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The Satanic Verses
By Salman Rushdie (1988)
First American Edition, First Printing (1989)
DESCRIPTION: If 1865 to 1900 is seen as the years when the American arts finally started receiving global respect for the first time, then undoubtedly the same can be said about the 1970s through 2000s and India; and if people like Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and Henry James are seen at the brightest shining beacons of that age, then Salman Rushdie can undoubtedly be seen as one for our own times, a constantly controversial but hugely popular figure who has almost singlehandedly put the Indian lit scene on the world map for the first time in history. And whew, it doesn't get any more controversial than his fourth novel, 1988's The Satanic Verses, which let's not forget resulted in no less than a fatwa (call for fatal punishment) by the supreme religious leader of the nation of Iran, to the tens of millions of faithful who follow him; which is ironic, given that this book is actually a highly sympathetic look at the Muslim/British immigrant experience, and that the parts that upset conservative Muslims so badly were written that way specifically in an attempt to connect more with conservative Muslims. See, for those who don't know, it's important to remember that Rushdie is one of the most well-known proponents of the "magical realism" style of literature, in which a real-sounding story is combined with dreamlike elements to hopefully tell a more powerful tale than before, a hallmark of Postmodernism in general and especially common among writers of color who have done well in the academic world (see also Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Jeffrey Eugenides, etc). And so when Rushdie told his story here of a couple of immigrants trying to make their way in a foreign and hostile London, he added as a magical realism element the plane crash of our two heroes, at which point they symbolically turn into deities and have all sorts of strange godlike adventures but while still living in the real world of grimy immigrant UK; and this includes some fanciful speculating about the prophet Muhammad that conservative Muslims didn't take very kindly to at all, leading to an internationally infamous death threat that drove Rushdie literally underground and into hiding for almost a decade, that resulted in the successful murders of several people involved with the book, that eventually convinced Rushdie to renounce his religious faith altogether, and that inspired a brand-new bestselling book about the whole ordeal, Joseph Anton: A Memoir.
Is The Satanic Verses insulting to Muslims? That's a matter for debate, of course; but what's undeniable is that the ensuing controversy instantly made the first edition one of the most collectible books of the entire late 20th century, a book that went from sales of a few hundred copies a week to a quarter million every month, and that to this day is the biggest selling book in the entire history of the Viking Press. And Rushdie himself is well on the way to being considered perhaps the greatest writer in the so far still budding history of India as an independent nation; so for the young serious collector, this modestly priced investment is bound to pay off big in another thirty or forty years, the exact kind of title that people should be collecting right this second if they've decided to be in it for the long haul.
CONDITION: Text and dust jacket: Fine (F). Almost indistinguishable from how the book appeared when brand-new.
PROVENANCE: Purchased by CCLaP at the 35th anniversary celebration of Shake Rattle & Read bookstore, in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, autumn 2011.