The Satanic Verses

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The Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses


The publication of this novel led to perhaps the most extreme attempt at censorship in the history of literature when the leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, released a "fatwa"—essentially a warrant of death —against the writer and offered rewards to any Muslim who carried out the sentence; Salman Rushdie spent several years in hiding as a result.

Satanic Verses “Angel: With Good Fortune and "Devil" With Pure Evil”

The novel has a double structure, with plot elements in the present-day world and in the remote past (during the seventh-century founding of Islam), with settings in England and in India, with a pair of characters who occur in both settings and in both times, and with a thematic emphasis on the struggle between good and evil. The double structure extends to the chapter numbering: The odd-numbered chapters are set in the present and follow the lives of Gibreel Farishta, an Indian actor, and Saladin Chamcha, an Indian-born English voice actor, while the even-numbered chapters are set in the past and feature the angel Gibreel/Gabriel and Saladin/Shaitan, the two alter egos of the contemporary characters.

The modern story begins quite dramatically: Gibreel and Saladin are traveling to England on the same Air India jet when a terrorist bomb blows it up 29,000 feet above the English Channel. Miraculously, they survive the explosion and the fall (and the fact that they undergo a fall is symbolically significant); by the time they reach land, Gibreel has acquired a halo and Saladin has acquired cloven feet. But Rushdie subverts the stereotypical association of "angel" with good fortune and "devil" with pure evil. Saladin's fortunes decline at first but then ultimately improve, and he occasionally acts in ways that produce good results; inversely, Gibreel's fortunes at first soar but then ultimately decline, and his judgment sometimes fails him, leading to bad events. Interspersed with the chronicle of their lives after the fall is the recurring motif of racial prejudice and class stereotyping as a corrosive and poisonous force in the modern world (Rushdie, 1991).

The minor characters of the novel are as well drawn as are Gibreel and Saladin: Gibreel has a lover, Alleluia Cone (from Cohen), a mountain climber who meets death in a fall from the height of a skyscraper rather than a mountain; Saladin has an unfaithful English wife, Pamela Lovelace—a name drawn from the 18th-century history of the novel, ...
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