Very Brief Notes
- I finally got round to reading this book – like many other people, no doubt – because of the then recent (August 2022) attack on the author. I enjoyed it once I’d got acclimatized to the style. I’m not a literary critic, and I doubt I’ll be able to make any significant comments.
- Enough for now to supply some links. See:-
- Some technical terms that arose:-
- "Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide" is a useful resource for remembering the plot without having to re-read the book.
- I’ve retained an Amazon review I copied over before I’d read the book. I broadly agree with what it has to say.
- One question I have is on the supernatural in the novel. Most of it occurs in Gibreel’s dreams, so can be ignored to the degree that it doesn’t affect the realism of the story line. But some is actually in waking hours. Most of whatever happens to Gibreel can be put down to his misperception on account of mental illness but not what happens to Saladin with respect to his metamorphoses. Nor their survival of the crash itself, of course. That spoils the plot somewhat for me.
- As for the controversy, I thought at least two aspects would be more offensive to Muslims than the Satanic Verses themselves, which do at least have some – admittedly disputed – historical background.
- There’s a strong implication that Mohammad got the revelations that he wanted, ie. that were convenient for him.
- The parody of Mohammad’s 12 wives by the 12 prostitutes might be seen as deeply offensive.
- Also, the use of the name ‘Mahound’ for Mohammed would also be deeply offensive, as it was the medieval Christian term of abuse.
- There are other aspects of the novel that might be offensive to English people, whether or not they are Muslims. It is certainly the case that the Metropolitan Police had a lot to answer for – whether or not the force was ‘institutionally racist’, many of its members were – and some still are. But the account in the book is comically tendentious. Why did Rushdie choose the fiction that there was a witchcraft cell within the Met (unless this is intended as a satire on their Masonic connections)?
- To be continued, one day, maybe …
Inside Cover Blurb
- Just before dawn one winter's morning a hijacked jumbo-jet blows apart high above the English Channel. Through the debris of limbs, drinks trolleys, memories, blankets and oxygen masks, two figures fall towards the sea without benefit of parachutes: Gibreel Farishta, India's legendary movie star, and Saladin Chamcha, the man of a thousand voices, self-made self and Anglophile supreme. Clinging to each other, singing rival songs, they plunge downward, and are finally washed up, alive, on the snow-covered sands of an English beach. A miracle; but an ambiguous one, because it soon becomes apparent that curious changes are coming over them. Gibreel seems to have acquired a halo, while, to Saladin's dismay, his legs grow hairier, his feet turn into hoofs, and there are bumps burgeoning at his temples.
- So begins The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie's first novel for five years.
- Gibreel and Saladin have been chosen (by whom?) as protagonists in the eternal wrestling match between Good and Evil. But which is which? Can demons be angelic? Can angels be devils in disguise? As the two men tumble through their tale, through time as well as space, towards their final confrontation, we are witnesses to a cycle of extraordinary stories, tales of love and passion, of betrayal and faith: the story of Ayesha, the butterfly-shrouded visionary who leads an Indian village on an impossible pilgrimage; of Allie, the mountain-climber haunted by a ghost who urges her to attempt the ultimate feat — a solo ascent of Everest; of murders, metamorphoses and riots in a London 'visible but unseen'; and, centrally, the story of Mahound, the Prophet of Jahilia, the city of sand — Mahound, the recipient of a revelation in which satanic verses mingle with divine.
- In this great wheel of a book, where the past and the future chase each other furiously, Salman Rushdie takes us on an epic journey, a journey of tears and laughter, of wonderful stories and astonishing flights of the imagination, a journey towards the evil and the good that lie inseparably entwined within the hearts of women and of men.
- Salman Rushdie is the author of the novels Grimus, "Rushdie (Salman) - Midnight's Children" (winner of the 1981 Booker Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the English-Speaking Union Literary Award) and Shame (winner of the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger); of The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey; and of the television films The Riddle of Midnight and The Painter and the Pest. He is a member of the Production Board of the British Film Institute and the Advisory Board of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Born in Bombay in 1947, he now lives in London. His books have been translated into twenty languages.
- The Angel Gibreel – 1
- Mahound – 89
- Ellowen Deeowen – 127
- Ayesha – 203
- A City Visible but Unseen – 241
- Return to Jahilia – 357
- The Angel Azraeel – 395
- The Parting of the Arabian Sea – 471
- A Wonderful Lamp – 509
Amazon Customer Review
- The Satanic Verses is a novel which has been overshadowed by its history. Published in late September of 1988, it was on February 14th in 1989 that a fatwa was issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini against the author Salman Rushdie (Happy Valentine's Day, Salman). The claim was that the book was very insulting to Muslims, and the controversy itself caused many who had never read the book to issue strong opinions about it. It also had the effect of getting many to buy it that otherwise would not have, and stop people from buying and reading it who otherwise might have. I'm sad to admit that I fall into the latter category, having allowed the controversy to steer me away not only from The Satanic Verses, but from all of Salman Rushdie's works. The loss has been mine.
- A story dealing with immigration into a different culture, and the loss of faith, the sections which caused the controversy are the dream sequences of a man who believes he is an angel, and even in the sequence which most applies to the prophet then the names are altered, though clearly Mahound is intended to be a representation of the prophet Muhammad, it is a representation which takes place in the dream of a delusional character. So ultimately, the controversy is about a piece of fiction which includes dreams from an unbalanced mind, and that is pretty much all that needs to be said regarding the supposed blasphemy, and of course free speech still allows one to write what one will, so even if it were blasphemy the violent response to it has been nothing short of obscene.
- I found The Satanic Verses a difficult read as I struggled with some of his terms, and the narrative structure. It is a very complex storyline, and though I suspect I only picked up on a small part of the totality of what Rushdie included, it was well worth the effort, and this is a book which I will be re-reading in a few years to see what I missed the first time through. I also will be correcting my mistake of not reading any of Rushdie's other works as I see no reason to deprive myself of such great works simply because others found offense.
- The book is comic, with biting commentary not only on religion, but on politics and the secular and capitalistic west. The story is about two Indian actors that are miraculously saved after their plane is blown up by terrorists. One (Gibreel) comes to believe he is an angel, and the other (Saladin) transforms into a devil. The title itself does refer to a controversial story from the early days of Islam. The story is about the devil tricking Muhammad into indicating that the worship of three pagan goddesses was allowed, but later learning from Gabriel that the devil had tricked him with a false recitation, i.e. a Satanic Verse.
Viking; 1st Edition (1 Jan. 1989)
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- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2023
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