The Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses

3.6 67
by Salman Rushdie

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One of the most controversial and acclaimed novels ever written, The Satanic Verses is Salman Rushdie’s best-known and most galvanizing book. Set in a modern world filled with both mayhem and miracles, the story begins with a bang: the terrorist bombing of a London-bound jet in midflight. Two Indian actors of opposing sensibilities fall to earth,…  See more details below


One of the most controversial and acclaimed novels ever written, The Satanic Verses is Salman Rushdie’s best-known and most galvanizing book. Set in a modern world filled with both mayhem and miracles, the story begins with a bang: the terrorist bombing of a London-bound jet in midflight. Two Indian actors of opposing sensibilities fall to earth, transformed into living symbols of what is angelic and evil. This is just the initial act in a magnificent odyssey that seamlessly merges the actual with the imagined. A book whose importance is eclipsed only by its quality, The Satanic Verses is a key work of our times.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Banned in India before publication, this immense novel by Booker Prize-winner Rushdie (Midnight's Children) pits Good against Evil in a whimsical and fantastic tale. Two actors from India, ``prancing'' Gibreel Farishta and ``buttony, pursed'' Saladin Chamcha, are flying across the English Channel when the first of many implausible events occurs: the jet explodes. As the two men plummet to the earth, ``like titbits of tobacco from a broken old cigar,'' they argue, sing and are transformed. When they are found on an English beach, the only survivors of the blast, Gibreel has sprouted a halo while Saladin has developed hooves, hairy legs and the beginnings of what seem like horns. What follows is a series of allegorical tales that challenges assumptions about both human and divine nature. Rushdie's fanciful language is as concentrated and overwhelming as a paisley pattern. Angels are demonic and demons are angelic as we are propelled through one illuminating episode after another.
Library Journal
When a terrorist's bomb destroys a jumbo jet high above the English Channel, two passengers fall safely to earth: Gibreel, an Indian movie actor, and Saladin, star of the controversial British television program, 'The Alien Show.' The near-death experience changes them into living symbols of good and evil -- Saladin grows horns, Gibreel a halo. From this fantastic premise Rushdie spins a huge collection of loosely related subplots that combine mythology, folklore, and TV trivia in a tour de force of magic realism that investigates the postmodern immigrant experience. (Why does an Indian expatriate feel homesick watching reruns of 'Dallas'?) Like Rushdie's award-winning novel Midnight's Children, this invites comparison with the miracle-laden narratives of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. -- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
From the Publisher
Winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel

"Fuelled by the author's roaring prose and negotiated via his own culturally divided self, the novel is a comedic wonder, at once silly and serious, generous and provocative.... The Satanic Verses is at large, unrepentant and unreformed, a model less of artistic liberty than of excellence. The novel is also coming to resemble more a foundational work of the 21st century than anything from an earlier time." Charles Foran, The Globe and Mail

"A glittering novelist—one with startling imagination and intellectual resources, a master of perpetual storytelling."  V.S. Pritchett, The New Yorker

“A staggering achievement, brilliantly enjoyable.” Nadine Gordimer

“A torrent of endlessly inventive prose, by turns comic and enraged, embracing life in all its contradictions. In this spectacular novel, verbal pyrotechnics barely outshine its psychological truths.” Newsday

“Rushdie is a storyteller of prodigious powers, able to conjure up whole geographies, causalities, climates, creatures, customs, out of thin air.” The New York Times Book Review

“Exhilarating, populous, loquacious, sometimes hilarious, extraordinary...a roller-coaster ride over a vast landscape of the imagination.” The Guardian

“A novel of metamorphoses, hauntings, memories, hallucinations, revelations, advertising jingles, and jokes. Rushdie has the power of description, and we succumb.” The Times (UK)

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Random House Publishing Group
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Salman Rushdie
What is being expressed is a discomfort with plural identity...We are increasingly becoming a world of migrants, made up of bits and fragments from here, there. We are here. And we have never really left anywhere we have been.

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The Satanic Verses 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
CymLowell More than 1 year ago
I have wanted to read and think about this insightful book for many years. It caused an uproar in the Islamic world, including a fatwa death sentence for the author. I always wondered why? How can a story about other prophets cause an uproar amongst their followers? To me, the story line essentially chronicles the journey of the prophet in the walk around world. In many senses, The Satanic Verses is similar in nature to other journey books which seem intended to allow the reader (and the author, of course) to explore the conscious and subconscious of the heroes. I enjoyed reading Siddhartha by Herman Hess, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, The Iliyad and the Odyssey by Homer, and many others. In each, the hero embarks upon a journey of self-discovery, danger, ecstacy, and fate. Often the results of the journey, successful or otherwise, seem to me to largely be a matter of serendipity. In Siddhartha, the rich Indian boy found his peace in ferrying pilgrims across the river close to his original home. In The Alchemist, the shepard boy found his treasure in Fatima at the oasis. How can one account for the joy these young men ultimately found in simplicity? It is up to the reader to find meaning in any story, including especially its meaning in his or her own life. I think such stories are successful if they trigger introspection in the reader. How is my life or journey similar to the hero's? What can I learn from this hero's journey to guide me in my life. If there is deep religious connotation, or comment, do I agree with the views communicated by the author and the protagonists? The Satanic Verses is at once allegorical, satirical, whimsical, and oftentimes, to me, far less penetrable in any conventional sense than most of the books we read on a day-to-day basis. Like reading James Joyce, the twists and turns of the narrative require focus and abstract thought. In this regard, I was reminded of my long read of Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr., an allegorical story of my childhood home in Indiana. It took me awhile to get through the 1,500 pages. When I was done I had discovered what I was looking for in those pages. Frankly, I enjoyed the introspection. In the case of Satanic Verses, my wait was worthwhile. Mr. Rushdie has a wonderful capacity for inducing self-examination. His fine work has earned the rave reviews that it has gotten for the many years since its original publication. It is far more complex than such stories as The Alchemist, yet it is the complexity that provides such rich texture. From a cultural perspective, I found it a far more difficult struggle to engage the hero in The Satanic Verses, than in Siddhartha written by a German or The Alchemist written by a Latin. As with any great book, the re-reading after a passage of time will bring even greater insight. I look forward to that time as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first chapter was one of the best first chapters I have ever read. But I found the story line hard to follow and gave up half way through the book. I have a sense that I was just not smart enough for this book. I hate when that happens.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Soon I was playing a game with a friend - a wonderful game I created called, 'Opening Sentences for a Novel.' Inspired, of course, by Salman's Rushdie's Satanic Verses. The book is a parabalic.. hallucinatory journey.. a discovery of soul. An experiment with religion. A creative piece of brilliant work where Salman merely asks a few honest and insightful questions. So, one part of the journey.. (and only one part, mind you)... was about Mahound (aka Mohammad), and his tormented battle with the Archangel Gabriel... Within the Quran it explains that Mohammad wrestled with Gabriel.. and gabriel spoke the truth... The book begins with two indian men falling out of the night sky into the English sea... Wow.. what a beginning! It begins with them in perpetual fall... one man is terrified... the other man is singing jovially... and as they fall... they carry on a conversation... and Salman makes the comment: Let's face it; it was impossible for them to have heard one another, much less conversed and also competed thus in song. Accelerating towards the planet, atmosphere roaring around them, how could they? But let's face this, too: they did. Anyway, when they fall... the two men begin to slowly change.... one begins to transform into an angel... the other, into a hoofed goat.. with horns.. aka.. the devil... now, the man who's transforming into an angel... begins to have these... hallucinatory dreams... each dream.. is a continuation of the same story.... He knows that when he falls asleep again.. he's just going to pick up where he left of... and he dreams of Mahound, and in his dream, he IS Mohammad... So, Salman Rushdie concocted this brilliant scene... when Mahound wrestles with the archangel Gabriel.. and Gabriel's mouth opens.. and he speaks the truth.. The Truth, which became the Quran. But, as Salman explores this scene... he puts a twist to it... the character, Mahound.. (The dreaming Gabriel)... wonders if the Angel is actually talking.... or if he is only hearing what he wants to hear... It's pure poetry! The muslim fundementalists didn't even bother to try to understand the theme of the book! Which wasn't at all about religion... something far more endearing to the heart. Mahound was simply one chapter. For instance... You know the second guy? The one who turns into a horned goat.. Well, one chapter is about how he ended up in the middle of the sky! Starting from his youth... So, he's like 10.. and his father's a multi-millionaire.. but very hard on his son... the father thinks he's making a man out of him. But the son just despises him...One time the son finds a wallet on the street with a wadful of british pounds.... The father snatches the wallet off him... And here's the thing... the dad has the original magic lamp of Aladdin.. as traced back through the centuries. He had aquired it through some effort. BUT he NEVER rubbed the lamp! The 10 year old can't figure out why! His dad says, 'as long as it's mine, no one will rub it. When I die, it will be yours.. then you may do with it what you like.' Anyway... after this.. we leave their story altogether... and explore all these other fascinating characters... Right at the end of the book... the man's father has just died... and he aquires the magic lamp. I ain't gonna tell you the twist. It's BLOODY AMAZING! You will never come across a twist like that... very very rare.
007lemming More than 1 year ago
Everyone should read this book if for no other reason than to see what all the hype was about. After all, how often does a book cause so much animosity that religious and political leaders call for the authors murder? The book is tough to follow, it combines three separate story lines, and uses copious metaphor and symbolism. It's often labeled as magical realism, which basically means that it combines extremely realistic and descriptive settings with completely unreal and fantastical happenings. It does get easier to read once you get through the first 100 pages or so. And if you aren't interested in it's commentary on Islam, or the disenfranchised, it's also just a really great story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A confusing book, but wonderful. I read it as part of a politics and literature course 7 years ago with a professor from India. Her insight in to some of the nuances of the book made it make sense. One needs to read the book for what it is and seek out answers to what they don't understand.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Satanic Verses is a great book and i reccomend it to every one who enjoys reading books if this kind.. you might not understand a few things ..... but when it comes to islam if you chalange anything in the quran the muslims kill you The Satanic Verses did a great job of defying the quran and try to get to the truth of islam
Guest More than 1 year ago
Islam needs to reign in its radical elements thus preventing these associations made by the western world...... a devote muslim knows in his heart of hearts that violence is not the answer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't care if you don't like his writing, but if you like the idea of free expression, of free speech, then The Satanic Verses is a must read. It is a modern document of our ongoing struggle to attain and maintain free expression. Rushdie is an amazing man. I am not so much a fan of his writing at times, but he is, once you allow the language to envelop you, an exceptional story teller. If you have any doubts or difficulties about reading his works, I would suggest that you begin by reading Horoun and the Sea of Stories or Luka and the Fire of Life, as they display his story telling ability much more clearly without having to be burdened (in a certain way) by the complexity of his use of language.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rushdie's book is a mixture of Alice in Wonderland meets Madison avenue. Although the the title seems provocative and dramatic, the book is only mildly so. Although almost presaging 9/11 with its airplane terror scene, the book is otherwise stilted in too many scene changes to fast. While I couldn't put the book down I was left, at the end of Rushdie's highly publicized tome, scratching my head and looking for a point.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book expecting a religious commentary along the lines of William Blake. Little did I know that it was a marvelous literary work of fiction. Rushdie's style is not the easiest to read, but is highly rewarding and flows quite nicely once accustomed to it. The satire contained within is very easy to miss (I could read this book in 50 years time and still not understand some of the jokes), but those I caught had me laughing hysterically. I do not quite understand the great offense taken by so many saying that it is such an evil book, but then again I'm not a poster boy for organized religion anyhow. I think that too many people saw that the title had the word 'Satanic' in it and shunned it immediately. Their loss...
Guest More than 1 year ago
An excellent novel on the nature of good and evil, reality vs. perception, truth and beauty. I can understand why devote islamists denounce the book. But look at what the book is saying, rather than harping on the stereotypes it is smashing - you'll find the message is not all that different.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An immense work. Good and evil need to coexist and, all too often, appearances are deceiving. You don't need a deep understanding of islam to enjoy this book. If those of you interested in this type of literature, De Vito's 'The Apocrypha' does for christianity what Rushdie did for the muslim faith.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the few books that the future will look on with the same respect that we have when we look at the greats from centuries past. It is sometimes sad and heartbreaking, sometimes controversial, but the overall attitude of this work is surprisingly uplifting with the picaresque humor and the redemptive aspects of the work. It is a truly moving book that deserves all the attention that it has gotten. It's unfortunate that so much of that attention is based on the less important yet more controversial aspects of the novel. A phenomenal piece of literature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this novel is at the very least, daunting. if not from the title or the controversy or or the size or the reputation. but im convinced as a reader and particularly one with an interest in religion and philosophy that it is a challenge worth taking on. Some of the one-liners (both humerous and serious) are priceless. there is defiantely literary worth in the book, plenty, it just seems to me that it hit too much of an exposed nerve in its reviewers. Luckily, the itch was ignited by a worthy force. Rushdie has some briliant passages, which would make any poet or musician sigh- and he has passages that annoy all the brilliant analytical critics. There is, i think, a place for him in the postmodern (-y)literary canon next to (fill in the blank) and (of course) way down the hall from Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut. In the end, with both sides of artist and critic as opposed (and entrenched) as ever, the novel (ultimately) fails to reconcile the two in one fall swoop...which, to be fair, is perhaps way too much more than can be asked for......where else but in fiction can we honestly have this wish? However, reading a novel by an obviously deeply comitted (NOT irresonsible gadfly) and fiercely talented (NOT hack, sensationalist blasphemer) writer like Rushdie should be enjoyed for its own sake. Perhaps not (maybe) an Immortal Prose Masterpiece, but a very interesting and humanly accurate (albeit faulted and at times simply too damn confusing) story which certainly deserves unhysterical attention.
Anonymous 8 days ago
That ALMOST made sense
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Only the second book in my life I could not finish reading. I made it through a Umberto Ecco book, though I wondered why I bothered. Recommend skipping this one.
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