Friday, June 11, 2010

The Satanic Verses

I'm reading -- for the second time -- Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. I'm about half-way through this second reading. I have two things to say about it at the moment. The first is a politico/religious comment and a bit of a shot at the Muslim faith. So, all you Muslims out there, be forewarned.

The second is not a politico/religious comment.

The first is this: even without knowing a whole lot about Islam, it's not hard to see why the mullahs might have been pissed off at Rushdie. The Satanic Verses is highly irreverent, possibly to the point of blasphemy, I don't know. Rushdie implies that the divine revelation of the Quran had its more temporal and political inspirations as well. And his portrayal of Muhammed (may peace be upon him) is not very flattering.

On the other hand, off the top of my head I can't think of any other contemporary religion that has the arrogance to issue a public threat or death sentence, as it appears the fatwah against Rushdie was. All over a bit of writing. Bad enough when governments think they have the right to imprison someone for their opinions. But for a religion? My question would be this: Who appointed you god?

(And yes, I'm well aware that the Roman Catholic religion is not exactly lily white when it comes to this sort of thing. But it's quite a while since the pope passed a death sentence...We are supposed to be evolving into beings of compassion and light, no?)

So, my response to the leaders of Islam: get over it, and get over yourselves. The faithful won't be swayed by writing like this. And infidels, like me, don't care. We just like a good read.

Which brings me to my second point. Rushdie is one of those writers who makes me cry out in anguish and envy, "Goddam! I wish I could write like that!"

Here's a brief passage. It would take too long to explain the context, but you don't really need context to appreciate this:
An iceberg is water striving to be land; a mountain, especially a Himalaya, especially Everest, is land's attempt to metamorphose into sky; it is grounded flight, the earth mutated -- nearly -- into air, and become, in the true sense, exalted.
Much of Rushdie's writing is virtuoso performance, a romp through Indian-accented English and you can't help but admire the pure delight he takes in telling tall tales.

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3 comments:

Xena said...

Oh my, you're back Larry! Good to read you again! I read Satanic Verses many years ago, and more recently, read a collection of essays by Rushdie, which interestingly enough (since your counterpart wrote a piece about The Wizard of Oz), included an essay about the Dorothy tale - there's no place like home...

Do you know the book I'm referring to? If you haven't read it, let me know, and if you wish, I'll trace it down in my messy book shelf and lend it to you.

Larry Keiler said...

I have not read that collection of essays, but a friend gave me a copy of his piece on Oz. I enjoyed that thoroughly.

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