehicle for Solanka to exorcise his insecurities over retaining his younger lover. Accentuating the 'man' in mimic man, Rushdie is placing 'heterosexual lover' as the identity that overrides Solanka's ambivalent colonial self and any subversive ambiguity that lurks therein.
Through narrative detail and conspicuous silences, Fury illustrates the shortcomings of postcolonial ambiguities in the negotiations of present neo-imperial ventures. We should, as Edward Said suggests, offer readings "that gives voice to what is silent or marginally present" (Culture and Imperialism 66) in metropolitan novels that introduce colonial space as a backdrop or plot device. I have tried to outline the limits of ahstorical, postcolonial narratives to complicate current global power structures. What is surprisingly missing in Rushdie's text is an engagement with the problematic gender and class realities that allow a cosmopolitan man, of colonial origins or not, to prosper from an exploitative world economy that has dramatically widened the gap between rich and poor. Fury does illustrate is the gendered inequalities, but only as experienced by middle-class, cosmopolitan women. A narrative so interested in stock-market fortunes and cyber revolutions, as well as once-marginalized colonial identities (be it South Asian or Eastern European), could easily articulate, if only briefly, the exploitive practices of neoimperialism. And a writer explicitly concerned with careful evaluation of "liberal capitalism" would have little trouble imagining the persons forced to live in squalor and work in quasi-prisons, so that his protagonist's global city can be paved with gold. In Women in the Global Factory, Annette Fuentes & Barbara Ehrenreich describe the corporate benefits and worker losses of the typical Free Trade Zones (FTZs), where Solanka's dolls and costumes might be manufactured:
[as] a colonial-style economic order Customs-free import on raw materials, components and equipment, tax holidays of up to 20 years and government subsidization of operating costs. Inside [the FTZ], behind walls often topped with barbed wire, the zones resemble a huge labor camp where trade unions, strikes and freedom of movement are severely limited, if not forbidden. A special police force is on hand to search people and vehicles entering or leaving the zones. (10-11)
Though Solanka crosses continents, we never glimpse a sweatshop or slum. Indeed, Rushdie resolves his narrative with Solanka's return to the metropole to reclaim his role as middle-class father. The global city and Solanka the flaneur, for all their ill-begotten wealth, are supplanted for the restitution of patriarchy and the rejection of narrative challenge to new global capitalism.
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