After drinking an elixir that bestows immortality upon him, a young Indian named Flapping Eagle spends the next seven hundred years sailing the seas with the blessing–and ultimately the burden–of living forever. Eventually, weary of the sameness of life, he journeys to the mountainous Calf Island to regain his mortality. There he meets other immortals obsessed with their own stasis and sets out to scale the island’s peak, from which the mysterious and corrosive Grimus Effect emits. Through a series of thrilling quests and encounters, Flapping Eagle comes face-to-face with the island’s creator and unwinds the mysteries of his own humanity. Salman Rushdie’s celebrated debut novel remains as powerful and as haunting as when it was first published more than thirty years ago.
“A fireworks of a book: beautiful, funny, and endlessly surprising.” —Ursula K. Le Guin
“A mixture of science fiction and folktale, past and future, primitive and present-day. . . . Thunderous and touching.” —Financial Times
“Grimus is one of those novels some people will say is too good to be science fiction, even though it contains other universes, dimensional doorways, alien creatures, and more than one madman. . . . A book to be read twice . . . Grimus is science fiction in the best sense of the word. It is literate, it is fun, it is meaningful, and perhaps most important, it pushes the boundaries of the form outward.” —Los Angeles Times
“Ambitious, strikingly confident.” —The Times Literary Supplement
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1. Why does Flapping Eagle drink the elixir that makes him immortal? What are the consequences of living forever?
2. How would you describe the world of Rushdie’s novel? What does it remind you of? What elements make it otherworldly?
3. In the epigraph Rushdie quotes T. S. Eliot: “Go, go, go, said the bird; human kind/Cannot bear very much reality.” What does this tell you about the novel and about Flapping Eagle?
4. Grimus has been described as a quest novel. What is Flapping Eagle seeking? Does he find it?
5. What are the roles of Virgil Jones and Dolores O’Toole? What kind of guides do they make?
6. As Flapping Eagle makes his way up the mountain of Calf Island, what does he learn about Grimus and the Grimus Effect? Who is Grimus?
7. At the novel’s end, how would you describe Flapping Eagle’s achievements?