The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie


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I guess I should put a disclaimer out that I did not rate this book low because I’m a Muslim. Satanic Verses have its own potential but it possibly is the most overrated controversial book of all time. 3/4 of the book was a schizophrenic contemporary drama and 1/4 was a religious fantasy and it was deathly disjointed from multiple of narratives without its own characteristics that was unique to each narrators. Admittedly the only interesting part was the actual controversial part but as a whole, I don’t feel the book was written with a structure in mind in the midst of word vomitory that it end up being flaccid. The writing style was just as confusing and disorienting. It was until I finish the book that the author admitted about drawing inspirations from many literary figures that gave the chaotic jungle of words some clarity. Basically he rip off words and phrases and then crafted this patchwork. Which is why I found a lot of archaic words being used and then repetitions and then the part reshuffle again.

The concept of it being a Satanic Verses seem to converge on the dream sequences which did include the stories of the pagan arabic goddesses and the poetic use of name of the city “Jahilia”. Jahiliyyah which literary means ignorance. Most of the part, I’m not certain of the whole point of the book itself other than giving me schizophrenic nightmares whenever I tried reading it and fall asleep while reading it. But I think it was meant to be a social commentary and criticism toward the bollywood and traditional values and somewhere in between it romanticized the idea of being an immigrant while insertion romantic “grass is greener at the other side” and some anglophile fantasy.

Some part of the book itself reminded me of Yoshitaka Amano’s Arabian Nights. There was an ethereal quality to it which made certain parts of the book appealing. But it was the characterizations of its multiple narratives that made it problematic. None of the contemporary characters was meant to be likable, in fact they were all rather despicable and the writing is rife with satire. But as far as magical realism goes, it was dearth of actual realism and even a show of humanity. There was a vein of dystopia quality in it but it was too unstructured to make it sensible.

Then there was the fact that all of the female characters seemed to be in complete submission to every male characters in this book. Most of the time the author skimp on expanding the female roles over the conventional mother figures, failed mother figures, whores, independent women in constant need of male companion, girl-child on the verge of sexual maturity and etc. In fact, he simplified the idea of Harem into a sanctioned brothel and name it as Hijab. Great way of trying to subtle the use of hijabs as a sign of female subjugation and self-exploitation than actual sexual exploitation by people without the use of any hijabs. I know that its an interpretation of sexual representatives and parts of polygamy but the chapter was poorly done without any depth even with grandois use of vocabularies. In contemporary settings the female characters became very one-dimensional over the male-centric narratives which made them a caricature of humans rather than a representative of the gender. I guess that he tried to be progressive but it does come out dry and very superficial. I try not to be complete feminist in everything I read but when people over-praised another dick lit for being feminist and giving a show of female empowerment, it made me want to scream.

The actual interesting part of the book was Satanic Verses in the historical context. You can read about it elsewhere but it was a lot harder to read anything about it without the topic being related to Salman Rushdie. Whatever justification and bias you might bring into these type of writings, it was just a fiction and an interpretation. Anyone with actual mind would know it to be just as that and it was extremely subjective. It doesn’t rattle my faith but sadly, the extreme reaction and death related to the existence of this book doesn’t seem to justify the actual content. To be honest, the publicity around this book was undeserving despite its notorious reputation.


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