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Inextricably linked with the fatwa called against its author in the wake of the novel’s publication, The Satanic Verses is, beyond that, a rich showcase for Salman Rushdie’s comic sensibilities, cultural observations, and unparalleled mastery of language. The tale of an Indian film star and a Bombay expatriate, Rushdie’s masterpiece was deservedly honored with the Whitbread Prize.
The story begins with a bang: the terrorist bombing of a London-bound jet in midflight. Two Indian actors of opposing sensibilities fall to earth, transformed into living symbols of what is angelic and evil. This is just the initial act in a magnificent odyssey that seamlessly merges the actual with the imagined. A book whose importance is eclipsed only by its quality, The Satanic Verses is a key work of our times.
Unfortunately, quite a few people abandon Satanic Verses in book form as being "incomprehensible" and strangely "flat." The problem is that although "Verses" is a difficult book, rightly compared with the complexity of Joyce's "Ulysses," it's not "impossible" by any means. It simply needs to be read aloud.
Each of the very memorable characters has a unique accent, coming as they do from different parts of India, the U.K., and even (for one brief moment) the U.S. To try to read these without an accent takes away much of the joy of this book.
Actor Sam Dastor is probably the world's expert on Indian accents and from the first minutes of the audiobook (definitely listen to the sample!) you know you'll be in for a treat.
Yes, the novel is complex. Yes, you may need to check the plot outline on wiki, or even consider a study guide (not needed but probably would add a lot). However, as Satanic Verses progresses and characters transmogrify into angels and goats, and a goddess with her butterlies guide a devoted village to a very wet redemption, you'll also see how this novel offended every fundamentalist Muslim on the planet and remains banned in every Muslim country except the secular Turkey.
If you were once put off by this very important book, by all means download the audiobook and prepare yourself for a good time
47 of 47 people found this review helpful
A near perfect novel. I loved the writing. I loved the characters. I loved how Rushdie was able to master Heaven and Hell, saint and sinner, the welkin and earth in this dreamlike exploration of what it means to be an immigrant, an angel, a saint and a sinner. At times he writes like a post-modern satirist cum Pynchon, then suddenly he melts into his best post-colonial Achebe, and then off again on his magical realist, literary carpet à la Gabriel García Márquez. Rushdie's writing is a mountain you don't climb down, you fly off.
30 of 32 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
I can't answer any of the dumb questions Audible now wants to ask. <br /> <br />I first read the Satanic Verses in '92, wanting to see what all the fuss was about. I was astounded to discover a hilarious yet harrowing set of interlocking stories that upended my ideas about colonialism, Islam and India. <br /> <br />20 years later, it was just as great as the first time. I read my old copy at home and listened in the car to a great performance by a reader who does great Indian and English accents while conveying the tale's irony. <br /> <br />I still believe this is one of the great novels of the 20th century.
48 of 52 people found this review helpful
Not for the feint of heart, but immensely rewarding, it's everything I love in a novel. Motifs weave their way in and out of the narrative effortlessly, and plays on words sometimes raise eyebrows, sometimes induce a guilty snicker. The language and ideas are quite playful while being earnest at the same time.
Although it is very challenging, the book can be enjoyed on many different levels. It's the only audiobook I've listened to more than once, and I always find new things to appreciate with each listen. If you can be content with enjoying the work for its simpler pleasures the first time through, you may find yourself enjoying it a second time, too.
If you find it challenging, I encourage you to enjoy it for whatever you can take out of it the first time. You may find yourself, like me, compelled to give it another listen, and dive deeper into the historical and cultural themes that I found quite slippery the first time through. I used a bit of help I found online when I got too lost. If, like me, you are completely ignorant of the history of Islam (including the Old Testament stories of Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael, etc...) you may want to find a primer online.
A note about the performance: This book, more than others, depends on a strong performance, and Dastor delivered in spades. He brought the characters to life and added to the richness of the book. He finessed, spun, chortled, and deadpanned the language as necessary to give the listener the best opportunity to get everything the book has to offer out of the audiobook. Bravo, bravo, bravo.
32 of 36 people found this review helpful
*Magical realism fiction,* or a head-on collision between Joseph Campbell, Aesop, and Christopher Hitchens. A thoughful, intoxicating, hilarious work filled with boatloads of allusions and multicultural symbols. Rushdie is a word-slinging wordsmith and his use of the language is comparable to Eco's, amazing laser-precision with words.
A literary feast, but a very demanding listen. I found I went with it best when I could just sit down and listen--without interruptions! (Had to re-listen to the first 2 chapters 3 x.) Rushdie himself said of this book,
"...it requires a long period of intense reading. It's a quarter of a million words"
(some of which you'll be looking up unless you understand the many cultures: Indian, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, etc.). I can appreciate the fact that this is a nearly perfect novel--I enjoyed it immensely, but I'm done with it... Scratch one off my *booket list*
*[If you're interested...Andrew Anthony wrote a fascinating piece for The Observer (10 Jan. 2009) entitled "How one book ignited a culture war"--looking back through the years since the publication of The Satanic Verses.]
29 of 33 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Satanic Verses again? Why?
There is no other way I'd read a densely written piece of world fiction with my time constraints. Listening to "Satanic Verses" helped me understand why the Ayatollah was so peeved. When you listen to it, it becomes a performance play and I feel I now understand a great deal more about why Salman Rushdie is so revered. I use Audible only for Pulitzer Prize or Nobel prize winning fiction I wouldn't read in book form, nor on a Kindle.
Who was your favorite character and why?
I think the narrator gets that award.
Have you listened to any of Sam Dastor’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
I have also read Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" narrated by Dastor. In that case it was by Audiobook CD from the library with late fees... that was when I started Audible.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The return of Khomeini to Iran was extraordinarily conceived.
Any additional comments?
I used to think Audible was just low brow novels... but anything the library has on its lists of award winning books Audible has, and I now depend on it for books I can read while I am doing tasks like driving... or in my case, painting. Audible gets them all, and more and more quality books are now narrated as well. A true performance... as the narrator makes the text come alive. I've read "Crime and Punishment", but will enjoy 24 hours of quality narration from the version where the narrator is highly recommended.... on Audible.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
I cannot judge this book harshly on the basis of my limited understanding. At once I understood, and did not understand. In order to get the most from the listening of this book, I looked up resources online. (google search: how to understand the satanic verses) I found some notes that were very helpful. Sometimes it's nice to find a book that makes you work for it. This is one such book. I now feel that my world view has broadened.
Even when the book was difficult to follow, there were so many things that made me stick with it. For instance, little jewels like these:
"A poet's work," he answers. "To name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep."
“From the beginning men used God to justify the unjustifiable.”
This is a powerful story on it's own, but it also seemed to me to be a conversation Rushdie was having with himself, struggling to find answers and his own place in the world. I think it's a conversation that many of us have had with ourselves at one time or another. Where do I fit in? Are any of these "truths" true? What kind of idea am I?
I have borrowed The Satanic Verses from the library, and stood in the bookstore with it in my hands, but I had never read it until now. I think I just wasn't ready for it. I am ready now. This book can move mountains if you will open your mind and let it in.
28 of 33 people found this review helpful
Wanting to prepare to read Joseph Anton, I found that Sam Dastor’s reading of Satanic Verses brought the book alive for me. Having bought the hardcover, in my little private feud with censors, the day Khomeini issued his death verdict for Rushdie, I have periodically attempted to read it but have never been able to “get into it”.
Dastor changed all that as I listened and followed along with the print, enjoying the examination of differences in countries, religious tales, dream sequences, people in personal jealousies, divided cultural yearnings and loyalties, and mental confusion and illness--all with humor and literary references. Rushdie is a master of language and Dastor’s reading reflects his intelligence.
I am now eager to hear Dastor read Rusdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton, about his life after Khomeini’s edict. Since the heart of Satanic Verses is about the life of the “alien” or “exile” I expect a deep connection of its real message to Rushdie’s life.
Note: There is a transposition of a section in the chapter “Ayesha” p. 214 -225 (starting in Part 2 of the download, Chapter 3 of 6 at 26:20 minutes) that the audible version moves to p.240, concluding the “Ayesha” section. I found it confusing, but it is part of the “serial visions” of Gibreel so if you feel a little confused without a text in front of you, don’t worry--it is all there and will be understandable in the end.
13 of 15 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Satanic Verses again? Why?
Yes sir! The story is fantastic, the writing is majestic and the narration is flawless. So why I heck wouldn't I?
What did you like best about this story?
The beautiful mixture of fancy and reality. It's like the spicy Chinese noodles with a touch of vodka ...Delicious! Leaves you wondering what was real and what was not. Throw in the typical Salman Rushdie sense of humor and you've got a classic in your hands.
Which character – as performed by Sam Dastor – was your favorite?
It was my first book on Audible and only after completing the novel did I realize that all voices were done by a solitary person and I was taken aback. Sam Dastor is that good! Indian accent, British accent, American accent, Persian accent, females, children, old people - he does it all incredibly well and smooth.<br/>If I had to choose one character though it'll be Gibreel Farishta, his accent is pretty humorous.
If you could take any character from The Satanic Verses out to dinner, who would it be and why?
Zeeny Vakil sounds hot! I wouldn't mind Allie, Pamela, Ayesha or even Gibreel and Saladin - they're all extremely interesting characters.
Any additional comments?
Knowledge of India and Islam is crucial or you'll miss out on a lot of jokes and references.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Is there anything you would change about this book?
I've been hearing about this book for many years, and I've been intending to read it for over a decade now. I loved the author's Midnight's Children, and I had very high hopes for his most famous of books, but it just couldn't live up to all that hype. I suspect that nothing could have.
Did Sam Dastor do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?
He did a great job with many of the voices. My only complaint was his rendition of Americans. His American accent is one of the strangest things I've heard in all my years of audiobooking.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
When a novel causes international political turmoil, we have to read it. Purely as a literary work, it was a treat. There was a great rythme and poetry to the novel. It examined the boundary of sanity, caused by internal brain chemistry and also by external tramatic experience. It also examined religion with all its results. The political fallout, I can see the catylist, assumming you are an extremist who thinks any non orthodox views are worthy of death.
The two main characters where a mixure of Indian resident in Britain and an Indian visitor to Britain. The extra flavour of the story told from their perspective was what made the worth the second read!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful