The Satanic Verses begins with its two heroes falling to earth on New Year’s Day after terrorists blow up the plane on which they were traveling to London. Is it any surprise that what follows is one of the most extraordinary novels ever written? Although it can be compared to the works of Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Günter Grass, Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, and Vladimir Nabokov, only Salman Rushdie could have written it, and it stands as a compendium of all the themes and techniques of his career.
When they miraculously land on the English coast alive, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha find that they have been reborn and transformed. Gibreel, an amoral Indian film star who has been known to play as many as fifty different gods in a single week in the Bombay cinema’s theologicals, has lost his faith and had a breakdown but lands with what appears to be a halo around his head. Saladin Chamcha, an actor who has rejected his Indian roots to become as English as possible, and who has achieved great success in London because he has the chameleon-like power to create exactly the right voice to advertise every product, lands and immediately begins to turn into a cloven-hoofed devil.
The novel that tells their story moves from London to India and the Middle East, from the time of Muhammad to the era of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the ayatollah, from the day’s headlines to the farthest reaches of fantasy. Saladin becomes an outcast. He is rejected by his wife and friends, protected by the immigrants whom he had earlier despised, and transformed into their hope of revenge on the racism of the English before he returns home to India,...
(The entire section is 692 words.)