Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie

Read: July 2007

Don’t you think it’s about time you made up your own mind about the most controversial book of the modern era? If nothing else, it will give you an opinion the next time the media gets its knickers in a twist about what is, at the end of the day, a work of fiction

But it will give you so much more than that. There is everything you expect from a Salman Rushdie novel: vast in scope, vivid in portrayal and seriously bizarre. As the author has often pointed out, it is also darkly comic and often hilarious. It is a vastly satirical meditation on the theology of religion, the struggle between human doubt and belief and, above all, the power of stories to change the world. Themes of race and immigration flow through the book alongside the usual contemporary and classical references. Reading a Salman Rushdie book is like reading nothing else, he is wholesomely devious, wonderfully irreverent and completely unique. His is a style of writing brimming with delightful sentences, so beautifully worded as to be like some fabulous cocktail: refreshing and invigorating and with that little kick of something you know is truly special.

The story revolves around the lives of Gibreel Farishta, legend of Bollywood Cinema, and Saladin Chamcha, the voice of radio, the man of a thousand voices. When their plane is blown up by terrorists high above the English Channel they float slowly to earth, as though divinely spared certain death. It soon becomes apparent that there is more to their escape than meets the eye. For while Saladin Chamcha begins to sprout horns, cloven feet and a forked tail, Gibreel Farishta seems to be shrouded by the glow of a halo. Confronted with dreams of past prophets Gibreel sets out to change the world. But as the lives of the two men become increasingly entangled within the social climate of the 1980’s the clarity of Gibreel’s belief becomes cloudy and we are left questioning where enlightenment ends and madness begins.

Salman Rushdie is a breath of fresh air in this tense and divided world: the antidote to community relations rather than the cause. Read this book, and make up your own mind. Because that is what Rushdie is all about, not dogma, not fear, but making ones own mind up, questioning the world, and being able to laugh at oneself. Rarely has a knighthood been so thoroughly deserved.

7 out of 10

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