The Satanic Verses

What Kind of Idea Are You?

Because of last week’s terrorist attack in Paris, I have rescheduled my previously planned prompts so that I can present one that originates from Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses.”

Have you read this man's work?  You should.  (Original photo by David Shankbone.  Photo edits by Parzi.)

Have you read this man’s work? You should. He’ll win a Nobel Prize unless the selection committee is too afraid.  (Original photo by David Shankbone. Photo edits by Parzi.)

The novel gained notoriety because a string of similarly motivated murders, death orders, and bookstore bombings followed its publication.  However, few people realize that the novel stands as a great aesthetic achievement.  You can read the novel and take pleasure from Rushdie’s writing style even if the disjointed storyline doesn’t appeal to you.

Also, contrary to popular belief, the novel does not seem to have been specifically anti-Islam in intent; people who read this book seeking hatred of Muslims will only find severe disappointment.  It’s more philosophical and critical of religion in general, but religion is arguably not the book’s central theme.  If you didn’t know that the word Islam translates literally as “submission,” you might not even recognize how Rushdie was using Islam as an example for one of his larger claims.  The “offending” portion takes up only 30-40 pages out of approximately 600 total.

“The Satanic Verses” impressed me like few other novels have and I am pleased to offer you a passage from this book as this week’s prompt:

What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.

Play close attention to the phrasing.  The prompt does not ask whether you tend to compromise or not.  Compromise, dealmaking, and survival mean and imply different things when an idea is at issue.  Therefore, before jumping into your response to this prompt, you should consider reflecting on what it means for an idea to compromise (etc.) and how that might translate into human actions.  You might also benefit from thinking in terms of how an idea is structured; for instance, it might be an all-or-nothing proposition or be constructed exclusively of impeccable logic, etc.

Compose and publish your response to this prompt on your own blog.  Be sure to include a link to this post so that a pingback will appear here, thereby allowing other participants to discover your work.  Please be patient if your pingback does not appear immediately; I am not at my computer 24/7 and I have to approve all pingbacks.  For this reason, using the bcandelabra tag may be advisable.