Has there been a film version?
Who are the important characters?
Gibreel Farishta – an Indian movie star who has lost his faith in allah, he comes to resemble Gabriel (Gibreel)
Saladin Chamcha – a voice actor from India but who lives in London and wishes he were British, he comes to resemble a satyr or Shaitan (Satan)
Alleluia/Allie Cone – a mountaineer and the love of Gibreel’s life
The messenger/Muhammed – the man who supposedly received the Qu’ran from the archangel Gabriel
What’s it about?
This is primarily the story of Gibreel and Chamcha – two men from India who are on the plane Bostan when it is hijacked by terrorists and blown up midflight. They are miraculously ejected from the plane and fall 30,000 feet and survive. However, during their fall they are transformed to take place in a battle between good and evil. Gibreel develops a halo and an unearthly light which radiates around him as his namesake the archangel Gabriel has. Chamcha grows horns, cloven hooves for feet and hair all over his body as a representation of Satan. Over and over during their lives, they are thrown together or seek each other out. Also included is a retelling of the “Satanic Verses,” a part of the Qu’ran which is not considered canon by most Muslims. It tells of the prophet Muhammed, here called “The Messenger,” and how he was tempted by Satan for the three goddesses; Al-lat, Uzza, and Manat. According to the Satanic Verses, Mohammed claimed that these three were supposed to be worshipped along with Allah, but later recanted this statement saying it was the poison of Satan. He did this mainly to avoid being persecuted by the inhabitants of Mecca. This book also tells the story of Ayeesha, who kills her entire village on a pilgramage, and a allusionary story to the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran in his exile in Paris.
Why is this book a classic?
It is a classic because it is bold in it’s criticism of Islam and because of the unique storytelling voice of Rushdie.
Do you recommend I read this book?
Not really unless you’re a huge Rushdie fan.
Why did this book make your list?
It’s Salman Rushdie’s most controversial and famous book. And it is very often a banned book, many of which I added to my list.
Has it won any awards?
It was a finalist for the 1988 Booker Prize.
“The heart flutters. Life damages the living. None of us are ourselves. None of us are like this.” – p 65
“We strive for the heights but our natures betray us, Chamcha thought; clowns in search of crowns.” – p 170
“Something was badly amiss with the spiritual life of the planet, though Gibreel Farishta. Too many demons inside people claiming to believe in God.” – p 193
The backlash from this book in Rushdie’s personal life is huge. A “fatwa” was issued against him by the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran and India itself was the first country to ban it because of its blasphemy against Islam. A fatwa is a religious law in Islam – and in this case it was for the immediate execution of Salman Rushdie. Unfortunately, another man who translated “The Satanic Verses” has also been killed because of this, and two other translators have survived assassination attempts. The fatwa was renewed in 2005.
Ok, so I didn’t finish this book. Usually, if I really hate a book I’m reading, I make myself give it 100 pages. And since this is Salman Rushdie and I loved the other book of his that I read, I gave it 200. That still wasn’t enough. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate his writing style, because I do. He’s very poetic and makes everything sound like he’s retelling an ancient and well known myth. In this case, that just doesn’t work for me. Plus, I don’t think I know enough about Islam to see what all the hoo-hah is about. Maybe I will give this another shot when I’m in the mood, but for now…it is heading back to the library…