on 26 July 2012
This is an amazing novel, which isn't given ample credit due to all the nonsense surrounding it.
It's not a breezy read. The prose is elaborate: expect long sentences and big words throughout. This is Rushdie's style, and some people don't like it, finding it impenetrable (or aren't bothered to penetrate it). But really get stuck in, because this is a brilliant novel.
The two main characters fall to England from an exploding plane, then undergo wacky transformations into a devil and an angel. Through their tortured London lives, Rushdie explores the migrant experience and the merging of people and cultures. Good and evil are entangled together in the characters of both men. The result is a vast, layered moral/social dialogue.
The narrative of the prophet Muhammed is genuinely brilliant. It caused a big - fatal - fuss, because it depicts Muhammed admitting the existence of the old Polytheistic deities, then taking it back. Rushdie also brings Muhammed's general reliability into question. For instance, he returns from a lonely ramble in the desert, proclaims to have been contacted by Allah, then gives orders accordingly. What's ingenius is that Rushdie never tries to convince us that Muhammed is a liar - he merely raises the prospect. We, as readers, form our own conclusions.
The story is genuinely engrossing and comic. The characters are deep and tortured. Some of the other reviewers on here seem to have been expecting a beach read. This certainly isn't - it's so much more than that!
on 20 August 2011
"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 controversy early 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.
Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" has polarised opinion to an extent almost unprecedented in the modern era. Some people have viciously condemned the book for its "blasphemous" references to Islam and confusing narrative, while others have applauded the novel for its unique characters and clever storytelling. In reality however, although "The Satanic Verses" remains an intelligent work of fiction, it is ultimately a very difficult and frustrating read.
The story revolves around the two characters Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha who miraculously survive the destruction of an airliner jet. Upon falling thousands of feet through the sky and washing up on the shore of a small English town, Gibreel finds that he has acquired a halo while Saladin begins to develop hooves and horn-like appendages. What follows is an epic tale in which both men come to terms with their transformation, and what this all means in the world's eternal fight between good and evil.
The main problem with "The Satanic Verses" is the unique and original - yet extremely confusing - way in which it is written. Rushdie constantly shifts the narrative between numerous characters, subplots and realms of reality, which requires an awful lot of effort on the part of the reader in order to merely understand how the story is progressing. I have an A-level in English Literature and a postgraduate degree in Middle East studies and although I realise that this does not automatically make me an expert on the subject matter of this book, I believe that the difficulty I had in reading it reflects just how unnecessarily complex the storytelling is.
That said, there are a number of positive aspects to "The Satanic Verses". Although as I have mentioned, the story is extremely confusing and even convoluted at times, I cannot fault the scale of Rushdie's imagination. At times I was forced to sit back and admire the bizarre nature of the events that unfolded and the depth of the various colourful characters that were scattered throughout the story. There are also a number of genuinely funny and heart-warming moments throughout the book that helped to make my journey through this grand tale more enjoyable.
However, I find it very difficult indeed to recommend this book. If you are looking for a straightforward, light read then this is not it. If you are looking for a classic piece of modern fiction then this is not it. If you are looking for a good example of Rushdie's work then this is not it either (instead, I would recommend either "Midnight's Children" or "Shalimar the Clown", which are both more accessible and enjoyable). The only person I could recommend the "The Satanic Verses" to is an individual who wishes to make up his or her own mind as to what all the fuss is about, and who doesn't mind the difficulties associated with constantly shifting narratives and subplots.
In short, I did not ultimately enjoy reading this book. Epic, intelligent and funny at times it may be, but the extremely confusing manner in which "The Satanic Verses" is written tested my patience and at times left me frustrated. If truth be told, I honestly believe that the novel would have disappeared and been forgotten had the supposed "blasphemous" references towards Islam in this book gone largely ignored, no fatwa declared on Rushdie and no resulting media circus taken place.
Even so, as I mentioned at the beginning, no book has polarised opinion to quite the same extent as "The Satanic Verses" - you either love it or hate it. The best advice I can give anyone is to pick up a copy, approach it with an open and patient mind, and decide for yourself.
on 29 July 2007
Don't you think it's about time you made up your own mind about the most controversial book of the modern era? If nothing else, it will give you an opinion the next time the media gets its knickers in a twist about what is, at the end of the day, a work of fiction
But it will give you so much more than that. There is everything you expect from a Salman Rushdie novel: vast in scope, vivid in portrayal and seriously bizarre. As the author has often pointed out, it is also darkly comic and often hilarious. It is a vastly satirical meditation on the theology of religion, the struggle between human doubt and belief and, above all, the power of stories to change the world. Themes of race and immigration flow through the book alongside the usual contemporary and classical references. Reading a Salman Rushdie book is like reading nothing else, he is wholesomely devious, wonderfully irreverent and completely unique. His is a style of writing brimming with delightful sentences, so beautifully worded as to be like some fabulous cocktail: refreshing and invigorating and with that little kick of something you know is truly special.
The story revolves around the lives of Gibreel Farishta, legend of Bollywood Cinema, and Saladin Chamcha, the voice of radio, the man of a thousand voices. When their plane is blown up by terrorists high above the English Channel they float slowly to earth, as though divinely spared certain death. It soon becomes apparent that there is more to their escape than meets the eye. For while Saladin Chamcha begins to sprout horns, cloven feet and a forked tail, Gibreel Farishta seems to be shrouded by the glow of a halo. Confronted with dreams of past prophets Gibreel sets out to change the world. But as the lives of the two men become increasingly entangled within the social climate of the 1980's the clarity of Gibreel's belief becomes cloudy and we are left questioning where enlightenment ends and madness begins.
Salman Rushdie is a breath of fresh air in this tense and divided world: the antidote to community relations rather than the cause. Read this book, and make up your own mind. Because that is what Rushdie is all about, not dogma, not fear, but making ones own mind up, questioning the world, and being able to laugh at oneself. Rarely has a knighthood been so thoroughly deserved.
on 31 January 2016
I read this book with a view to better understanding the divisions between the faiths. As is often the case, I found myself entering a different world than I had imagined. At first I found this book hard to read. It is not the kind of thing I would normally go for. At the beginning two men fall from the sky as a result of a bomb on a plane and survive and one of them becomes the devil incarnate and grows horns. So I found myself having to relax my usual literary expectations and prejudices and just go with the flow if you like. I gave up trying to relate one chapter or even page, to another and just tried to enjoy it this way, which did work in a way I`m pleased to say. Rushdie treats language as a malleable medium and again I had to make adjustments. There is plenty of amusing and interesting material here even if the plot may seem fantastical! There are some interesting views of the British and their culture as seen from an Asian perspective.
But on the whole I found this book hard to follow. I was left with the feeling that a second read would probably help but there is just too much other material waiting to be read. I also had the feeling that I am probably not part of the target audience if the author has one, and the work appeared somehow inaccessible, but then I would not be arrogant enough not to say that perhaps this book is simply beyond me.
on 14 June 2008
I bought The Satanic Verses for many different reasons.... the main one being to see why there was so much contorversy surrounding the book....
Even though the book in my opinion was very cleverly written with highly intriguing characters, I don't know, I just didn't enjoy the book. Whilst reading the book I was disappointed as I thought it would offer me more than what it did, which was hardly anything. As a Muslim, I wasn't as offended as others because I thought the book was a higly imaginative work of fiction. I found the characters in the book very intriguing and completely fell in love with the characters of the young teenage girls as I thought they were hilarious and correctly portrayed young teenagers. I liked the cross of cultures and the surreality of certain aspects of the text. I thought the idea of good and bad, and what is really good and bad very intelligent and also thought provoking. But even then, I just didn't enjoy the book. Maybe it was because the text was so small... maybe because there was too much imagery, maybe because it just didn't have that little something in it for me.
I see a lot of mixed reaction to this book, which is good as not everyones opinion is the same, but for me: the book was very intelligent but I just didn't enjoy it.
I do recommend it however, to most people. As its one of those books that everyone should read and draw their own opinions of. I need to read his other books to compare them against this one.
Not very helpful as a review I know. Sorry. I'm just torn bewteen my opinions of this book.
on 22 October 2004
This book is simply entertaining,although I quite agree to those who find this book hard to read through(however that's maybe because I hardly ever read books in English). It is sort of ascetic practices,once you are through,hopefully there will be some rewards,just like on other acclaimed but to finish it is a struggle kind of books.
In my view,it is advisable to forget about the controversy (it's more than a decade ago) and not to be too concious about religious aspect of the novel;better read it as Rushdie's allegorical autobiography,if you want to enjoy it.
As a matter of fact,The Satanic Verses is the most "personal" piece among the trilogy,with one of the two protagonists being an immigrant from a wealthy family in Bombay,struggling through problems
of identity,east-west,ethics,religion,love,family and so forth, from which the author himself has surely suffered.
I think Rushdie has succeeded in transforming these quite banal and typical themes into an innovative story.Whether you find that story boring or exhilarating is a matter of taste.However,I am convinced it is worth trying.
on 25 July 2008
Over the English Channel, a hi-jacked airliner explodes leaving two survivors clinging to each other as they fall. One gains a halo while the other grows horns and goat legs, acting out the ancient battle between good and evil again; but which is which?
This is a very complex book, with many interwoven themes: love, belonging and betrayal being the central ones. Different people will get many different things out of it, but what struck a chord with me was the issues of belonging, and the difficulties of standing between cultures, since this is something I feel on a day-to-day basis.
I also loved the language of the book. Rushdie has a wonderful gift for words and it was a pleasure to let the words drift over you. It also captured, for me, the voice of Indian literature. It does sound like an authentic mix of cosmopolitan English and Hindi; while Rushdie wasn't the first Indian writer to write in English and add a twist of Indian colloquialism, he has certainly mastered the art. Like its predecessor, Midnight's Children, I can't recommend this book enough.
on 11 July 2003
This book is just exquisite, sharp and exhilarating. From the moment it starts the reader is taken on a non-stop journey of high-octane action; a duel between good and evil; between modernity and tradition; between India and Britain. Rushdie questions everything from class, colour, culture, religion, race, history; making you open your eyes and question and doubt some old and even new beliefs and even enforce some.
When I first read the Satanic Verses I was totally mesmerised, I could not sleep, just thinking of the characters and the issues raised in the book. The parody of Islam and the Koran is deep and poignant, the satire of Mohammed (Mohound in the novel ) is hilarious and entwines the best and down right oppressive and belligerent elements of his character and the Islamic faith. The fatwa on Rushdie's head was really a shambolic attempt to silence a man of enlightened knowledge and cover the flaws of a so-called 'revealed' religion.
In my view this book is by far is best work and beats Midnight's Children by a country mile. Readers who criticise his work simply don't understand it or just are too impatient, I would say it helps to have knowledge of Indian history and culture and also Mohammed and the Islamic religion.
I could bore you to death and write a whole essay on how great this book is; quite simply in four words 'THE BOOK OF LIFE'.
on 23 October 2013
An extraordinarily long, dense and complex novel but definitely worthwhile reading. It is about the experiences of two Bollywood actors, Gibreel and Saladin, who emigrate to the UK in the 1980s. The main themes are that of mental illness, racism, police brutality and multi-culturalism in 1980s London. At the heart of the novel are a series of complex dream narratives set which are sympomatic of Gibreel's developing schizophrenia. They also contain the passages which offended so many people of the Muslim faith. The Satanic Verses isn't an easy read, but I found it preferable to Midnight's Children. As with that book, there are flashes of wit and humour throughout.