The Satanic Verses: read-along, pre-read discussion

The Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses,
by Salman Rushdie,
1988
Literary fiction/Magical realism
576 pages
Goodreads
Buy the book on my Bookshop

Read-along, pre-read discussion

As explained in our announcement post, Marianne (at Let’s Read) and I are launching into a month-long read-along/buddy-read of The Satanic Verses.

We are starting our reading today, feel free to join us.
You can add your comments to our posts or post your thoughts on your own blog.

Before our first report, here are our pre-read questions & answers – you can access our reviews by clicking on the links inside our answers:

1.     Have you ever read any other book by Salman Rushdie? Did you like it/them?

Marianne:

I have read “Midnight’s Children” in 2016. It wasn’t the easiest read but I am glad I read it. Maybe one of the reasons why it took me so long to get to one of his other books.

Emma:
This is another of his important books I believe.
Personally, I have come to Salman Rushdie through the back door. Because of the controversy attached to this book, I have ignored him for decades, thinking his books would have no interest for me.
Then one day I watched a fascinating presentation he gave at Emory University in 2015, where he talked about the classics that had been so important in his life. It’s called My Great Books. I found it very inspiring and started thinking this man was a genius and among the most brilliant minds of our time, along with his now departed friend Umberto Eco.
In 2019, I did a read-along on Don Quixote by Cervantes.
It happens that shortly after I finished Don Quixote, I realized Salman Rushdie was publishing a new book, his own spin on this masterpiece. So I thought this was the perfect opportunity to get more acquainted with Rushdie’s writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed his Quichotte.
This past July, I read his latest collection of essays, entitled Languages of Truth. I found him brilliantly articulate, even when I disagreed with him on some points.
So now it’s finally time to start reading his most famous and older works!

2.     What are your feelings and expectations going into The Satanic Verses?

Marianne:
A little apprehensive as I know I had trouble with his other book but also quite exciting because I have heard so much about it and I really want to know what it’s all about.

Emma:
I have heard this is a challenging work, in its structure and content, so I am also a bit apprehensive. But we have the advantage that the book was written a few decades ago, with many analyses and commentaries on it. So I’m confident we can find help when needed.
I also trust reading it together and sharing our puzzlements will definitely help us go deeper.
Another source if apprehension for me is the religious content. I’m very committed in my religious beliefs and way of life. But I have learned to respect Rushdie’s difference of opinion on religion, so I hope this will not come in the way of my appreciation of this book.

3.     What have you heard about this book so far?

Marianne:

Mainly the controversies, the scandal about this novel, the death threats he received. And that it is a magic realism novel.

Emma:
Not much, besides the fact that it’s a challenging read and the controversy attached to it. 

4.     Are you familiar with the controversy attached to The Satanic Verses?

Marianne:

I have read a lot about this, it was in the news all the time when it was first published.

Emma:
This was also a major part of the news in France, where I was at the time. But I don’t think I paid too much attention on the why exactly he was threatened for writing this book. So now I’m curious on that as well.

5.     Have you read any other novel focusing on Islam or on religions in India?

Marianne:
Lots. I have 38 books about India and 50 about Islam on my blog. We have many Turkish descendants in Germany, so that is always an enticement to read about their religion.

Emma:
Wow, that’s impressive!
To tell the truth, I have read a few books related to India, but more recently I have tried to stay away from the topic, as I have found most of these too depressing for me.
Though I did enjoy The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga.
I have read only a few books related to Islam. The most recent would be Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi, on life in Oman, which I didn’t find very impressive.
I preferred
American Dervish, by Ayad Akhtar.

6.     Most readers consider the genre of this novel to be magical realism. Some classify it as fantasy. Do you often read books in these genres? Any favorites of yours in these genres?

Marianne:

I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite genre but when I checked my list, there are 53 books on my blog that belong to the Magic Realism category.
My favourites are the ones by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel
Allende. And I loved “The Virgin Blue” by Tracy Chevalier, “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller” by Italo Calvino (absolutely brilliant), “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “The Colour Purple” by Alice Walker and “Mudwoman” by Joyce Carol Oates (who is one of my favourite authors).

Emma:
With some very few exceptions (Neil Gaiman), I rarely read fantasy.
I’m more comfortable with magical realism, especially with Haruki Murakami.
You mention Italo Calvino, which I was actually not putting in that category. I really enjoy his books, but more because of the unusual ways he tried to write, as part of the Oulipo movement. I did enjoy a lot If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.

7.     The Satanic Verses is a long work and it seems challenging. Have you read any other long and challenging novels? Did you enjoy the experience?

Marianne:

I love long and challenging books and read lots and lots of them. I have 104 “chunky” books on my blog, they are all over 450 pages long. Not all of them are very challenging, at least I don’t think so, but the challenging last longest.

Emma:

Long books don’t scare me either. This past month, I read Termination Shock, by Neal Stephenson with a total of 896 pages. And lots of French classics are thick!
I mentioned Umberto Eco above. I usually enjoy his books, but sometimes they contain too many obscure references for me. I did have to DNF The Prague Cemetery.
With The Satanic Verses, I’m determined to look for the meaning of the references I don’t understand.

Thanks Marianne for sharing your answers! Looking forward to sharing more thoughts as we read along.

📚 📚 📚

Here is our schedule:

  1. November 1st: introductory post at Words And Peace
  2. Between November 8-12: questions + answers on the first 23% of the book (up to end of PART II. Stop before “Ellowen Deeowen”) at Let’s Read
  3. Between Nov 15-19:  questions + answers on the second quarter of the book (stop before V. A City Visible but Unseen), at Words And Peace
  4. Between Nov 22-26:  questions + answers on the third quarter of the book (stop before VI. Return to Jahilia) at  Let’s Read
  5. Between Nov 29-December 3: last quarter of the book and conclusion questions at Words And Peace

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO READ IT?

21 thoughts on “The Satanic Verses: read-along, pre-read discussion

  1. Great intro, Emma. I’m looking forward to your future posts. I’m going to check out the video of the talk at Emory that you posted. I respect Rushdie’s intellect but don’t know if I’ll ever read another one of his books after slogging through Midnight’s Children. However, I’m more than happy to receive the analysis of SV here. An important book to be sure.

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  2. How interesting. I must admit that just the title puts me off the book, so I’ve never even considered reading it. Like you, Emma, my religious beliefs are important to me, and while I’ve read and enjoyed plenty of books that highlight other religions, I generally steer clear of books with “Satanic” in the title. LOL! I’ll be curious to see your thoughts as you read.

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  3. Thank you for the interesting introduction. I have had the book on my shelves since the end of the 80s. I was living in Iran at the time, so am well aware of the controversy. I loved his The Midnight Children, but have not read anything else by him.
    I will try to join you when I arrive back in Sweden mid-November.

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  4. Pingback: The top 7 books to read in November 2021 | Words And Peace

  5. I bought my copy and have read 25 pages so far. This is exciting and I think the experience will be fun. I’ve only read Midnight’s Children previously and like Marianne, I found it quite difficult. BUT that was ten years ago and I think I am a “better” reader now. Like my reading muscles are much more honed now because I exercise them more by reading books that are challenging.

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  6. Pingback: The Satanic Verses: questions on Parts 1 and 2 | Words And Peace

  7. Pingback: The Satanic Verses: questions on Parts 3 and 4 | Words And Peace

  8. Pingback: The Satanic Verses: questions on Part 5 | Words And Peace

  9. Pingback: The Satanic Verses: questions on Parts 6-9 and final recap | Words And Peace

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