The Satanic Verses: A Novel
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One of the most controversial and acclaimed novels ever written, The Satanic Verses is Salman Rushdie¡¯s best-known and most galvanizing book. Set in a modern world filled with both mayhem and miracles, the story begins with a bang: the terrorist bombing of a London-bound jet in midflight. Two Indian actors of opposing sensibilities fall to earth, transformed into living symbols of what is angelic and evil. This is just the initial act in a magnificent odyssey that seamlessly merges the actual with the imagined. A book whose importance is eclipsed only by its quality, The Satanic Verses is a key work of our times.

No book in modern times has matched the uproar sparked by Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, which earned its author a death sentence. Furor aside, it is a marvelously 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 powers of invention are astonishing in this Whitbread Prize winner.

Customer Reviews:

  • Heady Carpet Ride
    The Satanic Verses / 0-312-27082-8

    Trapped for days and nights on a hijacked airplane, our heroes suddenly find themselves hurtling towards their certain doom when the hijackers finally decide to detonate the airplane mid-flight. As they plummet towards the ocean which will surely break every bone in their body, they embrace and sing children's nursery rhymes to slow their descent to a gentle, safe tumble. then, the strangeness begins.

    The Satanic Verses is a heady carpet ride of a novel, an opium-laced dream. Most readers will probably tire of this quickly - there is certainly much to be said about racism and religious bigotry in this world of ours, but not everyone will appreciate the expression of this via scenes of women fantastically changing into glass statues, nor via images of hapless pilgrims marching into the sea to their death.

    For those who will appreciate this unusual and vivid symbolism, The Satanic Verses is a genuine treasure. There is so much to absorb here that something new is found with each reading, some new gem of wisdom or seed of doubt. Rushdie does not claim to have any answers - he only claims to have questions. He does not believe himself to be blasphemous, for he believes that without belief, there can be no blasphemy. (There is some truth in this - no matter what you believe, you are still considered 'blasphemous' to someone, somewhere who dislikes your beliefs, but that doesn't mean that you mean to be blasphemous nor that you take pride or pleasure in it.)

    Is this book offensive to Islam? I guess it depends on who you ask. I see this as one man's interpretation of a religion whose divine origin he has doubts on. There are thousands of books that say the same about Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Wicca, and so on. Rushdie does not present his doubts or theories as fact, just as heady dreams in the minds of his own insane characters. I believe teh purpose of The Satanic Verses is simply to ask the readers to examine their beliefs, whatever they may be, religious or otherwise....more info
  • Satanic Verses
    Finally got around to reading this and must say it is one of the worst books I have ever encountered.It is dull, rambling, a real case of fishing for some sense in writing that flies and thuds with equal abandon,so that finishing it is more like punishment than pleasure....more info
  • satanic verses
    I'm having trouble sticking with it. It's a little nebulous and I enjoy more concrete of a style. I'm still not sure what got him into so much trouble but it does speak to the attitude of Islamic people Catholics have been ridiculed and seem to take it better...more info
  • A sea of stories, ambitious but perhaps overwhelming
    My wife commented drily as she saw me reading this day after day that it was probably one of the least read bestsellers. Two decades after its controversial release, does this novel merit the considerable attention it demands from any reader taking on over five-hundred pages of often densely Joycean, exuberantly Dickensian, or meditatively magic-realist prose? I think the stories in isolation have many moments that reward careful examination. However, they are dispersed among long sections in which not much happens of any account, so far as the reader's concerned. Rushdie seeks to make a statement about the clash of East and West, the formation of Islam, a surrealistic trek from Pakistan to the Arabian Sea, and London's multicultural ferment. He does manage to explore all these realms, but only with intermittently engrossing scenes.

    This novel took me days to finish. My favorite parts probably overlapped those that earned its author greatest hatred among Muslim critics: how the Prophet started Islam under the dictation of Angel Gibreel for me sustained my interest most consistently. The clash of Al-Lat, the female goddess worshipped in Mecca, and Al-Lah, the god who allows no competition, makes for intriguing tension as Hind, the representative of the polytheist old guard, squares off against Mahound the Messenger, who finds himself soon entangled in the dictations and prevarications of Gibreel. "The war between us cannot end in truce." (123) Rushdie contrasts this 7th-century reimagining of how Islam began with contemporary scenes set in London, that intensify other ideological clashes.

    In one vignette, Pamela, the lover of Saladin, offers a poignant eulogy for the post-colonial era: "It has been quite a culture, brilliant and foul, cannibal and Christian, the glory of the world. We should celebrate it while we can; until night falls." (190) In exile in London, an Imam's condition spurs this reflection from the omniscient narrator: "In exile no food is ever cooked; the dark-spectacled bodyguards go out for take-away. In exile all attempts to put down roots look like treason: they are admissions of defeat." (190) I found such observations more durable than the fictional post-modern tricks that Rushdie used to keep the stories moving, as these often thwarted easy identification by the reader and wearied me.

    Such narrative leaps are acknowledged, as Mimi notes: "I have read 'Finnegans Wake' and am conversant with postomodern critiques of the West, e.g, that we have here a society capable only of pastiche: a 'flattened' world." (270) "Salman the Persian," an early witness to Mahound's claims of being a chosen mediator between Al-Lah and the people of Mecca, suspicious of how the Prophet in seemingly contemporary fashion appears to be angling the revelations supposedly received from Gibreel as a divine messenger to suit his own mortal situation, observes: "This was when he had the idea that destroyed his faith, because he recalled of course that Mahound himself had been a businessman, and a damned successful one at that, a person to whom organization and rules came naturally, so how excessively convenient it was that he should have come up with such a very businesslike archangel, who handed down the management decisions of this highly corporate, if non-corporeal, God." (376)

    This astute judgment makes it hard to take the Qur'an at face value anymore. Salman begins to insert what are called the "satanic verses" into the oral revelation, at first as a little joke, then as a way to bring down the pride of the Messenger whose fame and power increase as he is judged the recipient of the divine Revelation of Submission, the new faith that ousts Hind and the goddess-worshippers and the prostitutes-- an episode that numbers among the best in this tale. Mahound is determined to avenge himself in the name of Allah upon Salman and Hind and their kind: "Writers and whores, I see no difference here." (405) This contention between those who understand human desire and cater to mortal weakness against those who dominate the temptings of the flesh with the demands of the spirit-- all the while making exceptions for their own positions of power-- make for thoughtful pages here.

    Finally, as with a nod to Nabokov, who'd I'd been thinking about when trudging on through Rushdie's increasingly complicated storylines, Saladin as Chamcha explodes in frustration at this knotted Arabian concatenation of one episode after another: "I give up, anyway. How are you supposed to read a man who writes in a made-up lingo of his own?" (456) This applies to portions here as much as "Pale Fire." The later section on the pilgrimage to the sea by Mishal and her contingent, as they plod on to the Arabian Sea, suffers by comparison with the more evocative scenes from the labyrinthine brothel or even the set-piece of a miniature London at a party on the sets of Shepperton studios. Rushdie has too many balls to juggle in the air, and it's still eighty pages to go. Still, it's probably rewarding enough for the patient.

    The glimpses may be worth it, of Alleluia Cone's Himalayan portage, of Chamcha's polyphonic chaos caused at the expense of his rival and one-time pal Farishta, and of their exchanges on the relative distinctions of life lived in Bombay vs. London. No reader will fail to be moved by such chapters, but there's lots of languor intervening that challenges the casual visitor to this audacious and multi-levelled novel. It's all summed up to the moment, 90% through, on pg. 472 of the paperback in case you're totally at sea, however. Gibreel's dreams multiply as he faces the final apocalyptic (of course) showdown with rival Saladin.
    ...more info
  • Brothers Grimm Meet Stephen King
    Very strange book, but then I like strange. I fear that much of his artistry is lost in the translation. To really enjoy this book you must read from a different cultural viewpoint.

    This is very dark fantasy with some good twists and turns....more info
  • Book of significant contemporary importance
    Salman Ruhdie: 'After working for five years to give voice and fictional flesh to the immigrant culture of which I myself I am a member, I should see my book burned, largely unread, by the people it is about- people who might find some pleasure and much recognition in its pages.'

    Now that the shadow of the Fatwa is receeding- fortunately with the author still alive, and still writing, the Satanic Verses can finally considered from a literary, rather than a purely political standpoint. It is a vast novel, with a great many themes, characters,linguistic flourishes and cultural references woven together to create an original tale of the dichotomy between good and evil. But essentially it is a migrants view of the world, dealing with the problems of uprooting, or metamorphosis, of cultural and social struggles for identity.

    Right from the beginning, the author brings to our attention that magic realism will feature heavily in the story, like in his previous masterpiece 'Midnight's Children'. Bostan, a 747 airliner, crashes over the south coast of England, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha fall from the sky, and survive. Saladin becomes severed from his father's Indianness and sets about anglicizing himself in that particular form of Englishness that was so fashionable in 1980s Britain - a neo-Colonial concept of stability and fairness, harking back to the days of the Empire when British commerce ruled large. He tries to ingratiate himself with establishment icons of Britain -Nelson's Column, Big Ben and marries Pamela Lovelace, who embodies many of the elitist aspects of Sloaney, country house philistanism. Gibreel, on the other hand, is a poor street boy who rises to become a film star. He manages to retain some of his original identity whilst in England and stays true to his character.

    The Story of Saladin and Gibreel is only one aspect of a novel that tackles a kaleidoscopic range of additional themes. Another story is the satirical riff on the origins of Islam, providing the aspects of the book that many Muslims found so offensive. Then there is the additional telling of the trek of Ayesha and the villgagers towards the sea to find a route to Mecca. These two sub stories are projections of Gibreel's mind, which is where we get into difficult waters of complexity. What exactly are these dream pieces saying? Girbreel seems to dream these fevered sequences as an attempt to recover his lost faith. He is trapped- he cannot believe in his past, he cannot escape it. Rushdie seems to be implying that the origins of Islam are flawed and slightly ludicrous. Invoking the figure of Mohammed (thinly veiled as Mahound), who has his words mistranscribed by the scribe Salman, is and was a controversial step. Then there is the character of Baal the satanist, who is in danger from Mahound's war leader Ishalid and seeks sanctury with whores- who are named after Mohammed's wives. These sections are obviously meant to come across as comic (the Ayatollah Khomeni obviously didn't get the joke) but the humour doesn't really work, or is too subtle for most readers, thus they can easily be interpretated as being in somewhat bad taste. Certainly, found these passages to be the most perplexing of the novel. Rushdie takes his trademark magic realism and contorts it to produce ideas that appear to lack fundamental sense, unless they are taken as highlighting what a ludicrous religion Islam is, a position Rushdie denies.

    The complexities over these parts of the novel shouldn't overshadow what is essentially a powerful story about the diverse and difficult issues facing immigrants in 1980s Britain, issues which hold true today. It is a novel which will surely go down in the future as a classic spirit of the age novel during a particlarly turbulent time in Britain's social history, the high watermark of Thatcherism, and it should be read by anyone who is interested in such affairs. ...more info
  • The Indian Joyce?
    The answer, of course, is no -- Salman Rushdie is not the Indian version of James Joyce. However, one would be hard pressed not to recognise influences of the Irish master in the notorious work The Satanic Verses. Rushdie's writing, like Joyce's, is complex and playful, crammed with portmanteau words and polyvalent meanings, and when you finish the work you get the sense that an entire experience has been chronicled: in this case, life as an immigrant in 1980's London. And of course both authors spend a huge amount of time dealing with the religions they grew up under -- sometimes paying tribute, sometimes mocking, sometimes criticising.

    It is this ambivalence toward Islam, of course, that earned Rushdie his death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeni and worldwide notoriety. I have to imagine more than one marginalised literary author has wished for a similar fate, because all this seems to have done is earned Rushdie a much wider reading public. And it makes sense: after all, despite the inherent experimental qualities, Rushdie's writing is accessible, readable, and full of meaning that always seems just below the surface.

    The story is told by an active and well-characterised narrator who never identifies himself but hints and suggests that he has supernatural qualities (look for the clues). Passages detailing the adventures of Indian actor Gibreel Farishta and Indian-British voice-actor Saladin Chamcha after their mutual survival from a devastating airline hijacking alternate with astoundingly imaginative dream-sequences, mostly dreamed by Farishta during long episodes of sleep. Though the "real-life" episodes get the lion's share of conventional suspense and linear plotting, it is in the dream-sequences that Rushdie tackles religious and philosophical questions head-on. He retells the story of Mohammed (or Mahound) and invents fables of his own, about miraculous middle-eastern towns and an impossible haj undertaken by an entire rural village.

    Things become more complex when the two worlds start to parallel one another; characters with similar names begin to show up. Here is where the multiple levels of meaning begin to prevail, and Rushdie's answers can be as vague as his questions. The book seems to take on the exact qualities which radical Islam is least characterised by: vagueness, doubt, scepticism, contradiction. The ending is strangely both conclusive and unresolved.

    I recommend the book for anyone with a taste for brilliant writing and religious inquiry. I can, as some other reviewers write, imagine the content as being offensive to some, but Rushdie draws so few conclusions, it seems that taking offense is a great overreaction. A compelling book displaying a technically seamless grasp of the literary arts. Highly recommended. ...more info
  • solid, but far from his best
    Having read a fair portion of Rushdie already, I came to the Satanic Verses with high expectations, but this book can't be placed alongside many of his other works. This is not to say that it is lacking in merit, but it certainly doesn't reach the heights he reaches elsewhere. In this respect, it compares to his more recent work Fury. If the ramifications hadn't been so serious, I would be inclined to dismiss the political dimensions of the work outright. More virulent charges against religion are commonplace. ...more info
  • Not Indian, Not Muslim, Not British Educated
    For me, this book was interesting and very different, but I can't say I enjoyed it. Not being a British educated Indian Muslim, much of the context was beyond my reach. Why was there so much fuss over this book? My curiosity drove me to read it, but reading it didn't answer the question. Imagine being an Arab Muslim reading the Da Vinci Code and trying to understand the fuss over that book. If you liked Joyce's Ulysses and have time to devote to the unusual, you may enjoy Satanic Verses. But, if you don't like it after the first 100 pages or so, you might as well quit. Other reviewers have covered the basic plot, so I won't duplicate their effort....more info
  • Rushdie's cup runneth over
    Explaining Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" is like trying to describe a Persian carpet to somebody who's never seen one: There are so many tiny, crazy designs interlocking with each other and contributing to the overall impression of exotic elegance and grandeur that it's difficult to know where to start. The novel itself begins with a bang--in the air, as a commercial jet traveling from Bombay to London explodes over the English Channel, sending all its passengers plummeting earthward, and proceeds from this ominous introduction to tell a multitude of fabulous stories linking the ancient with the modern.

    The two protagonists, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, both Indian Muslims, both actors of unequal fame and fortune, both tied socially, culturally, and romantically to England, are among the passengers on the hapless plane and miraculously survive the descent, affected by the near-death experience in very different ways. Gibreel, who became India's most famous movie star playing elephant- or monkey-headed gods in "theological" films, is convinced he is "born again" and hallucinates that he is the archangel Gibreel, dictating divine decrees to a prophet in a cave and monitoring a pilgrimage to Mecca, and then that he is the exterminating angel Azraeel, who roams the streets of a riotous London sounding his horn of death.

    Saladin, on the surface so much like Gibreel, becomes his antithesis and even his nemesis after certain revelations. Desiring to escape his ridiculous parents, Saladin came to London from Bombay at thirteen to attend school, became a struggling actor whose only employment opportunities were in campy commercials and television shows, and married a brittle English woman. After the aerial calamity and detainment by sadistic immigration officers, he undergoes a bizarre metamorphosis before discovering that his wife is having an affair with his old college friend Jumpy Joshi, a former nerdy radical who now teaches martial arts.

    Gibreel's phantasmagorical dreams take him centuries back to a city called Jahilia in an unnamed desert where a vociferous businessman named Mahound receives holy messages from a visitant angel (Gibreel), assumes the role of a prophet instructed by God, and founds a religion called "Submission." The city's Grandee, threatened by this man's rising influence among the citizens, commands the poet Baal to satirize Mahound in verse and oppresses the adherents of the new religion until they flee Jahilia. After many years in exile, Mahound returns to Jahilia in a position of power, usurps control of the city, overturns its polytheism in deference to "Submission," and sentences Baal to death for mocking him, taunting the poet with an insinuatingly snide parting statement as guards drag him away to be executed.

    A separate but related narrative tells of a contemporary pilgrimage to Mecca by a village of Indian Muslims led a bewitching girl named Ayesha who says they must travel only on foot and persuades them that the waters of the Arabian Sea will part for them to cross. The village zamindar (landholder) thinks this is madness and tries to stop them, especially his wife, who believes the pilgrimage will cure her terminal cancer. A wonderful tale of miracles, faith, and tragedy ensues in which Rushdie contrasts rural and urban Indian life and the vestiges of British colonial India.

    Although his scenes often tend to the macabre or the violent, Rushdie is at heart a comedian, making his novel funnier than it needs to be by giving his characters and their actions almost cartoonish dimensions to respond to the outlandish world they inhabit. In a sense he is following the tradition of the English comic picaresque novelists of the eighteenth century, imagining great landscapes of the wildest possibilities and conjuring panoramic perspectives of being an Indian in England, of being a Muslim in India, of being an angel on earth or in your mind. Just beware that, as one character says, metaphors can and will be misinterpreted.

    ...more info
  • An intriguing and imaginative tale
    Not so long ago I saw Salman Rushdie on television commenting on the murder of Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh. The most important thing to remember in dealing with Islamist fanatics like Van Gogh's killers, he said, is not to let them set the terms of the debate. THE SATANIC VERSES, the novel itself, as well as its aftermath, provide ample testimony to Rushdie's ability to set his own terms and his refusal to be silenced.

    "To be born again, first you have to die," sings Gibreel Farishta in the novel's opening line. Indeed, THE SATANIC VERSES is ultimately a story of transformations, rebirths, resurrections and homecomings. The two main characters, Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, survive the bombing of an airliner by Sikh terrorists and discover new selves in London. For Farishta, a star of Indian cinema famous for his screen portrayals of the Hindu pantheon, London is the scene of his descent into madness -- or, as Farishta sees it, his ascent to archangelic heights. For Chamcha, returning to his adopted homeland from a visit to the scorned India of his birth, London becomes the site of the devilish transformation that leads him back to himself.

    THE SATANIC VERSES is not an easy read. Rushdie draws on the history and mythology of both East and West, from Hindu folklore to the Qur'an, from Apuleius and Ovid to modern TV aliens. Names are very important in this book. Gods and goddesses, angels and devils, are everywhere revealed by their names (as is the humorously named Persian scribe 'Salman'). Characters recur in different times and places in new guises, bearing altered names. After reading the first 300 pages and realizing that I had failed to make certain connections, I started reading over again from page one. Luckily, Rushdie is a spellbinding writer and I enjoyed those 300 pages even more the second time than the first.

    So, why the fatwa? Because Rushdie dared to retell the founding myth of Islam in terms both imaginative and secular. Because actor Gibreel Farishta dreams himself to be the Archangel Gabriel, dictator of the Qur'an. Because Rushdie uses the derogatory 'Mahound' of the medieval West to name the prophet Mohammed. Because he suggests that the Qur'an reflects the uncompromising small-mindedness of a 7th-century Arabian businessman rather than the grandeur and wisdom of the One God. And because he reminds us of the legend (?) of the Satanic Verses, the one time the prophet Mohammed temporarily compromised his vision and allowed the worship of three lesser goddesses (Uzza, Manat and al-Lat) alongside the praise of al-Lah. Last but not least, I suspect that what most got the Ayatollah's goat was Rushdie's satirical portrait of an exiled Imam, very much like Khomeini during his years of exile in Paris.

    Rushdie certainly played with fire. But I hope one day his will be the 'kind of idea' that replaces literalism and fundamentalism everywhere....more info
  • An Interesting Read.
    Interesting read about self-identity, integration, prejudices..etc. in Western society, human faults/tendencies, love, faith, power, sucess..etc. from an Indian point of view. I gave it 4 stars because, although entertaining, especially the second half of the book, I find the author's writing style a little tedious at times, especially during the first half of the book and perhaps a tad haphazard. Also, it's not a book I could say I would pick up years down the road to read again....more info
  • The Satanic Verses
    I had this book(I bought many books, because I didn't have test- was growing under communist regim, all satanic things were like relatives to us ) since I wasn't Muslim.Sure nothing bother me, but now I know - I lost time reading it. ...more info
  • The Satanic Verses is a summary of human nature
    The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie is one complex novel. It's been said that one needs to be familiar with the teachings of Islam and its culture to understand the mischievous humor that enraged a certain ayatollah and sent Salman Rushdie, out of fear for his head, into hiding. But because The Satanic Verses is complex and written on several levels, there is something profound in it that will touch everyone. Anyone who has ever been on the suffering side of a prejudiced society will relate to this book. Anyone who has ever felt such intense love for a person that they will drop everything including their livelihood and travel across the globe just to be with this person will relate to this book. Anyone who has ever experienced a lifetime of such passionate self-hate and then given a second chance to redeem themselves will relate to this book. Anyone who has ever lacked faith in God and then witnessed a miracle so incredible that the experience left them speechless will relate to this book. In other words, if you've ever experienced life, you will relate to this book. ...more info
  • Controverial, definitely. Brilliant, hardly.
    I read this book, remembering the acclaim surrounding it, expecting great things. I'll be the first to admit that the book definitely had its moments. As a part-time philosopher I found the author's ideas on death and dying particularly interesting, but the book itself was far from brilliant. The author uses the book as a format to vent his frustration with London, India, Islam, Hinduism, Mohammed, conventional wisdom . . . in all, every gripe that he has (an believe me, he has plenty) comes out in this book. If we have any doubt that he is on his soapbox, he dispels this by using himself as a character in the novel (can't say he doesn't have guts, at least). In my opinion, all of this is perfectly fine. In one way or another, every author does that. My gripe with the book is that, in all, it's an incoherent collection of stories whose sole purpose are to allow the author to vent.

    Overall, I think it's an okay read. If you are like me, however, you won't be moved. You won't be astounded by the author's brilliance. You'll appreciate the candor and the controversy. But, at the end of the book, you'll simply find a place for it on the shelf and move on....more info
  • A Calculated Blasphemy or Literature?
    This novel must be read with an educated mind or at least a cultural understanding of what it produced in order to benefit from its pages. It is not a simple read; in fact I found it quite needlessly lengthy and cumbersome but it just might teach you something important about the conditions of faith in other parts of the world.

    As a novel, "The Satanic Verses," is an epic about human frailty and the ever present battle between good and evil. It begins in the English Channel with a crashing plane and two men who seem to fall from the sky. Gibreel Farishta, an Indian movie star, borders between a life of excess and consumption and life as an archangel who has lost his faith. It is often difficult to tell where Gibreel is really coming from. Saladin Chamcha returns from Bombay to London where he hovers between life and death as either human or a strangely metamorphosed creature resembling a devil. Neither man contains pure evil or innocent good so the struggle to live or die causes them to knock against the doors of heaven and hell with equal regard. It is a very human struggle written behind a fairy-tale idealism.

    Salman Rushdie is obviously well educated and his writing borders upon snobbishness having missed the ability to relate to an audience rather than attempt to impress one. In my opinion this novel was horribly calculated in order to anger an already emotional crowd while reaching the echelons of controversy and thus further his debatable career. Had Rushdie been a truly great writer of literature he wouldn't have needed the now notorious backlash to sell his ideas. The difficulty with this novel exists in its complicated cultural references making it far too remote for an average reader to understand unless they are willing to spend a few hours educating themselves to the ways of India, the Middle East and Islamic religious practices. Rushdie writes with a frenzied chaos and forgets to reach out towards the average reader. But his writing certainly begs for a deeper understanding if in fact one actually does exist.

    A few recommendations prior to taking on this novel, be sure to have at hand a dictionary, a book on Indian and Middle Eastern history, an Indian slang reference, of course the Holy Qur'an and possibly, "The Rushdie Affair," (by Daniel Pipes) to explain it all. At the minimum you must have a very vivid imagination, an extremely open and tolerant mind and finally the ultimate desire to learn something new. Rushdie's words will have your mind spinning in several directions at once maybe this pattern is purposeful to some extent, if you don't pay attention you just might miss some of the worst slights. At the core of all the controversy are a few verses that the Prophet Muhammad was supposed to have written (by some historic accounts) to please authorities so that he could continue his preaching's. These verses seem to acknowledge Meccan goddesses and allowed nobles to accept the Prophet but it also placed Islam in controversy because the entire basis of the religion is monotheistic, the Qur'an without fault and these verses placed doubt behind the entire validity of Islam if in fact they were ever considered by the Prophet. The angel Gabriel is said to have grumbled about Muhammad's actions claiming the acceptance of goddesses to be stemming from Satan himself. Thus the verses were stricken from God's word by God himself via Gabriel. Rushdie implies further that the scripture which Islam is based upon, the Holy Qur'an, was in fact not written by God through the angel Gabriel, but from the man Muhammad who instead dictated words to Gabriel, thus making Islam human rather than faith based. Here is where the sacrilege came into play because Rushdie implied that Islamic faith is deceitful. Rushdie attempts to cover his tracks through creative uses of names and historical references, i.e. using the name Mahoud for Muhammad and Jahilia ("ignorance" in Arabic) for Mecca. Needless to say Rushdie placed his own head on a platter and it appears he served it up without naive innocence but rather with a huge slathering of egoism! I think that people of any faith will be able to see the injustice and a fine line appears between independent thought and all out blasphemy.
    ...more info
  • The true face of my religion
    Satanic verses gives us an overview on the real face of islam .. no political lies .. and no fear of what a terrorist can do , Salman Rushdie must be an our golden sample that demonstartes the power of both a great writer and a great saver....more info
  • The Master of Understatement.
    Soon I was playing a game with a friend - a wonderful game I created called, "Opening Sentences for a Novel." Inspired, of course, by Salman's Rushdie's Satanic Verses.

    The book is a parabalic.. hallucinatory journey.. a discovery of soul. An experiment with religion. A creative piece of brilliant work where Salman merely asks a few honest and insightful questions.

    So, one part of the journey.. (and only one part, mind you)... was about Mahound (aka Mohammad), and his tormented battle with the Archangel Gabriel... Within the Quran it explains that Mohammad wrestled with Gabriel.. and gabriel spoke the truth... The book begins with two indian men falling out of the night sky into the English sea... Wow.. what a beginning! It begins with them in perpetual fall... one man is terrified... the other man is singing jovially... and as they fall... they carry on a conversation... and Salman makes the comment: Let's face it; it was impossible for them to have heard one another, much less conversed and also competed thus in song. Accelerating towards the planet, atmosphere roaring around them, how could they? But let's face this, too: they did.

    Anyway, when they fall... the two men begin to slowly change.... one begins to transform into an angel... the other, into a hoofed goat.. with horns.. aka.. the devil... now, the man who's transforming into an angel... begins to have these... hallucinatory dreams... each dream.. is a continuation of the same story.... He knows that when he falls asleep again.. he's just going to pick up where he left of... and he dreams of Mahound, and in his dream, he IS Mohammad... So, Salman Rushdie concocted this brilliant scene... when Mahound wrestles with the archangel Gabriel.. and Gabriel's mouth opens.. and he speaks the truth.. The Truth, which became the Quran. But, as Salman explores this scene... he puts a twist to it... the character, Mahound.. (The dreaming Gabriel)... wonders if the Angel is actually talking.... or if he is only hearing what he wants to hear...

    It's pure poetry! The muslim fundementalists didn't even bother to try to understand the theme of the book! Which wasn't at all about religion... something far more endearing to the heart. Mahound was simply one chapter. For instance... You know the second guy? The one who turns into a horned goat.. Well, one chapter is about how he ended up in the middle of the sky! Starting from his youth... So, he's like 10.. and his father's a multi-millionaire.. but very hard on his son... the father thinks he's making a man out of him. But the son just despises him...One time the son finds a wallet on the street with a wadful of british pounds.... The father snatches the wallet off him... And here's the thing... the dad has the original magic lamp of Aladdin.. as traced back through the centuries. He had aquired it through some effort. BUT he NEVER rubbed the lamp! The 10 year old can't figure out why! His dad says, "as long as it's mine, no one will rub it. When I die, it will be yours.. then you may do with it what you like." Anyway... after this.. we leave their story altogether... and explore all these other fascinating characters... Right at the end of the book... the man's father has just died... and he aquires the magic lamp. I ain't gonna tell you the twist. It's BLOODY AMAZING! You will never come across a twist like that... very very rare....more info
  • Sympathy for Rushdie
    I feel sorry for Salman Rushdie who will be remembered for this heap of junk. His word usage is unique but a more boring tirade I have never read. It is a shame the author has been so long tortured by a gang of religious fanatics who took this thing seriously. It took me years to get around to it after hearing all the fuss and I still do not know the source of the commotion. My sense of art has never been mainstream, but,Allah,please return the hours I have just wasted on this tripe. I can not even pretend to be on the band wagon....more info
  • Ellowen Deeowen....
    My favorite two words from this book are ellowen deeowen, which actually took me a bit to decipher to mean L-O-N-D-O-N....due to Rushdie's wonderful economy with wordplay.

    The Satanic Verses is another of those 'someday' books that I have finally read...and thoroughly enjoyed. While it's true that an understanding of Islam would have made this book a far more satirical gem, the humor is not completely lost on one who does not have that foundation.

    Two men, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha; both survive the explosion and crash of the airline flight 'Bostan'...and each goes through significant changes, both inside and out.

    What follows, along with threads of Indian history and lore, are two divergent tales of men affected by the same tragedy. One takes on an angelic persona and appearance, the other is marked with a 'beastly' facade, and treated as such. But appearances can be deceiving...and all that they, and we, know about the nature of good and evil, are put to the test.

    While reading this, I couldn't help making a comparison to the uproar when Rushdie released this novel and the current climate in America. Rushdie was branded blasphemous by the Ayatolla Khomeni and a fatwah (an order of death) was placed upon his head for simply 're-inventing' religion and inserting a satire thereof into his fictional tale.

    The comparison that stuck with me while reading this was to those who have spoken out against G.W. Bush about the Iraqi war being branded 'unpatriotic' for such vocal objection, and specifically those in the entertainment industry have had an image 'fatwah' placed upon them (the Dixie Chicks, Whoopi Goldberg) for simply speaking their minds, as did Rushdie when he wrote this tale. In this case, Rushdie's life was threatened by one seeking to censor his speach...while in the other case, the people's livelihoods were threatened with the same intent.

    Regardless of your religious beliefs, or strength of conviction in them, this is a wonderful tapestry woven by a master storyteller. While I would not recommend it as a starting point for enjoying Rushdie, it is a story to be savored and enjoyed after a few initial 'tastes' of his capable imagination....more info
  • a complex story with ingested criticism
    The author is an expert when providing criticism that is interwoven into his narrative. I was drawn to this book bcause I read his short stories and because of the criticism by certain religious groups. What I find most interesting is that this book is not easy to read and the remarks he makes are not blatant. More than anything, you can easily find yourself bored at times when reading this book. No author in the world should be able to trigger any group this literally. ---Get something else to do. Go to a movie. Get laid. There is nothing here that couldnt be discounted the same way as changing the channel on the TV....more info
  • Wrestling with Rushdie's angels and devils.
    Inspired in part by the life of Muhammad, Salman Rushdie's (1947) fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), tells the story of two Indian-Muslim expatriates living in England, Gibreel Farishta (an actor who plays Hindu deities) and Saladin Chamcha (a voice-over artist for the controversial British television program, The Alien Show). Both miraculously escape death when their hijacked plane explodes over the English Channel. Farishta is transformed into the archangel Gibreel, and Chamcha into a goat-like devil. Farishta's transformation has been interpreted as a symptom of his developing schizophrenia, resulting in the numerous, challenging magical-realism narratives throughout the novel. One such sequence--the "Mahound" chapter--offended Muslims to the point that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the killing of Rushdie and his publishers.

    As one would expect from Rushdie, the writing here is impeccable and nothing short of profound. Rushdie said his book is not about the Islamic faith, "but about migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay . . . It's a novel which happened to contain a castigation of Western materialism. The tone is comic." Reminscent of James Joyce, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Gunter Grass, Thomas Pynchon, and Gabriel Garc¨ªa M¨¢rquez, Rushdie obscures the line separating what seems real from what seems fantastic. Don't read The Satanic Verses because it was a banned book that earned Rushdie a death sentence. Read it because it is an astonishing five-course literary feast.

    G. Merritt ...more info
  • The Stanic Readers

    This is a truly great piece of literature. The hysteria it provoked in muslim circles not only proved Rushdies main point and thesis, but sadly served to make this a widely mis understood book.

    The main thrust comes from the fact that Jews, Christians and Muslims all share the same first five books of the Bible. Yet these supposedly unifying verses have been interpreted solely in order to invest power in the hands of the interpreters. Loathe as they are to admit it, christians and muslims are no more than break away jewish sects, who use the teachings of Jesus and Mohammad to gain singular identity away from their origins. But again; all the verses in the NT and Koran have been interpreted to ensure power. How curious that Bibles and religions professing peace and love have done little else but murder, oppress and promote intolerence!
    Muslims have taken most offence, but the 'offence' has been taken by the current 'interpreters' of these satanic verses whom Rushdie brilliantly parodies: their quest for power lies in turning the clock back to zero. Which is exactly the fundamentalists aim-the Taleban in Afghanistan a perfect example as is the 'islamic' revolution in Iran. Mass murder to ensure conformity of thought through terror, and the declaration of technologies being 'unislamic' which-people like Bin Laden and other vangards of this new 'purity' are curiously exempted from (presumably from the same Allah who 'told' them they needed banning!)
    This, again, is brilliantly parodied by Rushdie with the messenger Gibriel totally confused and saying 'Nothing to do with me!'
    Rushdie questions good and evil. Before the Bible, there was no good and evil. Its all sprung from these verses. How? What is good,what is evil?

    Rusdie saw the evil of 'pure' religious interpretation of these verses, and it has more to do with gaining primeval group identity and conformity to group rules than religion itself. The portrayal of a creationist highlights the difference in secular societies. These people are looked on as eccentrics or as 'barmy' yet their counterparts wield enormous power elsewhere.

    Rushdie also homes in on the banality of liberals to race issues and the affect of racism on radicalisation. A westernized muslim family hear of the 'great imam' Ishmael who has African roots spreading to the dawn of time. " F*** off ! Thats Sylvester Roberts! A third generation black British christian!" Yet-unknown then, but anticipated by Rushdie- this is exactly what has happened in the UK. Black British youths who-via racism-have been considered second class citizens- have been radicalized; fabricated a cultural history for themselves and are using radical islam to synthesize their hatreds. They are totally sold on the extremist interpretation of the satanic verses as they get a sense of POWER. The only reason these verses are so widely and ignorantly interpreted! If not-how come muslims aren't all one unified homogenous sect? The same for Jews. The same for Christians. Its a mind blowing concept; it makes you think differently about how society formed; about good and evil.
    The 'liberal' do gooder-as so many in life-fudge lines between good and evil. Rusdie has the anti racist campaigner revealed as a brat with a thing against her rich, establishment parents. What better way than to do all the things she thinks will outrage? But how is she so sure that everyone she sees as 'establishment' is a racist;will shrivel at the thought of inter-racial marriages? The more secular we become,the less this bothers us.She is merely,paradoxically, maintaining myth and evil!
    And the sub story with Aisha,the Prophets favourite wife,despite the huge age difference, who was rumoured (in the Koran) to have slept with a young soldier and humiliated the Prophet. Probably the most evil and mysogenous interpretation resulted from this verse.Ignorant imams decreed that nothing untoward could have been proved to have occured unless four independent witnesses saw the intercourse. Instead of being Mohammads wise words against malicious gossip, this has been 'interpreted as meaning rape cannot be proved unless four independent witnesses see it. Hence the zero conviction rate for rape in islamic states. Aisha is followed into the sea.

    A magnificent book that one could expound on for days, weeks, years!
    A true masterpiece....more info
  • Where is the movie version?
    This was a bit hard to read for an American because of the many Brittishisms, however, it was worth the effort. Rushdie likes to play with the English language and the reader's expectations. At times I thought he was writing with the expectation that his book would be the basis for a Hollywood or Bollywood movie. Unfortunately no one has yet made a movie from this book. I am not sure why....more info
  • what!?
    The Satanic Verses: A Novel (Bestselling Backlist)
    I asked it again and again... What!? A twisted dream of a book, story falling into story and crashing back again. Wonderful read. Crazy ride....more info
  • I don't like Salman Rushdie
    Okay, maybe that's harsh. I've never met the man, and he may be a fine individual. However, he comes across as smug and conceited in different interviews and comments that he has reportedly made. But, damn, he's one hell of a writer....I've only read two of his books - this along with Midnight's Children - and the man can write, that's for sure!...more info
  • Piece of garbage
    I read it in the late 80s in the height of the furor over the book. A good book, I'll read quickly straight through. This book took weeks. I read 5 other books while I was reading this one and finished all of those before finishing Rushdie. Without the fatwa, this book would still be selling form its first printing.

    Awful.

    Boring.

    Without point or meaning.

    Far too many better books out there to read than to waste your time with this....more info
  • A Modern Classic
    Rushdie's The Satanic Verses is aruguably on of the most important works of the last half of the twentieth century. Full of Middle Eastern metaphor and sensibilities, Rushdie propels the reader into a world little seen nor understood in the west. The lyrical and poetic style reads as in a way that is timless, the reader may well forget that this work is a modern text. Yet at the same time the themes are as meaningful today as when this work was first published. Rushdie's work is required reading for anyone seeking understanding of our post-9/11 world ...more info
  • 2.5 stars for this one... probably the most over-hyped book I've ever read.
    No Spoilers

    Where to start. This could easily turn into a long review, but I don't want it to be so I'll try to keep it short. Also, I'll stay away from the religious views regarding this book and focus on the writing because religion is subjective and everyone can (and should) think whatever they want about their religion) Having said that, the one recurring thought I had about this book while reading it (and while thinking about it after completing it for this review) was that it is without a doubt the most esoteric and pedantic book I have ever read.

    Now I'm not stupid, and I can appreciate the beauty of words and the importance of diction, but so much of this book was Rushdie writing in such a way to make sure that you had no idea what the hell he was talking about. There are times when you can be extremely metaphorical and lofty and times when you should just be blunt, but for Rushdie, there is no bluntness, and everything must be doused in the most stringy and free-formed words he can think of. Why? In some cases it adds to the story... in this, it doesn't. While there are some very good parts in this book, they are all surrounded by a lot of words that don't really say anything.

    Bottom line: you can skip this book. However, those interested in religion and questioning said relgion will probably read it anyway. I would suggest you get a durable copy because you will want to throw it against the wall a few times.

    PS: The best part of the whole book for me was towards the end in the scenes between Saladin and his father. If the whole book had been written like that, it would've been a pleasure....more info
  • The shipment came late
    K, besides the late arrival, the whole book was written in terminology in which I had to read over and over again before I understood the meaning. Its not like the book came with appendices right? Anyway, I do not know whats the huu haa about the book. It seems pretty fictional. Coming from a Muslim....more info