Monday, May 19

Literary Heroes Pt 3

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

What a bloody book! Salman Rushdie is like the Piet Mondrian of writing in the way he manages to create such abstraction yet retain such overarching structure. It’s like the literary version of Broadway Boogie Woogie. How I marveled.

The premise? Ha ha, well, the premise is tricky to explain. I mean, it starts logically enough with two men, Gibreal Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, falling to earth after their plane explodes due to a terrorist attack over the English Channel.

“To be born again,' sang Gibreal Farishta tumbling from the heavens, 'first you have to die. Ho ji! Ho ji! To land upon the bosomy earth, first one needs to fly Tat-taa! Takatun! How to ever smile again, if first you won't cry? How to win the darling's love mister, without a sigh?”

Ho ji aside. Naturally, they survive, and are washed up upon a beach and taken in by a woman. The woman, Rosa, cares for them but they start to develop odd features; One develops hooves and the appearance of the devil; the other seems to bloom a halo. Interesting.

The story kicks on from there, but running parallel, and perhaps the crux of the tale, are the dreams of one of the protagonists, Gibreel, who has visions of the journeys and interactions of the Prophet Muhammad.

In this city, the businessman-turned-prophet, Mahound, is founding one of the world's great religions; and has arrived, on this day, his birthday, at the crisis of his life. There is a voice whispering in his ear: What kind of idea are you? Man-or-mouse? We know that voice. We've heard it once before.

The first time I read this piece I was taken more by the abstracted, surreal style of writing than the Muslim-linked content or by the controversy of a fatwā on the author. Call me uneducated, in fact call me whatever you will as I was eight when The Satanic Verses was first released and the most I knew of the Salman Rushdie and the fatwā had been gleaned from Seinfeld.

It's like a sauna in here, huh? I feel like I'm...back at the desert.

Truth be told, after the first read, without knowing in depth the Muslim faith I could barely fathom what the controversy was about other than the experiences of the Prophet Muhammad had been dissected and written about by an absolute artist. I had to dig about on the internet to find out what all the fuss was about and it is interesting hodgepodge of dogma and artistic intentions.

Drama aside the writing is wonderfully sprawling, verging on incoherent and just as you feel you’ve lost the thread of understanding in the quagmire of imagery, you fathom the overarching meaning and he holds his form and the story together.

“Everest silences you...when you come down, nothing seems worth saying, nothing at all. You find the nothingness wrapping you up, like a sound. Non-being. You can't keep it up, of course. the world rushes in soon enough. What shuts you up is, I think, the sight you've had of perfection: why speak if you can't manage perfect thoughts, perfect sentences? It feels like a betrayal of what you've been through. But it fades; you accept that certain compromises, closures, are required if you're to continue.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and reading Salman gave birth to a good six month period in me where I explored the abstraction of narratives. I haven’t written a full piece with this narrative style but I have an idea bubbling away on the back burner that one day I may have the technical prowess to be able to execute.

Broadway Boogie Woogie by Monders

1 comment:

Carolien Hoogenboom said...

I'm surprised that Salman Rushdie would be compared to Piet Mondrian when 'Broadway Boogie-Woogie' was considered a failure by Mondrian.