The Silver Castle

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Sanjay is a Bombay street child who scales the dizzying heights of the "Silver Castle," the Indian film world, to stand at the parapet of success.                          Unfortunately for Sanjay, he is required to jump.
           Told with Clive James's trademark dry wit, ...

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Overview

Sanjay is a Bombay street child who scales the dizzying heights of the "Silver Castle," the Indian film world, to stand at the parapet of success.                          Unfortunately for Sanjay, he is required to jump.
           Told with Clive James's trademark dry wit, The      Silver Castle is a tragicomic morality tale for our time. Part Candide, part Oliver Twist, part Huckleberry Finn, The Silver Castle defies its reader to remain aloof from the suffering of the world's swarming poor while it inspires laughter over the human condition generally. It is a novel of wonder despite its unrelenting realism—      indeed, only wonderment is possible in the face of Sanjay's knack for survival and more than occasional good fortune.
           In his astonishing odyssey from the gutter to the soundstages and salons of Bollywood, Sanjay meets up with every variant of sinner and would-be savior, and along the way he trades on his "heart-breaking" physical beauty and canny lingual facility to grab at luck wherever it may be had—in the pocket of a tourist, as a guide for the Western news crews who regularly descend on Bombay to update their stock footage of grinding poverty, or in the bed of an older male protector or a past-her-prime cinema princess.
           Throughout, Sanjay's spirit is sustained by themovies, and by his first behind-the-scenes glimpse,
as a young trespasser on the set of the Silver Castle, of the magical artifice of filmmaking.
It is a true vision of an utterly false reality, the source of Sanjay's subsequent triumphs and of his ultimate
misfortune. But what happens to Sanjay in the end is not a singular event. As this deeply humane novel
convincingly argues, Sanjay's fate is the world's.

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Perhaps it would have been better for [Sanjay] if he had never seen the Silver Castle, never felt a guiding hand, never blinked at an unstained smile. Then he would not have missed these things. It is just possible, however, that the memory of his first visit to Long Ago sustained him. Imagination and energy are part of each other, and few of us, even though we live in circumstances far more favourable, would ever get to where we are going unless a picture of it, however inaccurate, was already in our minds. If we had to, we too would have to dodge the rain between rubbish dumps, on the long journey back to the taste of a cheese roll, the tang of sparkling water, trumpets that crackle and toe-nails stained with plums. We don't have to, but Sanjay did.

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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
[The novel] aspires to be a kind of Candide set in contemporary India. It reads more like a comic book penned with a self-satisfied sneer. . . .So much of the humor. . .comes at the expense of Sanjay. . .the reader begins to suspect that Mr. James has some sort of grudge against his hero. . . —The New York Times
New Yorker
So close and yet so far: growing up in the squalor of Bombay's slums, young Sanjay is captivated by the nearby Silver Castle, a glittering set for Indian movie musicals. The real trouble starts, of course, when his dream of working in 'Bollywood' comes true. Sanjay is a masterly creation, a sort of bemused spectator of his own life. Equally memorable, though, is the book's unseen narrator, a keen-eyed cosmopolitan who riffs brilliantly on everything from Third World Art Deco to the local colas of far-flung places.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
James' pointed fable about India's vast misery amid its vaunted pockets of affluence falls uneasily between modern fairy tale and acid social satire. The metamorphosis of its winsome, cunning protagonist, Sanjay, from street urchin in Bombay's slums to Bollywood film star -- and back again to beggar -- is believable enough. Writing like an empathetic cultural anthropologist, James tracks Sanjay through successive phases: runaway from a physically abusive family; gang member; boy prostitute catering to male tourists; movie stuntman; bodyguard to a leading lady named Miranda. A critic and popular BBC talk-show host, James is, as usual, an urbane, digressive guide through the Third World's maze of customs, superstition and self-defeating fatalism, and there are flashes of Voltairean wit. But he overdoes the cocktail-party and filmic chatter, and the satire of India's escapist movie industry palls and the steamy accounts of Sanjay's affairs with sexually voracious Miranda and with previous girlfriends cannot help but seem meretricious, stuck as they are in the middle of this nobly intentioned if not always successful look at the misery hidden underneath India's much-touted economic boom.
Michiko Kakutani
[The novel] aspires to be a kind of Candide set in contemporary India. It reads more like a comic book penned with a self-satisfied sneer. . . .So much of the humor. . .comes at the expense of Sanjay. . .the reader begins to suspect that Mr. James has some sort of grudge against his hero. . . -- The New York Times
The New Yorker
So close and yet so far: growing up in the squalor of Bombay's slums, young Sanjay is captivated by the nearby Silver Castle, a glittering set for Indian movie musicals. The real trouble starts, of course, when his dream of working in 'Bollywood' comes true. Sanjay is a masterly creation, a sort of bemused spectator of his own life. Equally memorable, though, is the book's unseen narrator, a keen-eyed cosmopolitan who riffs brilliantly on everything from Third World Art Deco to the local colas of far-flung places.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375500930
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/21/1998
  • Edition description: 1st U.S. Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 263
  • Product dimensions: 6.53 (w) x 9.65 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Clive James was born in 1939 in Sydney, Australia, and was educated at Sydney University and Cambridge. James has written and produced a number of highly acclaimed television documentaries, including, for PBS, Fame in the 20th Century, and he is the host of two popular British television programs,
The Clive James Show and the Postcard   series. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and The Observer, and has published three volumes of memoirs, six books of poetry, nine collections of essays, and a travel book. The Silver Castle is his fourth novel. James lives in Cambridge, England.

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