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Topic: Has anyone read the Satanic Verses?

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Subject: Has anyone read the Satanic Verses?
Date Posted: 4/27/2008 10:01 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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Has anyone read Rushdie's The Satanic Verses?  Is it a hard read?  Was it any good or is it just famous because of the controversy?

Date Posted: 4/28/2008 9:32 PM ET
Member Since: 5/5/2006
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Satanic Verses has been dubbed as "the most famous book that most people will never read."  It's been on my list for years...

Date Posted: 4/30/2008 5:22 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
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Satanic Verses has been dubbed as "the most famous book that most people will never read

So true. I owned it for years and never read it. I finally sold it.

Date Posted: 5/14/2008 2:41 AM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2006
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I only read it for a Contemporary Fiction class in college in 1990 ('89?), and gave it to my roommate, at her request, as soon as the class ended.  Don't remember a word of it.


Date Posted: 5/23/2008 2:14 PM ET
Member Since: 1/2/2008
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I read it several years ago;  I didn't really know enough about the culture the author is writing about to understand the book. 

Date Posted: 6/4/2008 9:56 AM ET
Member Since: 1/7/2008
Posts: 413
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I read it as well.  The writing is satirical and witty - but heavily relies on politics!  Rushdie was born in India and has lived as an exile for many years. His writing heavily relies on cultural and political mores so, though reading the book was enjoyable, it would be MUCH more meaningful when those political and cultural references are understood. 

I think book lovers should be acquainted with Rushdie becuase of his notoriety, but don't expect to experience his work in the way that it is meant to be experienced unless you have an understanding of the climate in which he is writing from.

Subject: Satanic verses and alternatives.
Date Posted: 7/19/2008 11:41 PM ET
Member Since: 7/1/2008
Posts: 2,835
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I read Rushdie novels well before the fatwa. He is a good literary writer: complex, dense, and funny. Midnight's Children is truly his best, I think. I read Satanic Verses as soon as it came out. It is quite good, but very, very sacreligious if you are a Muslim. Of course, it didn't offend me. I hated his book Shame though.

I should note that after reading Paul Scott's Jewel in the Crown series (the Raj Quartet) and Staying On. I read extensively about that era of Indian history beforeI read Rushdie. I was already an "Indian" fan because of reading so much Kipling as a child. I would recommend the Scott and/or the Masterpiece Theatre presentations of his novels for most folks. They are excellent, historically based books.

For lighter fare, MM Kaye or the mystery series that begins with the Last Kashmiri Rose, or maybe that was second. I cannot remember who wrote heat and Dust, but it is also excellent: a good dual story alternating between modern times and the 1920s. Romantic. A really interesting book is the alternative history by S M Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers [POD: a meteor hits the Earth and causes a new Ice Age when Disraeli is Prime Minister, and the British Empire moves to India. Action begins in the 20th century. Well worked out and a cracking good read.

A final Rushdie note. In some ways he reminds me of John Irving (Garp). Good but he seems to mine and remine the same materials. 

The reason he wasa best seller at the time was that for only $25 Americans could flip a bird at the ayatollahs.

Subject: Why alternatives?
Date Posted: 8/14/2008 11:29 AM ET
Member Since: 4/14/2008
Posts: 16
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I was a book store manager during the fatwa. We sold a copy or two of Satanic Verses, nothing like you might have expected given the publicity.

The book itself is a tour de force. Knowing nothing of Indian culture, you still should be able to enjoy it. It's funny, bitingly sarcastic at times, with a wicked view of English culture that we Americans never hear. It's a fairy tale, a fable, allegory, maybe all of the above, maybe just the best religious fantasy novel ever written. Rushdie is similar to Tom Robbins or Thomas Pynchon, they seem to rush from setting to setting, scene to scene, time to time, without a lot of connecting material. Kind of manic, might be a good descriptive word.

As for the offense to Islam thing, a couple of points. Rushdie didn't make up the satanic verses, they're historical. Rushdie gave a background to them, and one that a lot of Moslems didn't like. One of the two major characters in the novel is either slipping in and out of contact with reality, or he's an incarnation of the angel Gabriel, with a heavy inference that the second is true. The novel provides Gabriel's thoughts and perspectives on the events behind the inspiration of Mohammed, and some background material that we in the West are not familiar with about conditions in Arabia at the time of Mohammed. There are also sections narrated by "Satan", yielding yet another perspective on the events.  If you consider the impersonation of Gabriel to be fair game for a novelist there is little there to be upset about, no real insult to Mohammed.

The real problem behind the fatwa seems to have been Rushdie's inclusion of a section regarding the Iranian religous leader who declared the fatwah. Rushdie describes the motivation and thought of the Ayetollah (sp? It's a transliteration, and I've seen it spelled half a dozen ways.), and lampoons a Western pop star convert to Islam in less than positive ways.


Overall, the book deserves it's reputation. It's primarily a story of immigration, of reasons why men flee one culture and embrace another, and of recounciliation of two opposing cultures within one man. The language is Indian-English, lots of Indian slang finds it's way into the mix. Stick with it, it's worth the effort.

Date Posted: 8/15/2008 3:02 PM ET
Member Since: 7/1/2008
Posts: 2,835
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What you say is true, but I still think Midnight's Children is the best.