Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Satanic Verses - 20 years on

In The Observer, Andrew Anthony considers the legacy of the fatwa issued by Iranian authorities in February 1989 following publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses.
Who would dare to write a book like The Satanic Verses nowadays? And if some brave or reckless author did dare, who would publish it? The signs in both cases are that no such writer or publisher is likely to appear, and for two reasons. The first and most obvious is fear. The Satanic Verses is a rich and complex literary novel, by turns ironic, fantastical and satirical. Despite what is often said, mostly by those who haven't read it, the book does not take direct aim at Islam or its prophet. Those sections that have caused the greatest controversy are contained within the dreams or nightmares of a character who is in the grip of psychosis. Which is to say that, even buried in the fevered subconscious of a disturbed character inside a work of fiction - a work of magical realism fiction! - there is no escape from literalist tyranny. Any sentence might turn out to be a death sentence. And few if any of even the boldest and most iconoclastic artists wish to run that risk.


  1. Anonymous6:58 pm

    I'm really disappointed by the media coverage of the 20th anniversary of the publication of the book. Most commentary assumes that there was one, ill-informed and intemperate response to The Satanic Verses by Muslims around the world, and especially in Europe. That simply wasn't true at the time. Organisations like Women Against Fundamentalism, and many individuals seem now to have been written out of history.

  2. Anonymous10:10 am

    I tried to read this book, but like so much of Rushdie's work, (with the possible exception of his short stories), it is unreadable.

    Time to say the emperor is wearing new clothes ie. replace the term 'magic realism' for 'pretentious garbage dressed up as literariness' (is that a word?)

  3. Anonymous10:11 am

    Sorry, typo, should be 'NO clothes', certainly not 'new clothes'.



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