The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie


This book was very challenging. Normally, for a book that size, it would take me no more than a week to finish, this book took about 3 weeks to finish. 

It starts with the 2 main characters, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, falling from an aeroplane that has exploded because of a terrorist attack. Somehow, they alone survive. They fall the earth, flying the last part, and land unharmed on a beach in England. A lady with the ability to see ghosts takes them in, and they each almost immediately start noticing changes to their person, Gibreel develops a halo, and Saladin develops horns and turns into a goat/devil looking being. When Gibreel fails to assist Saladin when he is removed from the house by immigration police, the two are cemented as adversaries. There are various subplots too, involving different characters and stories, the main subplot being that of the Prophet Mohammad. 

Although I understood the book in a basic sense, I found it extremely difficult to entirely follow the intricacies of the story, that is, the different plots that take place and how these different plots intersect. I read the book, but I'm not sure I understood what it was trying to say.

It was definitely trying to make a comment about migrants, and the challenges migrants face in terms of conflicting identities. This was particularly clear in the character of Saladin. It was perhaps also making a comment on the lack of spirituality in our consumerist society.

I don't understand though whether Gibreel and Saladin really were supposed to be angel/devil, or if it was a metaphor? If Gibreel really did have paranoid schizophrenia, then what was Saladin's horns an goat legs all about and why did they disappear. How do all the different plots intersect? Why do the characters in all the plots all share the same names?

I can see why there was an issue surrounding the plot involving the Prophet Mohammad - that was definitely asking for some controversy. The book suggests that the Prophet wasn't really receiving messages from God, but was making them up to suit himself. Furthermore, it suggests that the scribe was falsifying the Prophet's messages from God.

It is definitely worth reading, but it takes someone more intelligent than me to really understand the ins and outs of what is happening. 

28 July 2009 - I watched a documentary about The Satanic Verses on Sunday night. It followed the progress of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie following the publishing of this book. It made me realise that perhaps because of the style of Salman's writing, I was perhaps looking for more meaning than what is there. I am still uncertain what the implications are for characters in some sub-plots sharing the name of the of characters in other sub-plots, but I now realise more than before that this book is really a comment on religion, but I think more importantly, on migration and the difficulties of identity faced by migrants to other countries.
Star Rating

6 / 8

Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.