Faith vs. Simulacra: Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses

Simon During, "What Was the West?: Some Relations Between Modernity, Colonisation and Writing," in Sport (4:1990), pp. 81-2.

"The move from the sacred as a horizon of social practices to a faith involves the disavowal of the order of simulacrum. To take a recent example: Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses describes certain religious authenticities as if they were simulacra and, to reinforce the message, narrativises attempts to exit from the secular to the transcendental as if they were a form of suicide. No dicourse on human rights or democracy could unleash the violence that Rushdie has: his work does not enter debate, it blasphemes. Rushdie imagined an order from which little can escape: the more the Ayatollah Khomeini insisted that he was acting in the spirit of God and the Prophet's Laws as uttered in the Quran, the more he himself threatened the divine authority of that text. For Rushdie's novel already pictured such protestations as dissimulations, it shows that no human being in touch with the supernatural can tell whether they are being addressed by divine truth or the fallen order of political expediency. (It reminds us that Muhammed, the angel Gabriel's familiar, was a victim of such confusion himself at least at on point of his career.) Was the Ayatollah shoring up the Shi-ites' position? Did Satan whisper in his ear? By representing such possibilities the novel drags its targets into the era of the (post) modern. Rushdie's novel knows that, from within the zone of simulacra, the only way that a ground can be located is by dealing out death. From the other side however: where simulacra do not exist, there can be no blasphemy‹only mistakes and transgression like Makereti's."


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