Salmon Rushdie published The Satanic Verses in 1988. The book quickly became controversial and provoked protests from Muslims around the world. Rushdie received death threats. Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, put a price on his head on 14 February 1989 through a fatwā, which is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. Rushdie had to go into hiding, and he was not heard of for many years. Since 2000 he has lived in the United States.
When The Satanic Verses and its controversy arose at the time, I wanted to read the book. I would never have heard of Rushdie and his book at the time without the fatwā and the international headlines it caused. Through the controversy, the book was probably much more successful and widely read than it would have been otherwise. Fundamental religious zealots usually don’t have much public relations sense.
I never did get around to reading it at the time.
Recently I picked it up, partly because a coworker recommended it. To my surprise, I found it utterly unreadable. After trying for a few hours, spread over a few days, I finally put it down.
Here is a random excerpt:
Who was she? Rich, certainly, but then Everest Vilas was not exactly a tenement in Kurla, eh? Married, yessir, thirteen years, with a husband big in ball-bearings. Independent, her carpet and antique showrooms thriving at their prime Colaba sites. She called her carpets _klims_ and _kleens_ and the ancient artefacts were _anti-queues_. Yes, and she was beautiful, beautiful in the hard, glossy manner of those rerefied occpuants of the city’s sky-homes, her bones skin posture all bearing witness to her long divorce from the impoverished, heavy pullulating earth. Everyone agreed she had a strong personality, drank _like a fish_ from Lalique crystal and hung her hat _shameless_ on a Chola Natraj and knew what she wanted and how to get it, fast. The husband was a mouse with money and a good squash wrist. Rekha Merchant read Gibreel Farishta’s farewell note in the newspapers, wrote a letter of her own, gathered her children, summoned the elevator, and rose heavenward (one storey) to meet her chosen fate.
This was difficult to type and the spell-checker went crazy.
I am filing The Satanic Verses with Books not finished reading. Here is a review by a reader more patient than I am.