Cannonball Read V: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
I first became interested in reading this novel after seeing the author Salman Rushdie interviewed on CBC 's "The Hour." He spoke about how a fatwa was issued for his death by the leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, about a year after it was published in 1988. I was curious to know what could have been so controversial about a book that people would want to kill a man for having written it.
The title, The Satanic Verses, relates to a number of verses that were said to be included in the Qur'an by the prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was a prophet of Islam which states that God is one and incomparable. These satanic verses suggested that prayers could also be made to 3 pagan goddesses Allat, Uzza and Manat, thus undermining the monotheism that is at the core of Islam. Basically he is said to have accepted these deities because the people of Mecca resisted his idea of one God. He then renounced the verses saying that Satan had made him say these things.
The basic plot concerns two Indian actors, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha who are trapped on a hijacked plane that explodes over the English Channel. Everyone on board dies except these two men who magically fall to earth and under go some strange transformations. Farishta seemingly becomes an angel and Chamcha becomes a devil-even growing hooves and horns. Throughout the book there are several chapters that describe the dreams of the angel Gibreel although it is implied that he may just be crazy rather than an angel sent to do God's work.
There is so much symbolism and historical and spiritual context that I think it would be helpful to know more about world religion than I do to really appreciate this book. This was not an easy book. I had to force myself to see it through to the end. The writing is demanding and the dialogue is sparse. It began to get somewhat interesting around the 250 page mark. The story covers both men's struggles to return to the lives that they had before their fall to earth. After the crash, Chamcha is seen as an illegal immigrant and is betrayed by Farishta who does not speak up to tell the authorities otherwise. This betrayal and Chamcha's need to revenge it along with Farisha's increasing mania and jealousy towards those around him make up the remainder of the book.
I liked this novel and I have a great appreciation for the author and what he has created. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging read. Although I am giving this review 2 stars which suggests this was merely a "good book" I do believe that I learned a lot from reading it and I think that others could as well.
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