The Satanic Verses

I don’t think I’ve experienced the challenge I felt while reading The Satanic Verses since slogging my way through Infinite Jest. The book had been on my TBR list for a years, but I never got around to reading it. I decided to finally pick it up this year for Banned Books Week.  Little did I know it would take me about a month (and a couple of library renewals) to finish reading it!

The Satanic Verses is about two Indian actors, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, who fall from the sky after terrorists cause their plane explode. By the time they’ve landed on Earth, they’ve transformed into manifestations of Good and Evil: Gibreel has a halo, and Saladin is turning into a creature with hooves and horns. The book then turns into a surreal series of experiences for the two men.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t know what the hell was going on half the time! Rushdie’s writing is absolutely gorgeous, and I couldn’t put the book down during the more lucid parts of the story. The parts that were more allegorical, however, were somewhat lost on me. It’s been years since I’ve taken a course on world religions, and I’m not at all familiar with the Qu’ran, so I knew that the religious references would be a challenge. Knowing about the controversy surrounding the book, I kept trying to be hyperaware of any possible offensive language or controversial parts.  I’m pretty sure I caught a few, but I know that a lot of it went over my head. I didn’t want to read any type of analysis of the text before I read it, though, because I prefer to read something for the first time with as little bias–and spoilers–as possible.

About a hundred pages in, I just wanted to throw in the towel and set the book aside–something I never do.  I’m glad I stuck with it because the sense of accomplishment when I finished was awesome, and I would’ve missed out on some beautiful writing had I stopped. The next time I read The Satanic Verses–and there will be a next time–I’ll do some research beforehand so that I can have some kind of context for all the dream sequences and religious symbolism.

These are some of my favorite passages from the book.

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7 comments

  1. Nicole

    I enjoyed reading this, like you said for the accomplishment. There were parts that I really got into, and I learned a lot of fascinating things that I hadn’t considered before about religion. But mostly I was confused. He does write beautifully though.

  2. reviewsbylola

    This is the only book by Rushdie that I have read. I had a very similar experience–there were portions of the book that I connected with and that were able to get me interested in the book. Then it would start to go downhill as I would once again be completely confused as to what was happening!

  3. Melissa

    @Nicole and @reviewsbylola – Glad to see I wasn’t the only one! I liked the book, but when it was all over I was just like, “…what just happened here?” lol

  4. Ari

    So would you recommend reading this book after you do some research on some of the topics addressed? I’ve always thought I would be a bit confused when reading this book.

    Haroun and The Sea of Stories is the only book I’ve had the pleasure of reading by Salman Rushdie, but I intend on reading this one along with a few others

  5. Melissa

    @Ari – It depends. I hate spoilers, so if I could go back and do it again, I still don’t think I would’ve done research beforehand. Then again, it probably would’ve made my life way easier!

    @Amy – It’s extremely frustrating at times, but worth the read. It was my first experience reading Rushdie, though…at one point I was worried about being scared away from him forever. lol

  6. Pingback: Joseph Anton | The Feminist Texican [Reads]

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