The Satanic Verses

by Salman Rushdie

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What message does The Satanic Verses convey about artists appealing to a broader audience?

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Like so much in Rushdie's novel, the answer is complex.  I think that the message that Rushdie is trying to convey is that the artist can choose to be whatever he or she desires.  Yet, they must authentically believe in what they embrace.  The artist will not be successful in both their own voice and others' appreciation if they are fraudulent in this pursuit, simply trying to broaden their base for some other purpose.  Consider the case of Bilal, who ends up only broadening his appeal to advance his own career and not out of any other noble purpose.  Saladin recognizes this in his futile attempt to be "British."  His transformation into the devil- like figure is a statement that while Saladin might wish to be something he is not, he will never be accepted for it.  In this, Saladin recognizes that his own identity and artistic voice is a complex one, something that must be assessed and understood in its own right and not something that can be magically appropriated by "the other."  In his own way, Gibreel Farishta recognizes his own limitations in the ability to transcend who he is and become appealing to a broader audience.  His inability to reconnect with Allie Cone as well as the descent into intense jealousy that results because of it might be representative of how the artist has to fully embrace the idea of connection with a broader audience and not do it out of some other motive other than the selflessness to share.  It is here where complexity is evident, both in the notion of the artist and Rushdie's analysis of it. 

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