The Satanic Verses is a novel with a devilish delight in disaster, transforming the sufferings of a manic world with a jubilant, generous spirit. In style, conception, and sheer creative energy, it is as unmistakably Salman Rushdie’s as Midnight’s Children and Shame. Proper London, bhai! ‘ a man yells as he falls alive from the sky: ‘Here we come! The bastards won’t know what’s hit them!’
A jumbo-jet has exploded in a terrorist attack, and in a rain of airline trolleys and human limbs two miraculous survivors plummet towards England. Gibreel, a movie star, is ‘cavorting’ in the Fall:
‘swimming in air, butter fly- stroke, breast-stroke, bunching himself into a ball, spreadeagling himself against the almost-infinity of almost-dawn, adopting heraldic postures, rampant, couchant, pitting levity against gravity.’
Saladin, his fellow-survivor, is an advertising voice-over, hurtling down resignedly, his jacket tightly buttoned, ‘taking for granted the improbability of the bowler-hat on his head’. As they pass through the clouds and London opens before them like a ‘wonderland’, Gibreel, clasped in Saladin’s embrace, begins to flap his and and sing, wafting them gently towards the Channel.