The Satanic Verses

Literary criticism and analysis

Overall, the book received favourable reviews from literary critics. In a 2003 volume of criticism of Rushdie's career, influential critic Harold Bloom named The Satanic Verses "Rushdie's largest aesthetic achievement".[4]

Timothy Brennan called the work "the most ambitious novel yet published to deal with the immigrant experience in Britain" that captures the immigrants' dream-like disorientation and their process of "union-by-hybridization". The book is seen as "fundamentally a study in alienation."[2]

Muhammd Mashuq ibn Ally wrote that "The Satanic Verses is about identity, alienation, rootlessness, brutality, compromise, and conformity. These concepts confront all migrants, disillusioned with both cultures: the one they are in and the one they join. Yet knowing they cannot live a life of anonymity, they mediate between them both. The Satanic Verses is a reflection of the author’s dilemmas." The work is an "albeit surreal, record of its own author's continuing identity crisis."[2] Ally said that the book reveals the author ultimately as "the victim of nineteenth-century British colonialism."[2] Rushdie himself spoke confirming this interpretation of his book, saying that it was not about Islam, "but about migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay."[2] He has also said "It’s a novel which happened to contain a castigation of Western materialism. The tone is comic."[2]

After the Satanic Verses controversy developed, some scholars familiar with the book and the whole of Rushdie's work, like M. D. Fletcher, saw the reaction as ironic. Fletcher wrote "It is perhaps a relevant irony that some of the major expressions of hostility toward Rushdie came from those about whom and (in some sense) for whom he wrote."[5] He said the manifestations of the controversy in Britain "embodied an anger arising in part from the frustrations of the migrant experience and generally reflected failures of multicultural integration, both significant Rushdie themes. Clearly, Rushdie's interests centrally include explorations of how migration heightens one's awareness that perceptions of reality are relative and fragile, and of the nature of religious faith and revelation, not to mention the political manipulation of religion. Rushdie's own assumptions about the importance of literature parallel in the literal value accorded the written word in Islamic tradition to some degree. But Rushdie seems to have assumed that diverse communities and cultures share some degree of common moral ground on the basis of which dialogue can be pieced together, and it is perhaps for this reason that he underestimated the implacable nature of the hostility evoked by The Satanic Verses, even though a major theme of that novel is the dangerous nature of closed, absolutist belief systems."[5]

Rushdie's influences have long been a point of interest to scholars examining his work. According to W. J. Weatherby, influences on The Satanic Verses were listed as James Joyce, Italo Calvino, Franz Kafka, Frank Herbert, Thomas Pynchon, Mervyn Peake, Gabriel García Márquez, Jean-Luc Godard, J. G. Ballard and William S. Burroughs.[6] Chandrabhanu Pattanayak notes the influence of William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita (influences Rushdie admitted to).[5] M. Keith Booker likens the book to James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.[5] Al-'Azm notes the influence of François Rabelais' works.[5] Others have noted an influence of Indian classics such as the Mahabharata and the Arabic Arabian Nights.[5] Angela Carter writes that the novel contains "inventions such as the city of Jahilia, 'built entirely of sand,' that gives a nod to Calvino and a wink to Frank Herbert".[7]

Srinivas Aravamudans analysis of The Satanic Verses was perceived by other scholars as hailing the book as a proof "demonstrating the compatibility of postmodernism and post-colonialism in the one novel."[5] Aravamudan himself stressed the satiric nature of the work and held that while it and Midnight's Children may appear to be more "comic epic", "clearly those works are highly satirical" in a similar vein of postmodern satire pioneered by Joseph Heller in Catch-22.[5]

The Satanic Verses continued to exhibit Rushdie's penchant for organising his work in terms of parallel stories. Within the book "there are major parallel stories, alternating dream and reality sequences, tied together by the recurring names of the characters in each; this provides intertexts within each novel which comment on the other stories."[5] The Satanic Verses also exhibits Rushdie's common practice of using allusions to invoke connotative links. Within the book he referenced everything from mythology to "one-liners invoking recent popular culture" sometimes using several per page.[5] Chapter VII was especially noted for such usage.[5]

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