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Book Review of The Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses
althea avatar reviewed on + 774 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9

I'd been curious about this book for quite a while, obviously because of the publicity and controversy surrounding it.
My opinion: it's good. But it's certainly not worth dying for. (As a translator already has, and two others have barley survived assassination attempts).
Interestingly, the main focus of the book is not on religion, although it plays a part.
Mostly, I would say the book is about the experience of Indian - British immigrants. Rushdie explores the psychological conflicts through a story of two Indian men, both average, but one who's really rather a self-centered jerk. Falling from a plane which was victim to a terrorist attack, the two miraculously survive, but one becomes a sort of avatar of an angel, and one of a devil. Intertingly, the roles are reversed - the more 'decent' guy becomes the devil, growing horns, and the self-centered film star developing a halo.
In exploring these identities, especially that of the archangel Gibreel in Islamic mythology, is where Rushdie moves into supposedly 'blasphemous' territory, including a historical depiction of Mohammed, and a strong implication by the Prophet's personal scribe that he is a fraud, making up religious rules to suit his whims. There's also a funny, satirical episode where a brothel decides to make more money by having their whores role-play the parts of the Prophet's wives.
I suspect that Rushdie underestimated the response these scenes would get. It's pretty clear from the book that Rushdie is probably an atheist. But it's also very clear that the scenes in question are satire. They're almost incidental to the main plot of the book (which takes place in the present day), and also to the main
idea of the book, which has to do with the concepts of "Indian-ness" and "British-ness" and personal identity.
I'd say the novel is definitely worthwhile for its insights into human nature, but it does have a tendency to meander, and the colloquial language that Rushdie uses can occasionally come across as a bit too 'clever.'