The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses | Part 7, Chapter 1 : The Angel Azraeel | Summary

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Summary

Saladin, having recently regained human form, reflects on love and London. He recalls a recurring dream in which he helps a small boy—his "imagined son"—learn to ride a bike in a city park. Although he is now human again, he recognizes that coming "back to life" will be difficult, since it is life that has taken all he valued—wife, dream, civilization—away.

Mishal, Hanif Johnson, and Pinkwalla take Saladin back to Pamela's home. He tells her he's moving back in (to the spare room), is going to get his affairs straightened out, and they can then file for divorce. Pamela asks him if he can forgive what happened, but Saladin can't give an answer.

Coming back from the dead proves difficult. Saladin has trouble accessing bank accounts and finding a job. Meanwhile, he and many now-familiar characters (Pamela, Joshi, the Sufayans, Hanif Johnson, and so forth) get involved in protesting the arrest of Dr. Uhuru Simba for the Granny Ripper murders. After a rally-like meeting for the activists, Saladin goes with Jumpy Joshi to a karate class he teaches. Joshi mentions that Alleluia Cone is also one of his students—though she's absent—and that she's seeing Gibreel Farishta. Saladin feels as if the parts of his life are closing on him and connecting in unexpected yet portentous ways. He goes outside and catches a cab. As he rides, he realizes "the change in him was irreversible" and "this was a fact that could not be unmade."

Analysis

In this chapter, Saladin's old life—the one he'd worked so hard to create—falls apart. Since he was presumed dead, he's lost access to bank accounts, lost his wife, lost his job, and lost his hope for a (British) family of his own. As he realizes at the end of the chapter, his "old existence" is gone. Whatever new existence he will have will not be the same as the old one. Once again, he will need to reinvent himself. In many ways, he has fulfilled the dying part of the opening line "To be born again ... first you have to die."

However, in some ways the pieces of Saladin's life come together. In fact, he feels them pressing in on him, connecting, creating a web that feels more like a trap than fulfillment. His lifelong struggle has been to control his identity. Yet now events have occurred that are out of his control. The metamorphosis of old life to new life is irreversible, in contrast to his physical transformation, which proved to be a temporary change.

The theme of forgiveness is introduced here in the conversation between Saladin and Pamela. She asks, "I suppose ... that what I did was unforgivable, huh?" He answers, "I don't think I can say what I'm capable of forgiving ... the jury's out." Later he thinks of a story about "the nature of the unforgivable." The question of what is forgivable and what is unforgivable will continue to be a feature of the novel's later sections.

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