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The Satanic Verses (1988)

by Salman Rushdie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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11,011131520 (3.77)584
Gibreel Farishta, India's legendary movie star, and Saladin Chamcha, the man of a thousand voices, fall earthward from a bombed jet toward the sea, singing rival verses in an eternal wrestling match between good and evil.
  1. 60
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (BGP, ateolf)
  2. 50
    Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (BGP)
  3. 10
    Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: 'Joseph Anton' is Rushdie's memoir about the fatwa following publication of 'The Satanic Verses'.
  4. 00
    Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Magical realism in the Bible's backyard.
  5. 00
    Ulysses by James Joyce (chwiggy)
  6. 00
    Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (Anonymous user)
  7. 00
    Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Deals with religion and includes physical transformation of characters.
  8. 01
    Sauwaldprosa by Uwe Dick (chwiggy)
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English (115)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Catalan (2)  Danish (1)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (131)
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"Now there was no demand for satires – the general fear of Mahound had destroyed the market for insults and wit." (pg. 362)

"Blasphemy, punishable by death." (pg. 102)

Given the context of The Satanic Verses – namely the savage and ignorant attempts to censor it, and the violent attempts to punish its creator, which have made headlines again this month in the latest semi-successful assault on Salman Rushdie's life – I dearly wanted, as a matter of principle, to love this book. Unfortunately, despite all my goodwill and my keen desire to wear its red butterfly cover as a badge of honour, I really struggled with this novel.

I'll try not to speak at length about the elephant in the room, about what's become known as "the Rushdie affair". Everyone should be of one mind in condemning the thoughtless, malicious mentality of those who have ruined this man's life over some obscure, minor criticism of a religion – and also in resisting the temptation to join the depressingly large number of their enablers and appeasers of every stripe. Even if The Satanic Verses was the disgusting cornucopia of apostasy that the killers want us to believe – it isn't, and I'd bet both bollocks that neither Ayatollah Khomeini or knifeman Hadi Matar have ever actually read it – it wouldn't mandate anything like the response it has received since its publication in 1988. A better man, one who lives right under God, would meet any offence taken here with only a shrug.

My own rather more moderate dislike of the novel came from something more mundane: I just didn't get it. I've always struggled with the genre of magical realism, which to me can be defined as banality made incomprehensible (and tangential), and the vast majority of The Satanic Verses confirmed me in this view. It's hard to hammer down a structure for the book, but it follows two modern-day characters, Gibreel and Saladin, who survive the explosion of a hijacked plane and tumble to earth. The story then dips in and out of a number of loosely connected dream sequences and metamorphoses, all delivered with the sort of verbosity and indulgence that, were it not for the Ayatollah, I'd be hellbent on avoiding. Somewhere in all this, I am informed, there is an acute exploration of the immigrant experience in Britain. Don't ask me where, though; my eyes too often became unfocused in the muddle.

And, of course, elsewhere in all this there is the dangerous stuff, the forbidden fruit that we really tramp through Eden for, the content the Ayatollah and his ilk wanted to nix, but which had the unintended effect of amplifying it. I had heard, not least in the current news commentary around Rushdie's attack, that the anti-Islamic content of the novel was such a small percentage that the fatwa was unfathomable, so it was something of a surprise when I read the book – having decided, as we all should, to determine the facts for myself – to find that Rushdie devotes significant ink from his pen to the matter.

The Satanic verses, for those who don't know the story, is when the Prophet Muhammad 'misheard' a divine revelation and decreed that the error had been caused by Satan. Muhammad supposedly received all his divine commands from God and his recitation of these was recorded in the Koran as immutable law. In the early days of Islam, when it was just one of many provincial religions and not the conquering monotheistic force it would soon become, Muhammad decreed, in one of his revelations, that three of the older (female) gods were to be accommodated alongside Allah. The cynic, of course, concludes that this was a nakedly political decision; the believer follows the tenuous logic which the Prophet himself later put forward: that Satan had put these words in his ear. It is one of the most sensitive aspects of Islamic theology, and for good reason. Not only does it hint at some cynical horse-trading with the local competition as the religion was established, but Muhammad's own explanation of it is out of sync with the theologically-essential assumption of the Prophet's perfection and infallibility.

Rushdie, in a decision which has had extreme ramifications for him ever since, is merciless on this point. At his most diplomatic, he describes the former businessman Muhammad as the "most pragmatic of prophets" (pg. 381). (Rushdie also makes the decision to use the name 'Mahound' rather than 'Muhammad' throughout the book, even though – or, more likely, because of – it is often seen as a slur.) Less diplomatically, he retells the whole story of Muhammad and the three female demi-gods as one where the prophet is calculating and self-serving. He is, as Rushdie tells it, a man making it up as he goes along, and claiming it was 'revealed' to him: "Salman the Persian got to wondering what manner of God this was that sounded so much like a businessman… Salman began to notice how useful and well timed the angel's revelations tended to be" (pg. 364). When Muhammad miscalculates – as in the case of accepting the three female demigods, which causes discontent among his followers – he takes it back and claims Satan misled him.

It's spicy stuff, and (to a non-believer, at least) a welcome change from all the middling magical realism that is so overpowering, like a bad scent, in the rest of the story. Rushdie, remarkably, doesn't even stop there. The above 'satanic verses' affair is relatively tame in the novel, relying on the way in which Rushdie tells the story, on insinuation and on the disquiet of the characters, to communicate his doubt about the Prophet. Where Rushdie really throws petrol on the fire he has lit is when he brings sex into it.

You see, the follow-up punch from Rushdie comes in a long sequence when Islam has now established itself in the region. It has all its restrictions in place ("rules, rules, rules, until the faithful could scarcely bear the prospect of any more revelation" (pg. 363)) and yet, in the picture Rushdie paints for us, the followers of this fledgling Islam are secretly covetous of their leader's multiple wives (or, as Rushdie brazenly phrases it, "God's own permission to fuck as many women as he liked" (pg. 386)). Consequently, when a whorehouse has each of its prostitutes imitate the wives of the Prophet, the place starts to do a roaring trade. I mean, a whore named after the Prophet's favourite wife – "if they heard you say that they'd boil your balls in butter" (pg. 380). As absurd and abominable as the fatwa is and what it represents, you do also have to wonder what Rushdie thought was going to happen. Because if he knew, and wrote it anyway, he's the bravest writer there's ever been. Swift, Nabokov, Voltaire, Bulgakov… none would hold a candle to picking this particular fight.

Certainly, Rushdie's initial response to the fatwa in 1989 was one of bravery: he said he wished he'd been more critical, not less. And though I found the book's criticisms tending towards the crude rather than the insightful, I wish he'd been more critical too, but for a rather different reason. You see, for me, these were the only parts of the novel which had any spice and which could retain my attention. When they ended and we returned to the wider frame story of Gibreel and Saladin in the present day, my struggles returned. Was there a connection, I tried to make myself think, between Mahound's regret about accepting the three demi-gods and the purported theme about immigration into Britain? Is it about trying to assimilate but recognising it as a mistake, too much of a compromise, once you are established? Is this why Rushdie made the fateful decision to colour his frame story with the episode of the Satanic verses? I don't know, and any time I tried to wrestle with the themes and purpose of the story it slipped away from me. In all the words spent on Salman Rushdie, there is a lot of sympathy for the writer's plight in the face of determined theocratic violence. But there is another facet which reveals itself to me, having struggled to find great value in The Satanic Verses. It's insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but alongside all the other trials, it must feel like a curse to be remembered only for your lesser work.

"Feelings of outrage… Baal was surrounded by angry men demanding to know the reasons for this oblique, this most byzantine of insults." (pg. 391) ( )
  MikeFutcher | Aug 27, 2022 |
The Satanic Verses
By Salman Rushdie

#books #banned #bookerprize #Shortlisted1998 #fantasy #magicalrealism #religion #reviews #readingchallenge #readingcommunity

https://sravikabodapati.blogspot.com/2022/08/the-satanic-verses-by-salman-rushdi... ( )
  nagasravika.bodapati | Aug 20, 2022 |
I'm pretty late to the Salman Rushdie party, but he's as good as everyone says he is. The Satanic Verses concerns two Indian actors who miraculously survive a plane explosion and undergo subsequent transformations. One begins dreaming about his supposed past exploits as an angel of God, while the other physically transforms into a goatish devil and suffers a series of mishaps and trials. Both men grapple with their national identities, their relationships with women and each other.

One man finally stumbles his way to forgiving the world his disappointments and finding a sense of belonging in his own skin, but the other discovers things he cannot live with and his life culminates in a series of gruelingly tragic decisions. Rushdie is clearly an author you can love without always liking, as he sends several charming, likable characters to harsh fates, much like any hypothetical God does to his most innocent children.

The most compulsively readable sequence in the novel has to be the dream in which a girl prophet leads her village on a pilgrimage to Mecca, promising to divide the Arabian Sea that stands between them and their goal. Rushdie doesn't grant us the clearest or most satisfying conclusions, neither exposing the girl as the Devil she frequently rails against to intimidate her followers or invoking a miracle to lend reason to the characters' faith. Instead, we're left with a result that acknowledges the ecstasy of belief without denying its grim cost.

Knowing how the novel was banned in several countries prepared me for some of the "blasphemous" ideas in the novel, but not what irresistible humor and wit they'd come cloaked in. No wonder the book is considered so dangerous. ( )
  Bret_Tallman | Dec 16, 2021 |
Dull. ( )
  KittyCunningham | Oct 1, 2021 |
This book gained serious attention when I was a teenager. I honestly believe most of it was hype. But true to the fact that people were hurt…even killed over it is sad. Now. Why was this book so controversial and why did the Muslim world hold it in such disdain? The story hem haws back and forth between fictional accounts of Muhammad’s up and coming. KEY WORD..FICTIONAL. The Satanic Verses was a very difficult and heavy read. But with that being said. It was a good story, a very good story. The relationship that develops with the two protagonists after their survival from an aerial terrorist bombing brings many things to light. Mental illness, self-worth, the meaning of life and everything in between. Some parts of seem almost like a Muslim version of a Monty Python skit. Be prepared to have your brain microwaved. I do not know yet if this book will deter me from reading any of Rushdie’s other books. I have to let the inflammation in my brain go down. ( )
1 vote Joe73 | Sep 20, 2021 |
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Talent? Not in question. Big talent. Ambition? Boundless ambition. Salman Rushdie is a storyteller of prodigious powers, able to conjure up whole geographies, causalities, climates, creatures, customs, out of thin air. Yet, in the end, what have we? As a display of narrative energy and wealth of invention, ''The Satanic Verses'' is impressive. As a sustained exploration of the human condition, it flies apart into delirium.
 
Los Versos Satánicos; Novela 1988, Conj de Editoriales Españolas 1989; Salman Rushide; India - Inglaterra.

Hasta las personas que no leen habrán escuchado hablar alguna vez de este libro y/o de su autor; yo era uno de aquellos a finales de los 80’s. Cuando empezé a leer en el ‘94 sabía que éste sería uno de esos libros que leería alguna vez. No recuerdo haberlo visto y dejado pasar: simplemente no lo encontraba, pero tampoco lo buscaba. Y ahora, caminando por una librería de segunda mano lo encontré en primera edición española, en buen estado y a un precio razonable: y habían 2 ejemplares. Para los fanáticos islámicos es blasfemo desde que el Ayatolá Jomeini sentenciara una fatwa en febrero del ‘89 condenando a muerte a Rushdie por escribir tal obra. Vamos al libro:
De sus 9 capítulos sólo la parte 1 del Cap 1 me pareció la más difícil de digerir: la conversa y pensamientos de los hindúes-musulmanos Gibreel Farishta y Saladim Chamcha durante la caída en la explosíon del avión sobre Londres.
En esta primera historia lo interesante es la metamorfosis que se da con la sobrevivencia y renacimiento: Farishta en el Arcángel Gabriel, con aureola y todo, y Chamcha en Shaitan, con pequeños cuernos naciendo de sus sienes, y poseedor de un aliento sulfúrico. En capítulos posteriores la descripción de la metamorfosis del segundo, acostumbrándose a su nueva condición de macho cabrío es magistral.: mucha ironía y humor negro en esos capítulos.
Farishta, actor e ídolo del cine hindúe, y Chamcha, el hombre de las mil y una voces, que se abrió paso haciendo comerciales de tv, ganándose de a pocos un lugar en esa misma indústria, anglófilo, y desencantado de su fé y su cultura, adoptando como suya la inglesa (quizá el alter ego de Rushidie). Luego de caer en la playa londinense Chamcha, en plena metamorfosis, es arrestado y ultrajado por la policía inglesa en el apartamento de Rosa Diamond, mientras que Farishta , vestido con ropas del difunto esposo de ésta es hasta respetado por los mismos policías, sin necesidad de mencionar palabra alguna. Ahí hay un primer punto de quiebre: el angélico guarda silencio mientras ve como su amigo es arrestado y clamándole que cuente a sus captores lo ocurrido, mientras que el diabólico es maltratado, humillado y arrestado injustamente, sin darle la mínima opción de defenderse, ni escucharlo, de decirles que él es uno de los dos únicos sobrevivientes de la explosión de avión.
La segunda historia: Ayesha, la bella joven con su nube de mariposas amarillas que la siguen por donde vaya, que influenciada en sueños por el arcángel Gabriel inicia un recorrido convenciendo a todo un pueblo ir hacia la Meca en una peregrinación bíblica. Aquí también las historias de Mishal, y su esposo Mizra Saed con su ateísmo, tratando de disuadir a su mujer enferma en no escuchar las palabras de Ayesha rinden grandes páginas del libro.
La tercera historia es sobre Mahound (se supone que es Mahoma), el comerciante que se convierte en profeta, quien inicia una religión en un desértico pueblo, Jahilia, y, quien inspirado por el Arcángel Gabriel quien le hablaba en sueños en el Monte Cone incluye unos versos dictados por él, pero luego cree que quien le recitó esos versos fue Shaitan. Rushidie hace ver que ni de Shaitan, ni del arcángel salieron aquellos versos, tan solo de la cabeza de Mahound. Esta historia es corta y una de las menos interesantes en comparación con las dos primeras, pero es la que debe haber iniciado la ira del Ayatolá Jomeini.
Todo un clásico de la literatura contemporánea. Imprescindible
added by manigna | editNHK
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rushdie, Salmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Capriolo, EttoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dastor, SamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emeis, MarijkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Häilä, ArtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Satan, being thus confined to a vagabond, wandering, unsettled condition, is without any certain abode; for though he has, in consequence of his angelic nature, a kind of empire in the liquid waste or air, yet this is certainly part of his punishment, that he is... without any fixed place, or space, allowed him to rest the sole of his foot upon." ~ daniel defoe, the history of the devil
Dedication
Dedicated to the individuals and organizations who have supported this publication.
First words
"To be born again " sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, "first you have to die."
Quotations
If you live in the twentieth century you do not find it hard to see yourself in those, more desperate than yourself, who seek to shape it to their will.
“Then tell me why your God is so anxious to destroy the innocent? What’s he afraid of? Is he so unconfident that he needs us to die to prove our love?”
With death comes honesty.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Gibreel Farishta, India's legendary movie star, and Saladin Chamcha, the man of a thousand voices, fall earthward from a bombed jet toward the sea, singing rival verses in an eternal wrestling match between good and evil.

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A tale of two men/human angel and demon/amazing writing!  (ReadWriteLib)

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