The Satanic Verses By Brett, Dan and Laura (the powerpoint isn’t pretty, sorry…)
Putting the Excerpt in Context • -The Satanic verses is a long complicated book; it is full of subplots, dream sequences and sometimes confusing surrealism. The part of the novel that is considered the most controversial (the chapters concerning the prophet Mohammed or Mahound) are actually only a small part of the novel. With out excerpt we wanted to give a taste of the main plot of the book, concerning Gibreel and Chamcha's transformation, but to also focus specifically on the controversial parts.
Summary: Gibreel and Chamcha – Part 1 • -Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha are present day Indian Muslim actors. Saladin is a voice actor who has abandoned his family’s traditions in place of an English education and lifestyle. Gibreel is a famous Indian movie star (a playboy of sorts) who portrays various religious figures in his films • In a twist of fate, they both meet on a plane that has been hijacked by terrorists (for 111 days). After the terrorists demands are not met, they blow up the plane mid-air above London and send Gibreel and Saladin plummeting to their…..rebirth? • During their fall they undergo a metamorphosis, Saladin is reborn as a ‘devil’ and Gibreel is reborn as an ‘angel’, manifested in their respective outward appearances (goat-legs/horns vs. halo) • Upon arrival, Saladin is arrested for being considered an illegal immigrant. Gibreel does not intervene. As the metamorphosis of devil-like attributes accumulates, Saladin is abused by police, becomes outcasted by his wife and workplace, and develops resentment and jealousy towards Gibreel.
Summary:Gibreel and Chamcha – Part 4 • - Chapter 1. Chamcha's life falls apart and his transformation into Devil creature continues. He is forced to rely on the help of the Indian immigrants he has tried for decades to separate himself from. As Chamcha becomes more alienated and bitter, he begins to obsess jealously about Gibreel, this sparks a destructive fit of rage, which transforms Chamcha back into human form. • -Chapter 2. Gibreel is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. His mental health strains his relationship with Allie Cone. His delusions get the best of him twice, and he wanders off into London believing he is the Angel Gibreel. Gibreel is convinced to resume his acting career after running into an important movie producer, Sisodia.
Summary: Chamcha and Gibreel – Part 7 and 9 • -Chamcha's is consumed by an obsessive hatred of Gibreel, and sets out to ruin him. Chamcha exploits Gibreel's mental health and insane jealousy over Allie. He plants doubts in Gibreel's mind over Allie faithfulness, and then phones Gibreel constantly pretending to be Allie's lovers. Gibreel eventually is driven totally insane. He goes on another journey through London, believing he is Angel Gibreel. Gibreel eventually figures out what Chamcha has done. • -Racial tensions errupt into violence in the city. Chamcha's wife killed in a fire that is set by the police to cover up incriminating evidence. Chamcha rushes into a building to save the Indian family that housed him while he was in Devil form, and gets trapped. He is saved by Gibreel. • -Chamcha returns to India to be with his dying father. They make amends and Chamcha is with him as he dies. Chamcha reunites with Zeeny, and starts to come to terms with his heritage, but is still troubled by what he did to Gibreel. He learns that Gibreel has murdered Allie and Sisodia, and then disappears. Gibreel visits Chamcha and confesses, then kills himself.
Summary: Gibreel’s Dreams - Mahound • -The Satanic Verses is a frame story, throughout the book, the main Chamcha/Saladin narrative is interupted by dream sequences where Gibreel takes on the role of the Angel Gabriel. • • Mahoundis introduced as a businessman and prophet living in the city of Jahilia • • The city seems prosperous at first, commerce and religion integrated, 360 God’s to worship. • • Mahound and his few disciples are alienated for their belief of one God, Allah, as spoken by God, through the archangel Gibreel, to Mahound. • • The Grandee of Jahilia offers the businessman Mahounda deal. If Prophet Mahound can include three more gods to his revelations, Jahiliawill officially recognize his words and • elect him to counsel.
Summary: Gibreel’s Dreams – Mahound 2 • • Mahound goes in search of Gibreel to agree with his wanting revelation, Gibreel has no answer. Somehow, without Gibreel’s help, Mahound gets the revelation he wanted. • • Interestingly, Gibreel introduces himself as ‘not just playing the archangel but also him, the businessman, the Messenger, Mahound.’ and ‘Nifty cutting is required to pull off this double role, the two of them can never be seen in the first shot, each must speak to empty air’ • • The masses of Jahiliaare happy with the news from Mahound. However, he is challenged by his disciples, who are losing faith, and Hinda, the Grandee’s powerful wife who does not • agree with Mahound’srevelation and seeks war (her God is female). • • Mahound again goes to Gibreel and has a new revelation, his last was spoken to him by Satan, not Gibreel. Again, Gibreel does not say this at all, but Mahound is convinced, as • are his disciples. • • The city becomes overrun with prostitutes, crime, and laws. Other cities offer new religions, new hopes, people start to leave the unstable Jahilia. Mahoundand his disciples included.
Summary: Gibreel’s Dreams – Mahound 3 • -In Part 6 we return to Jahalia 25 years after the previous dream. The Poet Baal is visited by Salman, the former official scribe of Mahound, who lost faith and deserted. Salman talks about how tested Mahound's status as prophet by changing the recordings of Mahound revelations. Mahound did not notice, so Salman lost faith and left. • -Mahound and his army march on Jahalia. Jahalia has declined in power since the last dream, and passively surrenders. Baal eludes Mahound by becoming a guard in a brothel where he is able to overhear customers talk about their discontent with Mahound. At Baal's suggestion, the prostitutes in the brothel take on the identities of Mahound's wives for customers. Eventually Mahound shuts down the brothel and executes Baal, then dies shortly thereafter.
Summary: Gibreel’s Dreams – Ayesha and the Imam • Part 4 concerns two of Gibreel's dreams/visions. In Dream One we are introduced to the Imam, an exiled Muslim spiritual leader. From his base in London, the Imam broadcasts radio messages inciting a revolution. Gibreel flies the Imam to Jerusalem to watch a bloody religious revolution. Dream Two concerns an Indian village where a girl Ayesha begins seeing visions of the Angel Gibreel. Eventually she leeds the whole town off on a pilgrimage to he sea, she predicts that the water will part for them, and they will be able to cross the ocean. • -In Part 8 the Ayesha narrative continues. Ayesha leads her followers to the sea. Many of the pilgrims die or lose faith on the way, Ayesha becomes more and more uncompromising. When they finally reach the sea, Ayesha leads her followers into the ocean, where they drown. We see their end from two perspectives, that of the onlookers who see a mass suicide, and from the point of view of Ayesha and the faithful, who believe to the sea has actually parted.
Style • The genre of the book is that of magical surrealism, i.e. paradoxical events are surrounded by real events in which the characters accept them as they are. As seen by the magical transformations of the main characters into an Angel and Devil. • Since the illogical events are surrounded by logical parts, this story is also told in the form of a frame tale. Just like One Thousand and One Nights. Where a story is told within a story. • The story is told from many points of view, including that of a narrator. The narrator assumes the role of the omniscient, occasionally making his presence known to the reader through first person. Some hinting to the reader that he is Shaitan. • Rushdie uses idioms in his work like North American writers do, assuming that everyone will understand them. However, Rushdie knows many readers will not understand, so he uses his idioms to flavour the passages and to intrigue his readers into learning more in order to understand the book better. However, this can confuse many readers into never finishing the book. • Rushdie also writes the novel in a very unique way, bypassing grammar, syntax and spelling. Creating his own perfectly legible and understandable words, much like Shakespeare with a little bit of the Italian Futurist mixed in. • Rushdie alludes to a lot of works within his work to help the reader understand better. The works he alludes to are not just religious in nature, nor are they all English. He uses direct reference to Shakespeare to foreshadow the ending.
Theme – Metamorphasis/Reincarnation • “To be born again, first you have to die.” • Metamorphosis and reincarnation go hand in hand in this novel to the point that the words are interchangeable depending on the character. • Both physical, emotional, and moniker metamorphosis and reincarnation are covered in the novel. • Gibreel: • He was born Ismail Najmuddin and then reincarnated into Gibreel Farishta. • When he was young he was obsessed about reincarnation and the supernatural. However, after he got mysteriously ill, he changed for the worse as he lost his faith in everything. • His metamorphosis included that in which he wanted love, became “Don Juan” and once again became monogamous to Alleluia. • He is given a new birth after surviving the plane explosion. • His physical metamorphosis was that in resembling an Angel, and he believes he is an angel, at one point believing himself to be Azraeel. • In film he is the incarnation of many gods, and angel and prophet.
Theme – Metamorphasis/Reincarnation 2 • Saladin: • He was born Salahuddin Chamchawala and then mutated into Saladin Chamcha. • He always wished to be reincarnated into that of a proper Englishman and his transmutation begun well before he left for England when he was thirteen. This was aided by his father and the Englishmen who refused to help him. • His mother dies, and his father marries a new woman. “Rejoice, for what is lost is reborn.” Her name is the same as his mother’s. This is also done with other character’s names. • His metamorphosis into an Englishman, into a married Englishman, then he returns to India where he becomes an Indian trying to be white trying to be Indian, and has an affair with Zeeny. He returns to be an Englishman. Later on, his metamorphosis is rooted on forgiveness and revenge. • His physical mutation is that into a goat-like creature, can be called demonic in presence.
Theme – Rushdie’s Satanic Influences • - The narrator assumes a spectator role, occasionally letting his presence to the reader through first person. Sometimes hinting to the reader that he is Shaitan. • - At the conclusion of Gibreel and Saladin’s fall • ‘As to omnipresence and-potence, I am making no claims at present’ (pg 10) • - In the introduction of Mahound, the narrator pauses to take a moment and asks the reader “Question: what is the opposite of faith” to which he explains doubt as the human condition, and satirically jokes about God calming down doubtful angels by flattering them, “employing management skills, a la God”. After this brief interjection… ‘I know; devil talk. Shaitan interrupting Gibreel. Me?’ (pg 95) • What is he trying to establish in the reader? Skepticism?
Theme – Religious Faith • -"Death to the tyranny of the Empress Ayesha, of calendars, of America, of time! We seek the eternity, the timelessness, of God...Burn the books and trust the Book; shred the papers and hear the Word, as it was revealed by the Angel Gibreel to the Messenger Mahound and explicated by your interpreter and Imam." (Pg. 217) • -Most of the dream sequences in the novel deal with religious extremism. Religious faith is mostly portrayed in a negative light. In some cases people blindly follow religious leaders to their doom, (Ayesha, the Imam). • 'There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his Prophet,' she replied. • 'The mystical experience is subjective, not an objective truth,' he went on. 'The waters will not open.' • 'The sea will part at the angel's command,' Ayesha answered. • 'You are leading these people into certain disaster.' • 'I am taking them into the bosom of God.' (Pg. 246) • -Religious figures (especially Mahound) are portrayed as self-serving, using other peoples faith to further their own ends. When Gibreel visits prophets to give them revelations, he never has control over his actions. In some cases, such as with the Imam, or Mahound, the revelations are extracted almost violently. This could be symbolic of how religious leaders use religion to justify their own actions, rather than as a moral guide.
Theme – Religious Faith - Continued • "...Salman the Persian got to wondering what manner of God this was that sounded so much like a businessman. This was when he had the idea that destroyed his faith, because he recalled that of course Mahound himself had been a businessman, and a damned successful one at that, a person to whom organization and rules came naturally, so how excessively convenient it was that he should have come up with such a very businesslike archangel, who handed down the management decisions of the highly corporate, if non-corporeal God." (pg. 376) • -Rushdie goes so far as to question whether Mahound (Mohammed), is really a prophet. Most of Part 6 deals with this question. In the excerpt, Salman critisizes Mahound for making up rules as they suit him, and then justifying them with revelations from Gibreel. Salman suspects these revelations are made up, and tests Mahound by falsifying the scriptures. Mahound doesn't notice. • -The issue of "the Satanic Verses" also calls Mahound's revelations into question. The Grandee of Jahalia offers to legitimize Mahound's teaching if he will include 3 of the old goddesses as angels in his teachings. Mahound visits Gibreel and decides to comprimise, but later changes his mind and blames his original decision on "Shaitan". According to Gibreel though, "it was me both times, baba, me first and second also me. From my mouth, both the statement and repudiation, verses and converses, universes and reverses, the whole thing, and we all know how my mouth got worked."-(Pg 126) This calls into question the veracity, and divinity of Mahound's verses.
Theme - Religion & Theatre • - Gibreel and Saladin as actors in real life. The magical transformation into Angel and Devil in the context of a normal world around them. As well as Gibreel being coaxed into portraying religion in his next film • - Pleasing the masses is important in all scenarios. The following of Gibreel Farishta, the city of Jahilia, Titlipur. • - Gibreel the archangel introduces himself as ‘not just playing the archangel but also him, the businessman, the Messenger, Mahound.’ and ‘Nifty cutting is required to pull off this double role, the two of them can never be seen in the first shot, each must speak to empty air, to the imagined incarnation of each other, and trust to technology to create this missing vision, with scissors and scotch tape’ (pg. 111)
Theme - Good/Evil • -The issue of the Satanic verses brings up another theme in the book, morality. Many of the religious characters in the book see morality as black and white. Ayesha, Mahound and the Imam never have any uncertainty about what is right or wrong, morality is seen in absolutes. The power of religion is that it is an uncomprimising idea. • -"First we said, Mahound will never compromise, and you comprimised. Then we said, Mahound has betrayed us, but you were bringing us a deeper truth. You brought us the Devil himself, so that we could witness the workings of the Evil One, and his overthrow by the Right. • -Rushdie satirizes this with the magical transformations of Chamcha and Gibreel, who turn into a Devil and an Angel respectively. Despite their outward appearances, both characters behave for the most part as fairly realistic human characters, capable of good and evil actions. The contrast between their appearance and their actions suggests that morality might be more ambiguous than many of the religious characters see it.
Evaluative Impressions • We all get to talk!
Discussion Questions • How effective is Rushdie’s use of satire? • Is the novel fiction, or blasphemy? • Is religious faith depicted as irrational? Are there rational ways of experiencing religious faith? • Does religion have to be uncomprimising, like it it is portrayed in "the Satanic Verses"? • Are their benefits to religion? Rushdie portrays religion negatively for the most part, do you agree with him?