My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A confounding, challenging book that leaves impactful philosophical impressions! This book is so many things: a weird odd-couple story that crosses the planes, a tale of the immigrant experience in England, and a fable about surrender to religion versus a rigorous adherence to secular science. I found the narrative to be lovely, especially the description of Jahilia's marketplaces, the sounds, smells, all those bright images.
Rushdie is working on multiple layers. Jahilia is also the state of ignorance of divine guidance, and it is here that the character Mahound (who is based on Muhammad) is tested. This depiction is one of the largest sources of controversy to this novel, which is supposedly sacrilegious, though it is actually not an attack on Islam or even religion at all. It's a story about life's experiences, and how our perception of the essence of life changes as we change.
Throughout the story, we are posed questions even by a God character about who and what we are and what we mean. Whether these are meaningful questions to the reader depends on your ability to be open or closed, as Mirza Saeed Akhtar learns. Sometimes it's better to hold one's breath and swim and sometimes not.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though I expected more controversy. I'm shocked that Rushdie is persecuted by expressing thoughts that are entirely beneficial to humanity. Questions are never bad. Doubt isn't bad. Answers, especially those that are so certain never to be questioned, will be our ruination.
The writing itself is dense and can be challenging, especially drawing from so many sources. Read it slowly and enjoy it.
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