December 1st, 2009

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Salman Rushdie – The satanic verses



Salman Rushdie – The satanic verses

A book that causes religious leaders to call a fatwa must be special. And contrary to my belief that one has to read the book in its original language if possible, I did read a translation this time. A hard back cover special cheap edition made me buy it, I guess that reading it in Dutch wasn’t a bad choice actually.
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Several months this book was next to my bed, a few pages every night. At times I considered giving in. In the end I didn’t. Several chapters really dragged me in. Most didn’t. I am sure my basic knowledge of the Islam was way too short to completely understand the book.

And I’m not even talking about the controversy. I have tried to understand why people would consider the book offensive. I couldn’t. I don’t see the key role for Mohammed, not even after I found out he is renamed Mahound. Regardless if I did or didn’t understand it, I don’t think a fatwa can be an appropriate answer to a book. No book can be so bad/controversial/offensive that that author should be killed. Next to that I firmly believe that 99% (and that’s a low estimate) of the offended Muslims have not read the book. I personally don’t know anyone who had read it. Another guess: I think that many readers have bought the book because of the controversy, but still haven’t read it or haven’t finished it. Some people (like me?) like to show that they are open minded, like to show this book on their shelf. But reading it is a different story.
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To me, the episode of Hind dragging a whole village across the desert on her way to Mecca was the best part of the story. For the first time I was really eager to continue reading, to find out what would happen next.

After more than three months I finally managed to finish reading the satanic verses. Disappointed mostly. With myself, for not understanding it. With the book, for not being interesting enough. With the world, for allowing a book to be this controversial. With Muslims, for being offended by a book and without thinking following some idiot Persian religious leader who wants to see Rushdie dead. With Rushdie, for writing the worst book I have read by him.
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Quote: “For are they not coinjoined opposites, these two, each man the other's shadow? – One seeking to be transformed into the foreigness he admires, the other preferring, contemptuously, to transform; one, a hapless fellow who seems to be continually punished for uncommitted crimes, the other called angelic by one and all, the type of man who gets away with everything. – We may describe Chamcha as being somewhat less than life-size; but loud, vulgar Gibreel is, without question, a good deal larger than life, a disparity which might easily inspire neo-Procrustean lusts in Chamcha: to stretch himself by cutting Farishta down to size.
What is unforgivable?” (page 400 in my Dutch edition)

Number: 09-054
Title: The satanic verses
Author: Salman Rushdie
Language: Dutch (Orig.: English)
Year: 1988
# Pages: 511 (11216)
Category: Literature
ISBN: 90-250-0001-0