1001 Books Round-Up June 2020
This month’s winner & loser. Basically the only 1001 book I managed to read.
What Wiki tells us: The Satanic Verses is Salman Rushdie’s fourth novel, first published in 1988 and inspired in part by the life of Muhammad. As with his previous books, Rushdie used magical realism and relied on contemporary events and people to create his characters. The title refers to the satanic verses, a group of Quranic verses that refer to three pagan Meccan goddesses: Allāt, Uzza, and Manāt.The part of the story that deals with the “satanic verses” was based on accounts from the historians al-Waqidi and al-Tabari.
In the United Kingdom, The Satanic Verses received positive reviews, was a 1988 Booker Prize finalist and won the 1988 Whitbread Award for novel of the year. However, major controversy ensued as Muslims accused it of blasphemy and mocking their faith. The outrage among Muslims resulted in a fatwā calling for Rushdie’s death issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, on 14 February 1989. The result was several failed assassination attempts on Rushdie, who was placed under police protection by the UK government, and attacks on several connected individuals, including the murder of translator Hitoshi Igarashi.
The book was banned in India as hate speech directed toward a specific religious group
My thoughts: I had heard of the controversy surrounding this book and the death threats against Salman Rushdie luckily they didn’t succeed as I have read and enjoyed several of his novels before reaching for this one. That said this book did not hold the same appeal for me as some of the others I have read (Midnight’s Children still remains my favourite).
As with the other novels I have read I loved the magical realism aspects, I enjoyed the satire and the exploration of other cultures but I found myself getting lost. The story is very erudite and I won’t claim to have understood even a fraction of what was going on under the surface. With regard to the surface stories I enjoyed following the 3 central characters (for me at least these were Salahuddin, Gibreel & Ayesha) and to see how they would tie together in the end.
To fully appreciate this story I believe you would need to understand the source material and what the real “satanic verses” represent, something I freely confess I don’t understand.
Overall I enjoyed the story but understand it? Not at all. Does it deserve the controversy? Not as far as I can see. Am I a good person to judge this? Probably not.
Maybe discussion with a book club would allow the reader to get more from the story…
3 Stars – This is a longish one to get through so lockdown could be the perfect time to tackle it.
Have you read this one? What did you make of it?