I had planned only to review Free Speech from Socrates to Social Media this week. I hadn’t planned on writing a review of The Satanic Verses. It’s a book I haven’t read in a very long-time, but the lesson of the first book and the horrible assassination attempt on Mr. Rushdie’s life do go hand in hand.
I read The Satanic Verses when it first came out, when I was in high school. I was on a Magical Realism kick and had just finished reading House of the Spirits and One Hundred Years of Solitude (both of which I highly recommend.)
The Satanic Verses came out and there was an instant fatwa declared against Mr. Rushdie’s life. (Or maybe it wasn’t instant, maybe that is just how a recalcitrant teenager discovers an Indian author.) Mr. Rushdie wasn’t just condemned by Islamic clerics, he was also condemned by some Christians in our country and some on the left as well. Sure, he had a right to write the book, they said, but he shouldn’t have. It wasn’t a nice book. It was needlessly provocative.
That is a wonderful way to make a teen read a book! (Seriously, if you don’t want kids to read a book, maybe don’t condemn it.) The Satanic Verses hops from present to past, and dares to suggest that even when a work may be divinely inspired, when the hands of men write the words, God’s truth will sometimes take a backseat to political whims. Also, the book clarifies why the British are so pessimistic. (Mr. Rushdie is an Indian born British-American, and he seems to have adopted a rather British sense of humor, and it does come through in Verses.)
This book is not light reading, but it is beautiful, worthwhile reading. Not just for the prose, but to irritate the people who’ve been wishing him dead since 1989.
May Mr. Rushdie recover, his words live forever, and the people who’ve committed this crime against him be forgotten.