Plot outline for Chapter V

Back in contemporary London, the guilt-ridden Jumpy Joshi takes the goatlike Saladin Chamcha back to his apartment above the Shaandaar Café, dominated by Hind, the wife of Muhammad Sufyan. (The name of the cafe means something like “splendid” or “glorious.”) This Hind is not as lascivious as the one in the “satanic verses” plot, but she is almost as fierce. She has two teenaged daughters–Mishal and Anahita–who will become fascinated with the strange man/devil that Saladin has become. We pause in the plot to learn more about the family and its interrelationships. Hind muses on the disgusting weirdness that is London.

A dream provides details of Saladin’s escape from the “hospital.” He phones his old work partner, Mimi Mamoulian, only to find that he has lost his job. He briefly encounters the name of Billy Battuta, who will figure prominently in the novel later. His old boss, Hal Valance, explains why his television series has been cancelled. He is enraged to learn that Gibreel is alive, and–far from helping him out in any way–is claiming he missed Flight 420 and seems to be engaged into making his “satanic verses” dreams into a movie. Meanwhile his wife has become pregnant by Jumpy. Everything seems to be conspiring against Saladin; and, battered into submission by fate, he loses his supernatural qualities after a visit to the bizarre Hot Wax nightclub. A subplot involves a series of gruesome murders of old women for which the black militant leader Uhuru Simba is arrested.

The next section returns to the story of Allie Cone, detailing her childhood and young adulthood. Her reunion was Gibreel is passionate, but it will be spoiled by his insane jealousy. Again haunted by Rekha Merchant, a deranged Gibreel tries to confront London in his angelic persona, but he is instead knocked down by the car of film producer S. S. Sisodia, who returns him to Allie and signs him up to make a series of films as the archangel of his dreams. Again he tries to leave Allie, but a riot during a public appearance lands him back again, defeated, at Allie’s doorstep. At the end of the chapter we learn that a most uncharacteristic heat wave has broken out in London.

Notes to Chapter V

Page 241


A City Visible but Unseen

Rushdie says of this chapter title:

it seemed to me at that point that [the London Indian community] really was unseen. It was there and nobody knew it was there. And I was very struck by how often, when one would talk to white English people about what was going on, you could actually take them to these streets and point to these phenomena, and they would somehow still reject this information.

Rushdie: “Interview,” p. 68.

Page 243

[251] Once I’m an owl
A quotation from Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, Book III, Chapter 16 in which the main character, trying to persuade a sorceress to transform him into an owl seeks reassurance that he can resume his own shape. He is instead changed into an ass, and can only be changed back into his human form again by praying to the goddess Isis.

People who have gone on the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca (Arabic). See above, note on p. 235 [242].

VCR addicts
Rushdie, like many Indians and Pakistanis calls videotapes “VCRs” instead of “videos.” Videotapes of Indian films, particularly musicals, were a staple of emigre entertainment.

in Dhaka . . . when Bangladesh was merely an East Wing
Before it seceded in the bloody war of 1971, the territory now known as Bangladesh constituted the isolated East Wing of Pakistan. Its capital is more commonly spelled “Dacca.” Information about Bangladesh.

Why does Mr. Sufyan refer to himself as an emigrant rather than as an immigrant?

Lucius Apuleius of Madaura
Author of the famous Latin 2nd century satirical classic, The Golden Ass. Apuleius was in fact not from Morocco (Verstraete 328-329). See above, note on p. 243 [251].

Page 244


Proverbially lustful half-men, half goats.

Originally an Egyptian fertility goddess, she had been transformed in Apuleius’ time into the center of a mystery cult and was usually called “Sarapis.” The story of Apuleius’ transformation by Isis.

begum sahiba
Honored wife/lady (Hindi, Urdu).


Wing Chun
The name of a Chinese Kung Fu style associated with a woman named Yim Wing Chun. It is traditionally considered a woman’s form of fighting though it is very popular among men as well.

Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee (1940-1973) was the star of many kung fu movies. Note how cross-cultural this reference is: an Indian immigrant emulating a Chinese hero using the skills taught her by an Indian instructor. Lee himself was an immigrant, having been born in San Francisco, moved to Hong Kong, educated at the University of Washington and moved back to the U.S. His early death stimulated a cult surrounding his memory which is reflected in the girls’ pajamas. More information about Bruce Lee.

Page 245

the new Madonna
The singer Madonna Louise Veronica Cicone, born 1958.

the Perfumed Garden
A title for Heaven: orig. Gulistan.


Bibhutibhushan Banerji
Distinguished author of the Apu Trilogy, memorably made into films by Satyajit Ray (see below, p. 440 [454]).

See above, note on. p. 228 [235].

One of the oldest Sanskrit Hindu devotional texts. Excerpts: Creation hymn from the Rig Veda.

The Noble Qur’an. See Mecca sharif, above, p. 235 [242].

military accounts of Julius Caesar
Caesar’s De Bello Gallico (Gallic Wars) are an account of his own campaigns in what is now France and Germany, and were the beginning text for generations of Latin students.

Revelations of St. John the Divine
The apocalyptic last book of the Christian Bible.

Page 246

Lentil crepes (Hindi). Also called “dosais.”

Thick pancakes of lentil and rice flours containing onions and chilies.

A very small unit of weight: .41 ounces or 11.677 grams (Hindi).

Page 248


A pun on U.K. (United Kingdom) and some other word?

A book of Bengali songs by Tagore (see above, p. 228 [235]), published in 1914?

Poems idealizing country life, by the Roman 1st century BC poet, Virgil. Translation of the Eclogues.

Shakespeare’s play, named after the Moor who is its leading character. The text of the play.


Narrowly, a combination of diced fruit and vegetables in a hot and sour dressing, sometimes including meat or shrimp; more broadly, any sort of snack food. Chaat recipes.

gulab jamans
Fried cheese pastry balls soaked in syrup, a classic Indian sweet, more often spelled “gulab jamun.”

See above, note on p. 184 [190].

Page 249

See above, note on p. 184 [190].

Page 250


genuine McCoy
The usual expression is “the real McCoy,” said of anything genuine and derived from the whiskey smuggled into the U.S. during Prohibition by Captain Bill McCoy.

See note on London shareef above, p. 156 [160].

Female bastard.

girls killed for dowry
In recent years there has been widespread publicity about cases in which young brides were killed because their families did not deliver large enough doweries. Some Indians consider the phenomenon rare and unduly exaggerated in the press, but others maintain it is a serious problem. Articles from Journal of South Asia Women Studies:
Enrica Garzilli: “Stridhana: To Have and To Have Not”.
Himendra B. Thakur: Practical Steps Towards Saving the Lives of 25,000 Potential Victims Of Dowry and Bride-burning in India in the Next Four Years.
Subhadra Chaturvedi: “Whether Inheritance to Women is a Viable Solution of Dowry Problem in India?”.

Page 251


accepted the notion of mutation in extremis
Citing an obscure passage in Charles Darwin’s writings which would lead him to agree in at least some cases with his opponent Lamarck (see above, p. 5[6]).

What is the point of Sufyan’s musings of Darwin?

Page 252


Omens, shinings, ghoulies, nightmares on Elm Street
These refer to horror film titles (The Omen[1976], The Shining [1980)], Ghoulies [1985] and Nightmare on Elm Street [1984] and its sequels).

Der Steppenwolf
This 1927 novel by Hermann Hesse, first translated into English in 1965 has been a favorite of mystics and bohemians.


unauthorized intra-vaginal inspections
Carried out by immigration officials in Britain, looking for smuggled contraband.

Depo-Provera scandals
In 1973 it was revealed in Congressional hearings that numerous poor African-American women had been injected with the experimental contraceptive Depo-Provera despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration had not approved its use, citing concerns about possible side-effects, including cancer. The women were not warned that there was any risk. The drug was approved for use in Great Britain and in many poor countries. Its advocates argued that this simple-to-use contraceptive which could be injected once every three months was ideal for controlling the population explosion among poor, uneducated women. This argument was widely viewed as racist.
Details about Depo-Provera.

unauthorized post-partum sterilizations
Instances of sterilizing minority women without their permission immediately after they had given birth are well documented.
Beth Cooper Benajamin: “Sterilization Abuse: A Brief History”.

Third World drug-dumping
Medicines considered unsafe in their own countries are exported from the industrialized nations to poorer countries where they are freely sold.

Page 253

Pence, penny, cent.

A kind of spicy stew. Recipe for yakhni pulau.


the complex unpredictability of tabla improvisations
Performances on the classical Indian drum involve improvisations based on extremely complex rhythms. Introduction to Indian drum rythms, including audio demonstration MIDI format.

Page 254


The Muslim Hell.

The Jewish Hell.

The Norse Hell.

Though the word now means any unstoppable monstrous thing, the name has Indian origins, being the cart bearing the image of Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Krishna, beneath whose wheels fervent worshippers used to throw themselves to be crushed to death. By extension, any large, unstoppable movement or thing. More information on Lord Jagannath.

Page 255



Page 256

bloody but unbowed
From William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” (1888):

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud:
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

(lines 5-8).
More information about Henley and the full text of the poem.

What sorts of thoughts are troubling Saladin?

Page 258


masala dosa
Spicy stuffed pancakes made of lentil flour. Recipe for Masala Dosa. See also dosai.

Traditional British breakfast sausage.

Page 259

Seceded in a bloody war from Pakistan in 1971. See above, p. 243 [251].

as the pips went
In the British telephone system, when one is phoning from a pay phone and the time paid for in advance expires, a number of warning beeps (“pips”) are sounded to alert the user to insert more coins or be cut off.

the man doing find-the-lady
The classic card trick better known as “three card Monte.” Details.


Page 260


Battuta’s Travels
Ibn Battuta was a Medieval Muslim traveler to Asia and Africa whose wanderings took him much farther afield than Europe’s Marco Polo. More about the travels of Ibn Battuta.

Page 261

love of brown sugar
White men’s erotic attraction toward brown-skinned women, seen as exotic.

[270] Yassir Arafat meets the Begins
An unlikely meeting at the time this novel was written: Arafat was leader of the Palestinian Liberation Front, devoted foes of Menachem Begin, former Premier of Israel, intransigently opposed to the Palestinians.

Finnegan’s Wake
James Joyce‘s last novel, written in a densely punning dialect of his own creation, drawing on many mythologies. Joyce’s fondness for puns and other wordplay is clearly influential on Rushdie’s style.

Refers to Edwin Abbott’s geometrical fantasy novel: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884), which depicts a two-dimensional world.

Page 262

she was still protesting too much
When Hamlet has a group of traveling actors portray a scene rather like he murder of his father, the Queen comments on the protestations of loyalty expressed by the wife in the play, ironically (and revealingly): “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (Act III, scene 2, l. 221).

Vinod Khanna
Vinod Khanna, muscular Bollywood action hero, born 1947. A list of his films., Mentioned again on p. 350 [361].

Sri Devi
Female Indian movie star. More about Sridevi.

A city with a large Muslim population. It was here that The Satanic Verses was burned by protesters in one of the seminal acts of the “Rushdie affair.” More about Bradford from the point of view of the city government.

Page 263


Dick Turpin
Famous British highwayman. Information about Dick Turpin.

Ned Kelly
Famous Australian outlaw. More on Ned Kelly.

Phoolan Devi
A woman bandit-leader who, after years of violence and 23 murders, was much romanticized in the Indian press; but when she surrendered to the police, she was revealed to be more militant and less glamorous than had been supposed. A film based on her life, entitled Bandit Queen, was made by Shekhar Kapoor, over her vehement objections. She ran unsuccessfully for office in 1991 and successfully in 1996. She was assassinated in 2001.

William Bonney
American outlaw, Billy the Kid. More information on the outlaw.

also a Kid
Baby goats are called kids too, of course.

bob’s your uncle.
A common British expression of uncertain derivation used at the end of a list meaning something like “and there you are.”

This place makes a packet, dunnit?
This place makes a bundle, doesn’t it?

Page 264


La lutte continue
“The struggle continues:” slogan of several revolutionary movements.

Hal Valance
A valance is a decorative flounce over a window which performs no particular function but looks pretty. The name indicates Hal’s superficial and useless contributions to the world as an advertising executive: mere window-dressing. A catalog of Valances.

Page 265


advice given by Deep Throat to Bob Woodward: Follow the money
“Deep Throat” (referring to the notorious pornographic film by that name) was the code name assigned to the main informant of the Washington Postreporters who uncovered much of the Watergate scandal by tracking the handling of money used by Nixon’s staff to buy silence. The part was played in the film version by Hal Holbrook. The Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein book on the scandal, and the movie based on it, was called All the President’s Men. More information on the movie.

Excessively thin.

Page 266

White Tower
A fashionable Franco-Greek restaurant at 1 Percy Street in London’s West End. Details about The White Tower.

Orson Welles
The famous actor/director who became enormously fat in later years.

Maurice Chevalier
French musical performer and actor in both French and American films.


Mrs Torture
A satire on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Commentators have noted that it is ironic that after Rushdie far more pointedly satirized British racism than Muhammad’s preaching it was the British government which protected him from Islamic extremists.

An accent calculated to be neither precisely British nor precisely American, but somewhere in between.

Mary Wells
Mary Wells made her reputation in advertising in 1965 by creating a highly-successful image makeover for Braniff Airlines which involved painting its airplanes in seven different colors (yellow, orange, turquoise, beige, ochre and two shades of blue–but not pink). See “Braniff Refuels on Razzle-Dazzle,” p. 110. For more on Wells’ campaign see Loomis 114-117.

David Ogilvy for his eyepatch
In the sixties the David Ogilvy agency (for which Rushdie briefly worked) created a highly successful advertising campaign promoting Hathaway shirts worn by a male model with a black patch over one eye.

Jerry della Femina
When della Femina was asked by executives at the Bates advertising agency to suggest ideas for an ad campaign for Panasonic he jokingly suggested “From those wonderful folks who gave you Pearl Harbor.” He thought highly enough of this anti-Asian crack to make it the title of his 1970 volume of humorous reflections on the ad business (della Femina 103). Since the slogan was never really a part of della Femina’s “work” in advertising, one may assume that Rushdie is recalling it for its xenophobic thrust.

American “asses.”

Valance in the Blofeld role and 007 nowhere on the scene
Refers to a James Bond villain. Information on Blofield.

Page 267


Dr Uhuru Simba
Ironically combines the Swahili slogan “Uhuru!” (freedom) with a word for “lion” associated with Tarzan films.

Brown Uncle Tom
A complex reference to the legendarily submissive slave in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s School Days (1857) set at Rugby, the British public (private) school which Rushdie himself attended. Rugby School page. See also below, p. 292 [301].

Page 268


A tuft of hair standing up in front.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian-born body-builder and action-movie star. Another immigrant. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s home page.

A computer-imaging firm. The new figure is a latex model whose image is computer processed. The Quantel home page.

Rutger Hauer
This Dutch-born actor played the menacing Roy Batty in Blade Runner. Pictures of Roy Batty.

Insulting Yiddish term for a gentile woman. Often spelled shikse.

How have the Black protests against the Aliens Show backfired?

Page 269


rosbif, boudin Yorkshire, choux de bruxelles
Ironically French labels for typically boring English foods: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, brussels sprouts.

Term invented by Vladimir Nabakov in Lolita to describe a highly attractive preadolescent girl. Study guide for Lolita.

Page 270


like a goat to the slaughter
The usual phrase is “like a lamb to the slaughter,” from Isaiah 53:7 or “as a lamb to the slaughter” from Jeremiah 53:7.

Page 271

Tini bénché achén! . . . Farishta bénché achén
He’s alive. Farishta (Gibreel) is alive.

See above, note on Blitz, p. 13.


michelins sticking out between her sari and her choli
See above, p. 60. Traditional Indian dress for women includes a short bodice called a choli which leaves some bare flesh below the breasts and above the waist.

Lambrakis . . . Z
Dr. Gregory Lambrakis was a popular leftist parliamentary deputy in the Greek government who was assassinated on May 22, 1963 in a plot by extreme right terrorists (who eventually seized power in 1967 and began a reign of repression and terror). He was widely viewed as a martyr, and protestors wrote the letter “Z” on walls, meaning zei, “he lives.” His story was told in a novel entitled Z by Vassilis Vassilikos in 1966; and the novel was in turn made into a major film by Constantine Costa Gavras in 1969. Interview with the director.

Page 272

Billy Battuta
See note above, p. 260 on Battuta’s travels.


The Message
A reverent but inept 1976 film, originally released as Al-Risalah (English, Mohammed, the Messenger of God, ) depicting the life of Muhammad, fiercely attacked by devout Muslims, who object to any pictorial depiction of the Prophet. As Rushdie notes, the film avoided ever actually putting the Prophet on the screen. This passage clearly reflects Rushdie’s consciousness that the story he was about to tell would strike some as blasphemous.

Page 273
Why is Saladin so furious with Gibreel?

Page 274

[283] Struwelpeter
Struwwelpeter (the usual spelling) is a wildly naughty boy who features in verse stories by nineteenth-century German children’s author Heinrich Hoffmann. Mimi has presumably taken on the name as a joke. Struwwelpeter stories.

Page 275

It was so, it was not
A standard opening phrase in Indian fantastic stories, often used by Rushdie; equivalent in function to the European “Once upon a time” but emphasizing the equivocal nature of the narrative it introduces.


baggy salwar pantaloons
Typically voluminous women’s trousers.

bottled djinn
This pun on the Arabic word for “genie” and “gin” (both found in bottles) is also repeatedly used in Midnight’s Children.

Elephant Man illness
Neurofibromatosis, from the circus name of its most famous victim, Joseph Carey (John) Merrick (1862-1850). A 1974 play about Merrick called The Elephant Man was produced in 1979, and a movie by the same title appeared in 1980. Teacher’s guide to The Elephant Man. Information on the film.

Page 276

Big Eid
Muslim holiday commemorating Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Ishmael (in Jewish and Christian traditions, Isaac), called “big” to distinguish it from the “little” Eid which ends Ramadan. Information about Big Eid.


In Islam, the spiritual head of a mosque.

Lucretius . . . Ovid
In a passage from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things, Book V, lines 670-671) (See Verstraete 231-232). the first century BC philosopher poet Lucretius suggests that life may have evolved. His contemporary Ovid’s Metamorphoses retell the classic Greco-Roman myths focusing on the magical transformations that people and gods undergo into new forms. The passage quoted is from Book 15, lines 169-172 (Verstraaete 331). Book V of De Rerum Natura.

Page 277


cuckold’s horns
In the Renaissance and later cuckolds–men whose wives are unfaithful to them–were said to wear horns.

passionate intensity
Alludes to Yeats’ 1920 poem “The Second Coming,” lines 6-8:

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Page 278

pot and kettle
An old expression applied to those who criticize people when they are guilty of the same fault to a greater degree compares them to a pot calling a kettle black.

mote and beam
In Matthew 7:3 Jesus similarly criticizes those who judge others by saying that they object to the “mote” (dust speck) in another person’s eye when thy have a “beam” (plank) in their own.

the David Carradine character in the old Kung Fu programmes
Refers to a popular but odd 1970s television series (revived in 1992) featuring a Zen Buddhist monk wandering the Wild West, seeking peace but forever forced to do battle with evil.

Notting Hill
Where Rushdie himself used to live.

lower thumb

Page 280


The Freemasons is a fraternal organization that in its early years combined rationalism with mysticism.

Caribbean name for a kind of black magic rooted in African tradition. More information on obeah.

witchfinding . . . Matthew Hopkins
See note above on p. 182, on Matthew Hopkins. Martine Dutheil points out that Rushdie is deliberately associating with the English superstitious practices which they normally attribute scornfully only to their former colonial subjects (Dutheil 107, fn. 24).

Name used by Renaissance poets to refer to Queen Elizabeth I. When she spoke, people listened.

New Broomstick Needed to Sweep Out Witches
This would seem to be the title of an article written by or about Pamela rather than a real book.

Page 281


her hair had gone snow-white
Like Ayesha in the Titlipur plot (see p. 225).

Page 282


Monstrous mutant, usually the result of exposure to radiation; more commonly “mute.”

yellowbrick lane
Alludes to the Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard of Oz, which leads to the Emerald City, and Brick Lane in London, where many Asians live, and which is transformed into Brickhall in the novel (see below, note on Brickhall, p. 283.)

Page 283


he pronounced no sentences
Pun: didn’t announce sentences of criminals/didn’t speak.

Kurus and Pandavas
The two families (cousins) whose war is the principal subject of the Mahabharata

The classic epic which is a central text of Hinduism.

Great foreign country. See Vilayet, above, p. 4.

National Front
A racist, anti-immigrant British political organization.

murder of the Jamaican, Ulysses E. Lee
(perhaps incongruously combining the names of the opposing chief generals in the American Civil War: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.)

The Brickhall Three
“Brickhall” is a blending of the names of two Asian neighborhoods in London, Brick Lane and Southhall (Seminck 8). Information about Brick Lane.Protests against the trial of groups of defendants often refer to them by number, i. e. “The Chicago Seven.” The example Rushdie probably had in mind was the “Guildford Four,” imprisoned by the British for a series of 1974 pub bombings after one Gerry Conlon was tortured into confessing. After many appeals, the four were finally vindicated and released. The case was a long-running scandal, described in Gerry Conlon’s Proved Innocent (London: Penguin, 1990). The book was made into a successful film entitled In the Name of the Father (1993). Information about the film.

Page 284

Jatinder Singh Mehta
This allusion to a tavern murder is meant to be typical but is not based on an event involving anyone by this specific name (personal communication from Salman Rushdie).


bhangra beat
The popular dance music of London’s Indian and Pakistani youth, derived from traditional Punjabi dances originally performed at weddings and other celebrations.

Page 285


Jamme Masjid
A mosque in Brick Lane, formerly a Jewish synagogue and a Christian church, reflecting the changing population in the neighborhood. Named after the famous 17th-century Jama, Jami or Juma Masjid in Delhi which is mentioned on p. 519. Information about the Jama Masjid.

Huguenots’ Calvinist church
Calvinism was founded in Switzerland and the Huguenots were French, so even this earliest incarnation of the building was doubly immigrant-based.

Page 286


Sympathy for the Devil
A classically apocalyptic rock song by the Rolling Stones, from their Beggar’s Banquet album. The lyrics of the song.

Eat the Heinz Fifty-Seven.
For years the Heinz Foods Company advertised that it made 57 varieties of canned foods. This parodies the various slogans calling for freeing a certain number of prisoners. Information on the H.J. Heinz Company.

Pleasechu meechu . . . hopeyu guessma nayym
Phonetic rendering of Mick Jagger’s refrain in Sympathy for the Devil: “Pleased to meet you . . . Hope you guess my name.”


Community Relations Council.

What social tensions are reflected in the transformations that London is undergoing?

Page 287

‘This isn’t what I wanted. This is not what I meant, at all.’
From T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” (Note by Martine Dutheil.)

Page 288


the heart, for obvious reasons, in the mouth
“To have one’s heart in one’s mouth” is a common expression for being terrified.

das Ich
The self, the term which is rendered as “ego” in English translations of Freud.

Page 289


I am . . . that I am.
See above, p. 182.

See note above, on p. 125.

What does Saladin mean by these two lines?

In voodoo, Baron Samedi is host of the dead. Information on Baron Samedi.

Page 291


Club Hot Wax
A three-way pun: hot wax means currently popular music (records were formerly made from molded wax masters), a common method of removing body hair, and the custom of literally melting wax figurines depicted below. Rushdie may well have been inspired by reading in Antonia Fraser’s life of Charles II (a person whose life we know he was interested in–see p. 340) of an anti-Catholic celebration held in London on November 17, 1679. In a self-conscious replacement of the traditional Guy Fawkes’ Day ceremony (see below, note on p. 293), wax figures of the pope, attendant devils and nuns (the latter labelled as courtesans) were displayed and the figure of the pope was ceremoniously burned in a huge bonfire (Fraser 384-385).

Aside from its obvious racial associations, the name is the term assigned by the Irish independence movement to the occupying British soldiers based on their uniforms: “the Black and Tans.”

“Pinkwalla” would translate into English as “Pinkman.” The name and character were almost certainly inspired by Jamaican albino dub star Yellowman, as suggested by Nabeel Zuberi in Sounds English: Transnational Popular Music (p. 200). (Kuortti.) Given Rushdie’s subject, it is logical for him to havbe changed the DJ from an albino of African descent to one of South Asian heritage. There are many people of South Asian heritage in parts of the West Indies, particularly in Trinidad.

Page 292

White black man
The character of an Albino DJ seems likely to have been inspired by Yellowman, a popular albino Jamaican musician of the 1980s. More information.

Hamza-nama cloth
See above, p. 69.

Mary Seacole
A black woman who also cared for the troops in the Crimean War, but didn’t gain the same fame as Florence Nightingale, popularly known as “The lady with the lamp.” Mary Seacole bio.

Abdul Karim, aka The Munshi, whom Queen Victoria sought to promote, but who was done down by colour-barring ministers
Abdul Karim served as Victoria’s tutor (“munshi”) in Hindi and personal confidante for many years; but many of her advisors considered him a security risk and tried to discourage the relationship (Moorhouse, pp. 120-121). The Victoria Memorial in Calcutta.

black clown of Septimius Severus
According to the highly unreliable Historia Augusta (written in late antiquity), when Severus (born in North Africa and Emperor of Rome 146-211 AD) encountered a black man widely reputed to be a buffoon, he was not amused, but considered the meeting an ill omen. He urged his priests to consult the organs of a sacrificial animal, which they also found to be black. Not long after, he died. There are some grounds for believing that Severus himself may have been black. See also note on the Triumphal Arch of Septimus Severus, on p. 38.

Bust of Septimus Severus in the Granet Museum, Aix-en-Provence. Photo by Paul Brians.

Grace Jones
Black model and singer popular in the eighties. She may be referred to as a slave because of her album Slave to the Rhythm (1985).

Ukawsaw Groniosaw
He wrote an account of his life in slavery, published in 1774, entitled A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, Written by Himself. Text of the Narrative.

Ignatius Sancho
Ignatius Sancho’s 1782 book is Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, An African. London: J. Nichols, 1782. New ed. by Vincent Carretta. London: Penguin, 1998. Available electronically at

The claim is being made that immigrants have been making contributions to English civilization since the Romans colonized it in the 1st century CE.

Mosley, Powell, Edward Long, all the local avatars of Legree
Racist British politicans. For Enoch Powell, see above, p. 186. “Avatar” is the Hindu term for an incarnation. Simon Legree is the slave-owning villain of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. See above, p. 267 [276].

Page 293


hell’s kitchen
Alluding to the popular name of an area on the West Side of Manhattan dominated by gangs and crime in the later 19th century. More about Hell’s Kitchen.

Maggie-maggie-maggie . . . Burn-burn-burn
A play on the chant “Maggie Maggie Maggie, out out out” commonly heard in left-wing demonstrations in the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher is being melted in effigy.

the guy
On November 5 English children celebrate the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the houses of Parliament by burning in effigy the chief criminal, Guy Fawkes. They go from house to house asking for “a penny for the Guy” to finance the creation of the effigy.

Pinkwalla’s comment “The fire this time,” alludes to James Baldwin’s 1963 book The Fire Next Time.

See above, note for p. 280 [289].

Alluding to Sewsunker “Papwa” Sewgolum, a “colored” South African championship golfer of South Asian descent who was given his trophy outdoors in the rain because he was excluded from the clubhouse on account of his race.

Page 294

Topsy and Legree
The innocent slave girl and the villainous slaveowner of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. See above, p. 267 [276] & 292 [301].

[304] melted like tigers into butter
Alluding to Little Black Sambo, a children’s book extremely popular until objections against the racist associations aroused by the illustrations and character names led to its fall from favor. In it, the hero cleverly climbs a tree to escape two tigers and allows them to chase each other until they melt into butter which he proceeds to take home to his mother to serve on pancakes. Though most readers imagined the story as set in Africa, tigers do not live there, though they do live in India.

Page 295

[305] Cho Oyu
The name is Tibetan, probably meaning “Goddess of the Turquoise.” Photo and information about Cho Oyu.

A magical kingdom in the Himalayas where no one grows old, described in James Hilton’s Lost Horizons.

This artist experimented with cubism, dadaism, and surrealism; see p. 297 [307].

How does Otto Cone’s philosophy reflect themes in the novel?

Page 296


Father Christmas
British name for Santa Claus.

Chi Premier Mao Tse Tung. Under his rule the Chinese brutally invaded and occupied Tibet. Materials from the Tibet Support Group.


In the beginning was the word
The famous opening line of the book of John.

Page 297

Jewish noodle dish. Cheese kreplach recipe.

pearl without price
Precious jewel worth sacrificing all else for, from Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:45-46; a strikingly Christian allusion from the assimilationist Jewish Otto.

“stuffed monkey”
In 1920 Picabia glued a toy monkey onto a piece of cardboard and labelled it “Portrait de Cézanne, Portrait de Rembrandt, Portrait de Renoir, Natures mortes.” (Barràs 202, 229).

Jarry’s Ubu Roi
Alfred Jarry wrote a series of plays, including this one (Ubu the King) about a vile-tempered, crude tyrant. He was hailed by the surrealists as a genius.


Polish literature . . . Herbert . . . Milosz . . .Baranczak
Zbigniew Herbert, Czeslaw Mislosz, Stanislaw Baranczak.

In cricket, the mid-off (short for mid-wicket off) stands on the off-side, at the other end of the pitch from the batter, near the bowler. He is there mainly to stop the off-drive from the batsman (a shot played straight down the wicket), as well as to assist in catching the throws from other fielders to the bowlers end in case of attempted runouts (David Windsor).

Widow of Windsor!
A term used by Rudyard Kipling to refer to Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert. British monarchs live in Windsor Castle. Victoria made something of a career out of being a widow.

pantomime member
British pantomimes are satirical dramatic productions, usually produced at Christmas. They are not pantomimes in the American sense at all, including as they do dialogue. The equivalent expression would be “cartoon member.”

Page 298

Traditional Jewish stew.

London W-two
W2 is the postal code of Paddington, where they live.

The Jewish festival of lights, also spelled Hanukkah, celebrated in December. Information about Hanukkah.

imitation of life
The 1959 remake of a 1934 film based on a Fannie Hurst novel by the same name, in which the light-skinned daughter of a black woman “passes” for white. Lana Turner stars as an ambitious actress. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson performs in a bit part. More information on the film.

British for “elevator shaft.” Yet another suicide by jumping.

survivor of the camps
The Nazi death camps.


Cecil Beaton
Famous British fashion photographer. He designed costumes for stage and film productions, winning an Oscar for his costume designs for the 1964 film of My Fair Lady. Information about Beaton. A photograph of Audrey Hepburn in one of the award-winning costumes.

Page 299

chimeran graft
Blend of two different plants.


Gurdjieffian mystics
Mystics influenced by the Russian Georgy S. Gurdjieff (1872?-1949), himself influenced by Indian thought. George Baker’s Gurdjieff in America.


gift of tongues
The miraculous ability to speak foreign languages (tongues), often manifested as the recitation of apparent nonsense syllables. The classic instance of this phenomenon is the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-15). More information about speaking in tongues.

Elephants are pachyderms.

Page 300

Moscow Road
A fashionable street northwest of Kensington Gardens.

elephant joke
There was a vogue for elephant jokes in the fifties. The most famous: “Where does an elephant sit down?” Answer: “Anywhere he wants.”

In what ways are both Gibreel and Allie made to feel they are outsiders in England?

Page 301


In mythology, a beast made up of the parts of various animals. The theme of hybridization and transplantation refers to Gibreel’s own immigrant status, of course.


Singer Brothers dybbukery
Her mother interprets Allie’s obsession with Gibreel in Jewish terms. Isaac Bashevis Singer featured a dybbuk (in Jewish folklore, a demonic spirit which can take possession of a human body) in his novel Satan in Goray , where it behaved much like an incubus, a creature which has wild sex with sleeping women. Visions of similar creatures haunt Jegor, a character in The Family Carnovsky, by I. B. Singer’s older brother, Israel Joseph Singer.

Page 302

L’Argent du Poche
“Small Change,” a 1976 François Truffaut film about a group of schoolboys.

Page 303


land’s attempt to metamorphose into sky
Reflects the recurrent theme of metamorphosis.

they were there
When the New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, who had been the first to climb Mount Everest in 1953 (with the Nepalese sherpa Tenzing Norgay), was asked why he climbed mountains, he replied, “Because they are there.” The sherpas are a people who live in the Himalayas and who make much of their living from helping mountain climbers. More information about Hillary.

Namche Bazar
One of the last villages in Nepal in which mountain climbers stop for supplies before attempting to climb Mt. Everest. Information on Namche Bazar.

Page 304


Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell
William Blake’s mystical work combines traditional biblical elements with an enthusiastic celebration of eroticism as a vehicle of spiritual revelation. Like some other romantic poets, he considers the demonic realm depicted in Milton’s Paradise Lost to be not a source of wickedness, but of creative and regenerative energy suppressed by Christianity’s traditional obsession with virginity and chastity. He argues for a reunion of the polarities traditionally radically split off from each other by Christian dualism, as in this passage from p. 3: “Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active spring from Energy.” Compare Blake’s approach to good and evil with that of Rushdie, who blends demonic and angelic characteristics in his two protagonists.

The lust of the goat is the bounty of God
This saying is characteristic of the many unorthodox “Proverbs of Hell” (see p. 8 of The Marriage of Heaven & Hell) praising the whole-hearted enjoyment of life, such as “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom” and “He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.” Goats are traditionally associated with carefree natural sexuality through their connection with satyrs, but are symbols of the damned in Christianity (See Matthew 25:32-33). This ambiguity is much played with throughout the novel. Text of the Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Additional note by Martine Dutheil:
Among the “Proverbs of Hell,” some are strikingly relevant to Rushdie’s artistic project, such as “Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead” (as an image of postcolonial writing’s relation to Western culture); “Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion” (which anticipates the “brothel” sections in Rushdie’s novel); “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough” and, even more significant for Blake and Rushdie’s vision of art, “Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth”.

The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true
17th-Century Irish Archbishop James Ussher (here spelled “Usher”) famously calculated the date of creation, based on biblical chronology, at 4004 BC, and predicted the end of the world in 1996, as referred to on p. 305 [315]. This passage occurs at the top of p. 14 of The Marriage of Heaven & Hell. This statement is followed by these words: “For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.” There then follows the phrase quoted at the top of p. 305 [315]: “This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.”

What are the main themes of the section during which Gibreel examines Allie’s copy of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell?

Page 305

I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discover’d the infinite in every thing.
This sentence is actually the second on p. 12 of The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, earlier than the preceding passage quoted by Rushdie. It occurs just before the passage quoted on p. 338 [348].

the Regenerated Man
The image described is on p. 21 of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise. . . .
This is the first line of p. 21 of The Marriage of Heaven & Hell.

golden chain-mail Rabanne
Alluding to one of the bizarre clothing designs of Paco Rabanne.

Page 306

World’s End
Probably a fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, though there are several places in England with this name. More information.

“Crashpad” was a hippie term used in the sixties to refer to an apartment or house (“pad”) where homeless young people could live–“crash”–for free.

LSD was commonly distributed in sugar cubes in its early days.

no shortage of brain cells
It was widely reported in the sixties that taking LSD destroyed brain cells.

trying, in the idiom of the day, to fly
Because being drugged was called “getting high,” there were many allusions to flying in hippie drug slang. Elena’s suicide is linked through this term to the other deaths by falling in the novel.


virgin queen
One of the titles of Queen Elizabeth I, who never married.

virgo intacta
Intact virgin.

Page 307

She drowned while high on LSD (“acid”), but in various industrial processes metals are dipped into a literal “acid bath.”

Page 308


parachute silk
Allie has bedsheets made of recycled parachutes, making an apt symbol of arrival for a man who has plummeted from the sky.

Page 309

What are the Allie’s main characteristics, and how do they sometimes cause conflict in her life?

Page 310

[320] isn’t it?
Typical Anglo-Indian expression, meaning “aren’t there?”

Page 311


Main character in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel dealing with chess, Zashchita Luzhina (The Defense).


Filippo Tommasso Marinetti (1876-1944), leader of the Italian Futurist art movement, attracted to machinery and speed, aligned with Fascism. More information on Futurism.

Hindi for marionettes.

Page 312

Unique item, or here, event.


Popular Cuban song by Jose Marti, associated with the Castro revolution. The original Spanish Lyrics, with melody.

best minds of my generation
(opening of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. (1956). The poem begins:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night. . . .

Allie is mocking the pretensions of young men who claim to be revolutionaries but exploit women. Allen Ginsberg Writes about Howl

Page 313

Discuss Allie’s contention that truth has fled to the mountains. What do you think she means? Note that her father explains a related theory on the next page. Do you agree with her? Explain.

Page 314


O but he’s dead, and at the bottom of the sea.
This sounds intriguingly like a line from an Elizabethan play, but is in fact entirely Rushdie’s own invention (personal communication from Salman Rushdie).

locus classicus
Originally, classic passage in a literary work; here, classic place.

Page 315


the Angel of the Recitation
The Angel Gabriel is said to have dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad.

now that Shaitan had fallen
In Islam, Shaitan is a Jinn, cast down from heaven for refusing to fall down before Adam. In Jewish and Christian belief Satan is said to have been an Angel, cast down from Heaven for rebelling against God.


as Iago warned, doth mock the meat it feeds on
From Shakespeare’s Othello III: iii lines 165-167: O. beware, my lord of jealousy; / It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on. . . .” The line suggests that jealousy destroys those who harbor it, devouring them.

Page 316

like Brutus, all murder and dignity. . . . The picture of an honourable man
Refers to Antony’s funeral oration in Act III, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, where he ironically calls the assassinsóincluding Marcus Junius Brutus, one of Caesar’s closest associatesó”honourable men.”

Wastepaper basket.

one day men shall fly
Leonardo da Vinci, now mainly famous for paintings like the Mona Lisa, spent a great deal of time and ingenuity trying to design a flying machine.

Page 317


Yoji Kuri
His darkly comic films are more influenced by Western cartoons than most Japanese animation. Titles in English include “Vanish” and “Manga.”

Page 318


for Blake’s Isaiah, God had simply been an immanence, an incorporeal indignation
Alluding to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 12:

The Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel dined with me, and I asked them how they dared so roundly to assert. that God spake to them; and whether they did not think at the time, that they would be misunderstood, & so be the cause of imposition.Isaiah answr’d. I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discovr’d the infinite in every thing, and as I was then perswaded, & remain confirm’d; that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God, I cared not for consequences but wrote.


a man of about the same age as himself
Gayatri Spivak notes that the following description resembles Rushdie himself


Ooparvala . . . ‘The Fellow Upstairs.’

Neechayvala, the Guy from Underneath
The Devil.

Page 319


masala movie
Melodramatic Indian film, see note on “exotic spices” p. 166 [171].

Page 320

‘Ad or Thamoud
Two tribes mentioned in the Qur’an as having rejected prophets from God; ancient mighty peoples who vanished through wickedness. For further information, see Haykal 31.

Page 321


the thirteenth-century German Monk Richalmus
This crochety monk was obsessed with demons, blaming them for all of the petty irritants that surrounded him in his Liber Revelationum de Insidiis et Versutiis Daemonum Adversus Homines, first printed by Bernard Pez in his Thesaurus Anecdotorum Novisisimus (Wittenberg?: Philippi, Martini & Joannis Veith, 1721-29), vol. 1, part 2, columns 373-472.

Semjaza and Azazel
Identified in the pseudepigraphical Book of Enoch, Chapters 6-9, as wicked leaders of the angels (“sons of God”) mentioned in the passage from Genesis 6:4 cited immediately below. The Book of Enoch. Azazel is also identified in Leviticus 16:6-10 as a spirit to whom a sacrificial goat must be offered by driving it into the wilderness. This ritual sacrifice is part of the famous “scapegoat” ritual often alluded to but seldom understood. Azazel is sometimes interpreted as a demon who lives in the desert.

lusting after the daughters of men
Genesis 6: 4, tells of the Nephilim, mighty offspring of “the sons of God” mating with “the daughters of men.”

the Prophet, on whose name be peace
The ritually orthodox way to refer to Muhammad.

In what way does Gibreel compare himself with Muhammad?

Page 322


a part of town once known . . .
London’s Soho district.


An ancient Egyptian term for the soul (strictly speaking one part of the soul in their belief system). Also a Sanskrit term often used to refer to an unnamed divine source of being, literally “who.”

Page 323

Honorific title like “sahib.”


O, children of Adam
This passage comes from the Qur’an, Sura 7, verse 27. The context insists on God’s goodness as contrasted with Shaitan’s wickedness.

One rendering of the sacred name of God in Judaism, also often spelled “Yahweh.”

“Second Isaiah,” the name assigned to the presumed author of Chapters 40-55 of Isaiah. He is said to have lived long after the writer of the first thirty-nine chapters. His work, completed toward the end of the exile of the Jews in Babylon, would have been added to the book in order to update it. The very use of this term reflects modern Biblical scholarship appealing to a skeptic like Rushdie.

Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?
Amos 3:6. This and the following citations make the point that God was depicted at first as a source of evil as well as good, and that Satan was only gradually differentiated from him. The dualism characteristic of later religions like Islam is seen as a “pretty recent fabrication.”

What relevance does this discussion of the relationship between good and evil have to the rest of the novel?

Page 324

In Milton’s Paradise Lost,Book IV, Ithuriel’s golden spear transformed Satan from his disguise as a toad back into his original form (Joel Kuortti).

Zephon had found the adversary squat like a toad
by Eve’s ear in Eden, using his wiles

to reach
The organs of her fancy, and with them forge
Illusions as he list, phantasms and dreams.

From John Milton: Paradise Lost, Book IV, lines 800-803, a passage which links demonic temptation and the imagination in a way that fits the context.

Lives there who loves his pain?
This and the following lines are from Paradise Lost, Book IV, lines 888-890, in which Satan replies to Gabriel, who has reproached him for rebelling against God, by saying anyone would want to escape from Hell.

felo de se

Page 326


seize the day
This traditional expression, meaning “do it now,” comes from the Latin carpe diem (Horace: Odes, I:21, line 8).

Racially pure. Hindi for “real/genuine,” adopted into Cockney slang as a synonym for “excellent/first-rate.”


From the Levant: the Middle East.

Page 327

The Wildernesse Golf Club is located in Sevenoaks, Kent, southwest of London.

From Greek diabolos, “the slanderer;” name of the rebel angel/devil in the Qur’an.

Tchu Tché Tchin Tchow.
Gibreel is trying to remember Chamcha’s name; but this succession of syllables might be a veiled allusion to a British musical comedy entitled Chu Chin Chow, produced for the stage in 1916 (script by Oscar Ashe, music by Frederic Norton), and filmed twice (in 1923 and 1934). A great success in its original staging, the production was a spectacular musical based on a much older pantomime (see above, p. 297 [308]) telling the story of Ali Baba and Forty Thieves. The musical remained popular enough to receive a production on ice under the same title in 1953. Rushdie may have encountered it second-hand, by way of a mention in the 1958 movie version of Auntie Mame in which the title character reminiscences about having performed a song by that title on the stage. But if Rushdie did know the original source, the Arabian Nights’ setting of the tale might have attracted his attention; and the fact that the lead thief, named Abu Hassan in the play, was also called by the very Chinese-sounding name of “Chu Chin Chow” illustrates the kind of ignorant orientalizing that Europeans have long engaged in, and to which Rushdie frequently alludes in the novel. (Sources: Dimmitt 279, Sharp 179, 1136, Enciclopedia 170, Times 9, Variety, Wearing 656-657. See note on thirty-nine stone urns below, p. 377 [389].


Wren’s dome
The massive dome of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Christopher Wren.

Page 328


the Council
Local British government body.

swing them by their necks
The French Revolutionaries hung the hated aristocrats from the Parisian lampposts.

The first word of Gibreel’s revelation to Muhammed (Surah 96).

Orphia Phillips
As the following lines make clear, she is the sister of Hyacinth Phillips, whom Saladin met on p. 169 [170].


I cyaan believe I doin this
Orphia, Uriah and Rochelle all speak Caribbean dialect.

Page 330


sure as eggsis
Abbreviation of a British colloquialism, “eggs is eggs,” perhaps a pun on the alegebraic expression of equivalence: “X is X.”

See above, note for p. 280.

Page 331

mashin up
In Caribbean dialects “mash up” is used to describe the creation of all sorts of damage–here, for “crumpling,” and below, “mash up” means “wreck.”


dabba . . . dabbawalla
See note above, on p. 18, on dabbas.

travelling mat
See above, note on p. 108 [111].

Page 332


pour encourager les autres
“To encourage the others,” a famous sarcastic remark from Voltaire’s Candide. At the end of Chapter 23 of that novel, the protagonist happens upon the execution of of an English admiral, accused of cowardice for not having approached the enemy sufficiently closely. Candide objects that his French opponent must have been equally guilty, but his informant casually remarks, “That’s undeniable, but in this country it’s a good thing to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.” This is Voltaire’s satire on the execution of Admiral John Byng, which he had tried unsuccessfully to prevent in 1757. The passage in the original French. The entire novel in both French and English.

something straaange in the neighbourhood
The children are playing at being Ghostbusters, quoting the refrain of the title song from the 1984 film by that name: “If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” More information about Ghostbusters.

Acronym for the prison camps of the Soviet Union.

One of the many titles associated with Queen Elizabeth I, but here probably an anti-gay insult.

Page 333

Children (Hindi).

rude rhymes
“Rude” is a much stronger term in Britain than in the U.S. Do these count as Satanic Verses?


redeeming the city like something left in a pawnshop
The Judeo-Christian tradition of a redeemer (Hebrew goël) is a figure who pays the amount due in order to liberate whoever or whatever has been condemned. In Christian theology Christ is the sacrificial lamb who, echoing the Passover lamb of the Jews, dies to free his followers from sin and damnation. Thus the use of the term “redeem” to refer to liberating an item left at a pawnshop is historically accurate, if irreverent.

In Indian dialect, adjectives are sometimes repeated thus to emphasize them. Other examples are “big-big” (p. 68 [69]) and “bad-bad” (p. 334 [344]).

Page 334

“Three Little Words” is the title of a popular song written in 1930 for an Amos and Andy film, Check and Double Check, by Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar. The words are, of course, “I love you.” Instead, Gibreel replies with another, very unsatisfactory, three words.

Show, circus, celebration (from the name for a very popular form of bawdy Indian folk theater).


Box-like portable organ somewhat like an accordion introduced into India by Christian missionaries and widely adopted for the playing of traditional Indian music.

The gazals of Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Faiz (1914-1978), born in what is now Pakistan, was one of South Asia’s most distinguished and influential modern poets. Much of his Urdu poetry was Marxist-inspired political poetry in support of the poor. In his acknowledgements, Rushdie cites Mahmood Jamal as the source of this translation, slightly emended by himself. For gazals, see note on p. 3.

the fifties classic Mughal-e-Azam
(Dir. K. Asif, starring Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, & Madhubala, 1960) A spectacular historical fantasy in which the son of the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great falls in love with a dancing girl. More details about the film.

Cleopatra’s Needle
An Egyptian obelisk, now located on the Victoria Embankment by the Thames. It has nothing to do with Cleopatra, having been created about 1500 BC. Pictures and more information.

Page 335


There is no God but God.
See note above, on p. 105 [108].

Page 336


In the pages that follow, try to decide how literally we are to take Gibreel’s transformation. Does he actually change, or is the transformation only in his mind? Explain.

mala’ikah . . . malak
The former is the plural, the latter the singular term for “angel” in Arabic.

as the Quran clearly states
From the Qur’an Sura 18 (“The Cave”), verse 50. Iblis, a rebellious spirit, refuses the commandment to bow down to Adam and is damned, becoming Shaitan, or Satan. See also Qur’an, Sura 2 (“The Cow”), verse 34 and Sura 17 (“The Night Journey, Children of Israel”), verse 61.

Wilt thou place in the earth such as make mischief in it and shed blood?
Sura 2, verse 30. When God announces his intention of creating humanity, the angels reply with what the narrator implies is justified skepticism.

Page 337

One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Colossus of Rhodes, a hundred-foot-high statue of Helios, stood in the harbor of Rhodes.


I’m papa partial to a titi tipple; mamadam, my caca card
S. S. Sisodia’s stammer produces a variety of obscene and fairly obvious puns.

to a degree
British colloquialism for “to a great degree.”

The British call auto windshields “windscreens,” so Gibreel is literally “on the screen.”

Page 338

What is the point of the story about the man who believed he was Napoleon?

Blake again, Allie thought.
The quotation that follows is taken from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: p. 12. See notes on p. 304 [315]. The point of Blake’s dialogue is that inspired revelation is genuine, though not limited to biblical prophets. Allie is mentally countering her mother’s skepticism about Gibreel.


plug him in
Electroshock therapy, once widely used to treat schizophrenia, was accused of tranquillizing patients by destroying part of their brains and turning them into zombies. An anti-electroshock page. Pro-electroshock information.

Page 339

early bath
As opposed to an “early grave.” “Taking an early bath” is a euphemism in British sport for being “sent-off,” that is, dispatched from the playing arena for an act of foul play. It is a phrase associated with soccer and rugby (although more with working-class rugby league, than the middle-class, Rugby School associated, rugby union). As the players indulge in a communal bath post-match (ghastly as that sounds), a player sent-off before the end of the game takes a bath before everyone else. It was popularized (invented?) by the late BBC sports commentator Eddie Waring and, to be honest, Allie’s mother would more probably have heard the phrase on television, rather than read it in the sports pages, as Allie believes (Paul Harmer).

Page 340


Charles II’s terror after his Restoration, of being sent “on his travels” again
After Charles I was executed and the British monarchy was abolished on January 30, 1649 by Puritan revolutionaries, his son, Charles II, was forced to roam from court to court on the Continent, seeking refuge and income from various foreign governments. Although he was often portrayed as a careless playboy, there were many times of hardship and anxiety during this period. After Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell’s death in 1658, Charles was invited home and the monarchy reestablished, an event known as “The Restoration.” Although not all historians agree, Antonia Fraser maintains in her popular biography of the king that he was fearful and depressed at many points in his life, especially toward its end. She recounts that he told an Englishman living in Brussels, “I am weary of travelling, and am resolved to go abroad no more. But when I am dead and gone, I know what my brother may do: I am much afraid that when he comes to wear the crown he will be obliged to travel again. And yet I will take care to leave my kingdoms to him in peace. . . . (Fraser441) The theme of Charles II as an exile is one more example of the English being depicted in this novel as outsiders, foreigners, exiles.

Lives there who loves his pain?
See above, note to p. 324 [334].

the Beckettian formula, Not I. He.
The text of Samuel Beckett’s 1972 play Not I, contains this passage: “…and she found herself in the–…what?..who?!..she!” However, Rushdie probably meant only “Not I” to be the “Beckettian formula,” in which case he is simply referring to the title of the play (Beckett 73).


Gold lace used in Indian clothing.

‘These are exalted females whose intercession is to be desired’
From the Satanic Verses.

Mr Hyde
The evil alter-ego in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. The entire novel.

Page 341


Deep-fried pancakes made of lentil noodles and puffed rice.

Vegetables cooked in milk curds or yogurt. Recipes for raitas.

Rice pudding. Recipe for khir.

Thin noodles, cooked with milk, sugar, raisins and almonds, especially by Muslims in Northern India and Pakistan.

Luciano Pavarotti, the world’s most popular operatic tenor.

Thick yogurt drink which can be made either sweet or salty. Here is one recipe. Here is another.

[Redgrave], the British actress. See above, note on “Trotskyist actresses, p. 49 [50]. More information about Redgrave.

Amitabh Bacchan, the most famous male Indian movie star. More information on Amitabh.

[Hoffman], the American actor.

See note above, on p. 262 [270].

Christopher Reeve
Star of the Superman films. More information on Reeve.

Childish term for “penis” (Hindi), just as “tata” is a childish name in English for breasts, and “pipi” for urination.

Page 342

he had made a string of ‘quality’ pictures on microscopic budgets
Sisodia is based on Ismail Merchant, who with his partner James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has made such films as A Room With a View, paying his actors more with prestige than cash.

Not the name of an actress, but of the starring role in a film by the same name, directed in 1964 by Satyajit Ray, and better known in English as The Lonely Wife. The film starred Madhabi Mukherjee as Charulata, a neglected wife who falls in love with her brother-in-law. More information on the film.

Ocean of the Streams of Story
Compare with the title of Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories. This is an allusion to the Kashmiri classic Kathasaritsagara, the “Ocean of Stories” by Somadeva.


Hong Kong-based kung-phooey producer Run Run Shaw
The Shaw studio has been responsible for an immense number of low-budget kung fu movies. See note on p. 24 [25].

Page 343

The trouble with the Engenglish . . .
This is one of the most commonly quoted passages in the novel. Explain its meaning.


Ché Ché Chamber of Horrors
Madame Tussaud’s “Chamber of Horrors” is a famous wax museum in London, featuring among other grisly scenes the crimes of Jack the Ripper, whose career “the Granny ripper’s” deeds are modeled on. Sisodia’s stammer alludes to the Cuban revolutionary and companion of Fidel Castro, Ché Guevara (1928-1967) More information on the Chamber of Horrors. Pictures from “Chamber of Horrors.” More information on Ché Guevara.

mad barbers
Refers to Sweeney Todd, the legendary barber who was said to have killed many of his customers and made them into meat pie filling. Todd is often compared to the real historical serial murderer, Jack the Ripper, whose name is alluded to in the character of the “Granny Ripper” in this novel. The Todd legend was made famous in modern times by Stephen Sondheim in his 1979 musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by . Synopsis of the plot of the musical.

etc. etc. etera
“Etc.” is of course the conventional written abbreviation for “et cetera,” but Rushdie turns it into a stammer.

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See note above above, on p. 63 [64].

Supposedly a nonsense word used for the title of 1956 Bollywood film, later apparently developed as slang for a carefree person.

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Pagal Khana
Insane asylum.

A star is reborn.
Allusion to A Star Is Born, a classic 1937 film about a self-destructive movie star, remade in 1954 and 1976. More information about the film.


Christ-image on the Turin Shroud
A famous “miraculous” picture of Christ mysteriously impressed on a cloth said to have been wrapped around his dead body. The shroud’s reputation was severely damaged shortly before the publication of The Satanic Verses when traces of a typical Medieval paint were detected on it.

St. Lucia
A small island in the Caribbean chiefly known as the birthplace of poet Derek Walcott.

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That Berlin Wall . . . might well be more rapidly rebuilt.
The Berlin wall was torn down November 9 1989, more than a year after the publication of the novel. More about the Berlin Wall.

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[359] Boniek
Probably an allusion to the name of Zbigniew Boniek, Polish-born player of the popular Turin soccer team, Juventus–another immigrant.

Frankenstein and geeps
Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel creates a monster out of parts from various bodies. Rushdie is here pairing his deed with an experiment carried about by Cambridge scientists in which they combined genetic material from a goat and a sheep embryo to produce a chimera which they called a “geep” (Time February 27, 1984, p. 71). For the scientific details, see Fehilly.

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Dark Star
Punning on the astronomical term explained in the note for p. 61.

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Film gala? Joel Kuortti suggests that perhaps the term puns on the name of Philomela, who in Greek mythology was raped by Tereus and had her tongue cut out in an attempt to prevent her reporting the crime.


All-enveloping veil worn by conservative Muslim women, reaching to the ground.

the ‘disco diwané set’
“Disco diwané” means literally “mad about disco,” and was the title of a Hindi disco record of the late 70s by the London-based singer Nazia Hasan. Used here to refer to “Westernized” Indians.

Mithun Chakravarti, a popular male actor in both Hindi and Bengali films. A list of his films.

Kimi Katkar, Bollywood actress.

Another actress, sometimes spelled “Jayaprada” or “Jaya Pradha.” Elected to the Indian parliament in 1996. Pictures and information of Jayapradha.

Major Bollywood star in the 80s. Information and photos of Rekha.

See note above, on p. 262.

Another Bollywood action hero. Pictures and bio of Dharmendra.

See note above, on p. 262 [270].


a voice crying in the wilderness
Maslama is presenting himself as John the Baptist to Gibreel’s Jesus, quoting Matthew 3:2-3, which in turn quotes Isaiah 40:3-4. He is a sort of demonic prophet.

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In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the capital of Hell; by extension any place in which evil is concentrated.

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I’m back!
Spoken first with a less ominous meaning on p. 351 [362]. This line was memorably uttered by the seemingly indestructible demonic Jack Nicholson character in The Shining (1980).

In Hindi, tea is called chai. More information about chai.

The former dictator of Iran, overthrown by the Islamic revolution, used the title. Gibreel is trying to remember Chamcha’s name.

Popular dance, usually spelled either “cha-cha” or “cha-cha-cha.” More information about the cha-cha.


The native is an oppressed person whose permanent dream is to become the persecutor
Franz Fanon, Caribbean psychiatrist who worked in the Algerian revolution and radical theorist, from The Wretched of the Earth, Chapter 1 (“Concerning Violence”), p. 52 of the American translation.

Chichi? Sasa?
Nicknames for Chamcha and Saladin.

My other, my love . . .
(from a song, poem?) Suggested: “Mere Humdrum, mere dost,” a poem by Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

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that Tree
See Genesis 2:9.

a different Tree
Qur’an 7:20.

apples were not specified
The fruit hanging from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not specified in Genesis either; but came to be considered apples in the Middle Ages, though the influence of a pun on malum meaning either “evil” or “apple.”

the Death-Tree
The tree of forbidden fruit which brought damnation (spiritual death) into the world is often compared by Medieval Christian thinkers to the cross, which bore the fruit of life in the form of Christ’s sacrifice. In Genesis 2:9 and 3:22 there is mention of a mysterious “tree of life,” which apparently could have overcome physical death had Adam and Even eaten of it. Gibreel is arguing that the Qur’anic tree, though called “the Tree of Immortality,” comparing it to the second Biblical tree, functions more like the first, as “slayer of men’s souls.”


morality-fearing God
Since in Genesis God forbade Adam and Eve to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he may be thought of as fearing morality. Indeed, Genesis 3:11 can be interpreted as reflecting his displeasure in Adam’s having developed a sense of shame. The ambiguities present in this section of Genesis have fascinated many thinkers, and are naturally of great interest to Gibreel, who is out to invert many traditional religious beliefs.

Abracadabra! Hocus Pocus!
Although both of these are magician’s incantations, the first is associated with traditional alchemy and an attempt to perform actual magic, whereas the second is associated with fraud and deceit.

See note above, on “juggernauts,” p. 254 [262].

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Fiber made from coconut husks, used for making rope.

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