The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

May 8, 2011 at 21:49 (Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fiction, Magic Realism) (, , , )


Salman Rushdie may have a well-publicised issue remaining between himself and the Iranian government, but he has a deeper and an older controversy with an equally demanding institution: he happens to fall into that curious collection of writers who treat punctuation, formatting and other such conventions of English language as entirely optional. The words he writes are pots of paint, and it falls to him, the author, to decide in what configuration they ought to decorate the page. Certain writers who employ this method turn out unreadable classics that pain the eye; Rushdie manages to find a beautiful lyricism in his choice of words, turning them into phonetic sounds and a swelling chorus. If nothing else, this book is charmingly written, and both easy and compelling to read.

The various levels of the story, as it plunges between Gibreel’s dreams and past and present, is vividly appealing, and comic in the realism mixed with utter fantasy (allegory) and strange and mystical shapes. His characters are not so brightly coloured as to cause the reader’s heart to ache for them; they are perpetual players of the second fiddle to his convoluted and kaleidascope vision of gods and angels, and magical landscapes; and the book is not really about them so much as the motifs and questions that cocoon them.

These questions and ideas can be frustrating, offering as they do questions without answers, and few ready interpretations to the revelations that are unveiled. No simple morality tale, and few words of praise or censure to its fiercely dancing blend of protagonists and antagonists; but a remarkable story nonetheless, aesthetically told and with scarcely a dull page.

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