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.