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The Satanic Verses Paperback – 8 Jan 1998
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No book in modern times has matched the uproar sparked by Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, which earned its author a fatwa from Iran's Ayatollahs decreeing his death. Furore aside, it is a marvellously erudite study of good and evil, a feast of language served up by a writer at the height of his powers and a rollicking comic fable. The book begins with two Indians, Gibreel Farishta ("for fifteen years the biggest star in the history of the Indian movies") and Saladin Chamcha, a Bombay expatriate returning from his first visit to his homeland in 15 years, plummeting from the sky after the explosion of their jetliner, and proceeds through a series of metamorphoses, dreams and revelations. Rushdie's astonishing powers of invention are at their best in this Whitbread Prize winner.
"'A staggering achievement, brilliantly enjoyable' Nadine Gordimer"
"'A masterpiece' Sunday Times"
"'A novel of metamorphosis, hauntings, memories, hallucinations, revelations, advertising jingles and jokes. Rushdie has the power of description, and we succumb' The Times"
"'Damnably entertaining and fiendishly ingenious. One of the very few current writers whose works are attempts at the great Bible, "the bright book of life" ' London Review of Books"
"A great novelist, a master of perpetual storytelling." (V S Pritchett)
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Before reading this huge rambling (but often amusing) 540+ pages; a difficult book. Do read the Wikipedia page on the Rushdie Fatwa resulting from this book and explanations of its origins. There was, as of 2016, still severe controversy relating to the author and the Muslim allusions in (and interpretations of) his story. It will also help to have an understanding of Indian cultural (and food) terms, the culture in Mumbai in the 1980’s and some of the historical friction between Christians and Muslims. The book is still banned in many countries with a significant Muslim population.
To the average Western reader this may be seen as a simple (?) comical tale of the amazing survival of two Indian actors, blown out of the skies by a fanatical suicide bomber, then their experiences and escapades in England, supplemented by flashbacks to their historical development in India and subsequent interaction of Asians with UK culture at the time of the Thatcherite years (significant institutional racism and even racial violence).
One survivor takes on the attributes of the angel Gabriel, the other the devil Saladin and we follow their escapades, lives and loves and their reversion to more human form. The story is constantly interwoven with actual and imagined historical events.
Is it religiously offensive? Possibly to those of a strict Muslim upbringing and their religious leaders interpreting what is said alongside the Quran. I am sure than many decried the book without ever reading it – as happened with many other books/ films which attracted notoriety.
Compared to the non-event Christian fuss over Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian”, there is a certain fantasy section relating to certain reported history of the prophet which could certainly be interpreted negatively by those of a strongly Muslim religious view (You need to read beyond 300+ pages to come to this section) – see also the Wikipedia review mentioned above.
Is it worth reading? If the above does not put you off but intrigues you get hold of a library copy and see!
Miraculously, they survived their fall into the English Channel (seemingly by supernatural intervention), but thereafter began to experience further supernatural changes - one began to show angelic characteristics, while the other began to turn into a satanic-style goat-like demon complete with horns!
Neither of these characters, in my opinion, deserved what was happening to them, and I began to struggle to carry on reading it, despite the excellent style of the writing.
Just past half-way through, I lost the desire to continue and I gave up. I may go back to it... I have to admit, I'm curious about how it all ends - but not just yet.
Frankly I can't see what the fuss was all about there is nothing in this book I could recognise as controversial but perhaps that's because I gave up on it half way through
Just to put that in perspective I have read War and Peace twice and The Lord of the Rings three times
I believe the Freemasonry elements in War and Peace succeeded in offending both the Church and Freemasons
Meanwhile The Lord of The Rings has found itself on a list of banned books according to some sources for promoting witchcraft of all things
It must be nearly impossible to write anything which somebody wont find offensive
Bring back Mary Whitehouse she was offended by almost everything as I recall
Look her up on Google if you are under 50 years of age :)
I obviously knew that this book had caused offense to many when it was written and I could see why perhaps this was so.
I enjoyed the book, it had been one I had been meaning to read for a long time. It was long and quite tough going but worth reading.
"- Who art thou, then?
-Part of that Power, not understood, Which always wills the Bad, and always works the Good."