Writing Back, Emptying Out and Satanic Narration: Why London Wins Out in Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses

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Author: Myles Chilton, Chiba University, Japan
Published: April 2012
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.1.1.01

Citation: Chilton, M. (2012). Writing Back, Emptying Out and Satanic Narration: Why London Wins Out in Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.1.1.01


Abstract

The Satanic Verses occupies a prominent place in the postcolonial canon because it challenges the social, historical and political place of London by "writing back" or "emptying out" the city’s imperial residues. The novel’s narrative acts of "emptying out" echo postcolonial literature’s broader engagement with the place, legitimacy and ethics of marginalized migrant or diasporic points of view within metropolitan centers. But while The Satanic Verses is imbricated in this postcolonial dynamic, techniques of "emptying" are counterbalanced by the presence of Satan as the novel’s narrator. Both as a symbolic figure and through the story he tells, Satan is identified with a rather more sinister aspect of London: as the narrative challenges, resists and reconfigures London, London mounts a stronger counter-resistance, absorbing blows, tolerating violence to its structures of power, but in the end remaining as it is. The novel’s Satanic London represents how London "plays" with social and cultural identities – allowing marginalized subjects to reimagine themselves and the city – only to foreclose any possibilities for agency, social revolution, and economic equality. In this sense, the real London and the novel’s London both remain fixed entities: changes that appear protean and revolutionary are smothered by the pressure that London continues to exert.

Keywords

London, Satanic Verses, satan as narrator, post-imperial