Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Satanic Verses: Once You Go Brown...

It took me three months to read Midnight's Children, but I finished Satanic Verses in two days.

Maybe I don't understand it as well as I would have if I knew the Qur'an, but I feel like... well, like I got the jist of the thing. Chamcha-the-chameleon who, ironically, remains true to himself throughout his many changes; vs. Gibreel (whom Saladin mistakenly views as the "steady" one) metamorphosing himself to fit his angelic form. The "big idea" that is either fought for or forced to compromise. The central theme of the text seems to be this idea of do you change who you are or do you hold the course; and Rushdie -- or, at least, his characters -- is clearly on the side of hold the course. Saladin's essential nature doesn't change, even when he changes his nationality (and back again).

And yes, even though I don't know the Qur'an, I was able to pick out the parts that were offensive/blasphemous to certain audiences. Those sections of the book kind of... made themselves obvious.

I also noticed something of particular interest (to me, anyway): Rushdie's two prominent White characters, Allie and Pamela, are not only both completely immersed in the British-Indian world (Pamela in particular is never shown interacting with a character who isn't Indian), but they also both subscribe to the once you go brown... theory, which Rushdie just treats as something natural, without need of explanation. And that's kinda awesome.

Tomorrow I'm starting a new book. I decided this time I needed something that would last for more than two days. So I picked the longest novel I knew that I hadn't yet read.

Which means tomorrow I'm starting out on page 1 of War and Peace.


Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity... what is the "once you go brown" theory?


Blue said...

"Once you go brown, you never turn it down.'

Like its sister, "Once you go black, you never turn back."

It's the idea that once (white) women start dating interculturally (technically the phrases refer to sex, but...), they never stop.

Case in point: Obama's Mom. ^__^

Gori Girl said...

I've heard that War & Peace, unabridged, is good for one good read, but afterwards you should return to abridged editions 'cause there's a lot of, um, slow parts. 'Course I'm also just not a fan of Tolstoy's longer works - I think he does better at the short stories (the ones written before he went crazy).

The best pre-modern Russian author, though, is Alexander Pushkin. He started off the whole of Russian literature, and it'd be hard to point to an author who's surpassed him. Eugene Onegin is his masterwork.