The Satanic Verses has a unique distinction of being the most Bought-But-Not-Read novel.

If you want to get born again . . .
. . . first you have to die.

There are people who do not consider the novel worth the attention it got due to controversy surrounding it, and there are those that'll tell you it's the most delightful book they have ever read.

From the first chapter the novel grips me and makes me want to read each page twice, for the sheer joy of Rushdie's words. His imagination works overtime in describing the histories of his two main characters, and the reader is taken on a ride most unbelievable.

The novel, however, is not for the cynical to read. Nor for someone looking for serious discussion on whole Satanic Verses (read W/Us below) controversy. It is for the one with love for literature.

I would like to highlight a few things about this smartly written book, in Rushdie's own words.

About Title of Book

"You call us devils?", it seems to ask. "Very well, then, here is the devil's version of the world, of your world, the version written from the experience of those who have been demonized by virtue of their otherness. Just as the Asian kids in the novel wear toy devil-horns proudly, as an assertion of pride in identity, so the novel proudly wears its demonic title. The purpose is not to suggest that the Quran is written by the devil; it is to attempt the sort of act of affirmation that, in the United States, transformed the word black from the standard term of racist abuse into a 'beautiful' expression of cultural pride."

from Rushdie, Salman. "In Good Faith," in Imaginary Homelands (London: Granta): Originally published 1990.

What is Satanic Verses About?

If The Satanic Verses is anything, it is a migrant's-eye view of the world. It is written from the very experience of uprooting, disjuncture and metamorphosis (slow or rapid, painful or pleasurable) that is the migrant condition, and from which, I believe, can be derived a metaphor for all humanity.

Standing at the centre of the novel is a group of characters most of whom are British Muslims, or not particularly religious persons of Muslim background, struggling with just the sort of great problems that have arisen to surround the book, problems of hybridization and ghettoization, of reconciling the old and the new. Those who oppose the novel most vociferously today are of the opinion that intermingling with a different culture will inevitably weaken and ruin their own. I am of the opposite opinion. The Satanic Verses celebrates hybridity, impurity, intermingling, the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures, ideas, politics, movies, songs. It rejoices in mongrelization and fears the absolutism of the Pure. Mélange, hotchpotch, a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world. It is the great possibility that mass migration gives the world, and I have tried to embrace it. The Satanic Verses is for change-by-fusion, change-by-conjoining. It is a love-song to our mongrel selves.

from Rushdie, Salman. "In Good Faith," in Imaginary Homelands (London: Granta): Originally published 1990.

On his use of words unfamiliar to many of his readers

. . . I use them as flavoring. I mean, I can read books from America and I don't always get the slang. American writers always assume that the whole world speaks American, but actually the whole world does not speak American. And American Jewish writers put lots of Yiddish in their books and sometimes I don't know what they're saying. I've read books by writers like Philip Roth with people getting hit in the kishkes and I think, "What?!''

It's fun to read things when you don't know all the words. Even children love it. One of the things any great children's writer will tell you is that children like it if in books designed for their age group there is a vocabulary just slightly bigger than theirs. So they come up against weird words, and the weird words excite them. If you describe a small girl in a story as "loquacious," it works so much better than "talkative." And then some little girl will read the book and her sister will be shooting her mouth off and she will say to her sister, "Don't be so loquacious." It is a whole new weapon in her arsenal.

from The SALON Interview: Salman Rushdie
Complete Interview:

On his characters - Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha
...the character of Gibreel himself is a mixture of two or three types of Indian movie star. There was in the forties a Muslim actor, a very big star at the time, who did somehow get away with playing major Hindu divinities and because he was so popular it was not a problem. And it was interesting to me that mega-stardom allowed you to cross those otherwise quite fraught religious frontiers. So there was a bit of that in Gibreel. And then there was an element of the big South Indian movie stars, a bit of Rama Rao. And finally there was a large bit of the biggest movie star in India for the last fifteen or twenty years, Amitabh Bachchan.

A 'chamcha' is a very humble, everyday object. It is, in fact, a spoon. The word is Urdu; and it also has a second meaning. Colloquially a chamcha is a person who sucks up to the powerful people, a yes-man, a sycophant. The British Empire would not have lasted a week without such collaborators among its colonized peoples. You could say that the Raj grew fat by being spoon-fed.

from one of Rushdie's interviews.
Note: The name "Gibreel Farishta" means "Gabriel Angel" in Urdu and Persian.