Two Indian actors, Gibreel and Saladin fall from an exploding air plane over England and survive. Gibreel discovers he has a halo, while Saladin has grown horns and hoofs. How can it be?
What follows is a crazy trip in present and past tense, stories from the Quran, the (fictitious) real-life and dream-life. There are a million (or it feels like) characters, and many have names from both the Bible and the Quran, although they are set in a more modern world. And I’m sure it’s a significance behind it, but I got lost in the various characters and couldn’t follow the plot as much as I’d like to. I put that down to not having enough knowledge of religious texts and a brain not able to follow crazy plots.
But that doesn’t necessary mean that the book is bad. It certainly has its strong points – like the present-day story of Gibreel and Saladin. That story is also the easiest to follow and also the story that I found most interesting. But some of the historical stories were entertaining too, especially that one about the brothel. Rushdie writes with a satirical wit, so when I get the jokes I laughed, but most of them probably went over my head.
Is it possible to mention this book without saying something about the controversy? I don’t think it is. Salman Rushdie was issued a fatwa because of its blasphemy. I think it’s important to read controversial books, because I believe in the freedom of speech. But I doubt this book would be famous without the controversy.
Is it a book worth reading? I find that question difficult to answer. I put this down as a book you should read, but that is because of the context, and not because of the story itself. I’d rather recommend Midnight’s Children than this. Rushdie has written many books throughout his career, and I’m glad I’ve got a lot of them on my shelves.