I found this New Yorker profile on Salman Rushdie and the fatwa to be quite interesting. I read The Satanic Verses about ten years ago and had very mixed feelings about it. As a novel, it's too Dickensian for my tastes: a number of indelible characters, but a plot that, magical realist beginning aside, hits mostly the expected points for a multiculturalist exploration of London (it may, in this respect, suffer from having birthed a genre that has surpassed it; I'm not a critic inclined to give points for having been there first). It also may be inadvertently responsible for the "everything in the world is connected!" genre of movie (e.g. Babel), which is possibly my least favorite movie genre. But even this is beside the point of the novel itself: it's perfectly fine and worth the time to read, though I'm not sure I'd ever out-and-out recommend it to someone.
As a political cause, it's an odd book, since it's a partial criticism of a lot of things: England rejecting Britishness, immigrants who want to deracinate, immigrants who don't want to deracinate, the backwardness of Indian culture, of the tendency to compromise revelation in the face of politics, of the unwillingness to compromise revelation in the face of reason, but rather emphatically not a criticism of Islam. But it's the cause we got, and Rushdie is obviously and indisputably within his rights as an author, and so we're on his side, even if the novel is not the greatest ever written, and even if Rushdie sometimes seems insufferable as a person. But then, who doesn't?
Labels: politics and literature