Plot Summary for Chapter VII
This is by far the most eventful chapter in the novel, and the one in which readers are most likely to get lost. The Saladin/Gibreel plot resumes as the former meditates on his two unrequited loves: for London and for Pamela, both of whom have betrayed him. He calls on his wife, now pregnant by Jumpy Joshi, and says he wants to move back into his home, although he seems to have fallen out of love with her. Back in his room at the Shaandaar Cafe, he watches television and muses on various forms of transformation and hybridism which relate to his own transmutation and fantasizes about the sexy teenaged Mishal Sufyan. The first-person demonic narrator of the novel makes one of his brief appearances at the bottom of p. 408 [top of 423]. The guilty Jumpy coerces Pamela into taking Saladin home. The pair is involved in protests against the arrest of Uhuru Simba for the Granny Ripper Murders. Saladin goes with them to a protest meeting where an encounter with Mishal makes him feel doomed. Jumpy mentions Gibreel to him. After hearing evangelist Eugene Dumsday denounce evolution on the radio, he realizes that his personal evolution is not finished.
A heat wave has hit London. At a bizarre party hosted by film maker S. S. Sisodia, Saladin meets Gibreel again. He starts out to attack him, furious at the latter’s having abandoned him back when the police came to Rosa Diamond’s house; but enraged by the beautiful Alleluia Cone, he more effectively avenges himself accidentally by blurting out the news of his wife’s unfaithfulness, unaware of the effect this will have on Gibreel, who is extremely prone to jealousy. Gibreel insanely assaults Jumpy Joshi, whom he fears is lusting after Allie.
Allie, driven to distraction by Gibreel’s jealousy, invites Saladin to stay with her and the sedated Gibreel in Scotland. The two lovers are bound in an intensely sexual but destructive relationship which makes Saladin more than ever determined to take his revenge on Gibreel, whom he takes to the Shaandaar Café, where they encounter drunken racists. On the way back to Allie’s flat Saladin plants the seeds of his campaign against Gibreel’s sanity by telling him of the jealous Strindberg. He begins to use his talent for imitating many voices to make obscene and threatening phone calls to both Allie and Gibreel, and he succeeds in breaking the couple up.
Gibreel, now driven completely insane, is suffering under the delusion that he is the destroyer angel Azraeel, whose job is to blow the Last Trumpet and end the world. A riot involving both Blacks and Asians breaks out when–after Uhuru Simba dies in police custody–it is made clear that he was not the Granny Ripper. Gibreel is in his element in this apocalyptic uprising. It is not always clear in what follows how much is Gibreel’s insanity and how much is fantastic reality: but he experiences himself as capable of blowing streams of fire out of his trumpet to incinerate various people, including a group of pimps whom he associates with the inhabitants of the Jahilian brothel in his dream. On a realistic level, the ensuing fires are probably just the result of the rioting that has broken out around him. Jumpy Joshi and Pamela die when the Brickhall Community Relations Council building is torched either by Saladin, or by the police. When Saladin returns to the Shaandaar Café he finds it ablaze as well, and plunges in to try to rescue the Sufyan family, but instead he is rescued by Gibreel. As an ambulance takes the two men away, Gibreel lapses back into madness and dreams the next chapter.
Notes for Chapter VII
Azraeel, or more commonly “Izra’il” is the principal angel of death in Islam (Netton: Text, p. 35).
love, the refractory bird of Meilhac and Halévy’s libretto for Carmen
The first lines of the Habañera in Act I of Georges Bizet’s 1857 opera Carmen are “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle / Que nulle ne peut apprivoiser” (“Love is a rebellious bird which nothing can tame”). The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on the novel by Prosper Mérimée. Rushdie’s erudition let him down here, however; for the words to the Habañerawere in fact written by Bizet himself (The Lyric Opera Companion, 67).
Khayyám FitzGerald’s adjectiveless Bird of Time (which has but a little way to fly, and lo! is on the Wing)
Edward Fitzgerald’s very loose “translation” of the Rubáiyát by Persian poet Omar Khayyam is a classic of English romantic poetry, and contains these lines in its seventh stanza:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter–and the Bird is on the wing.
a letter written by Henry James, Sr, to his sons
The passage here quoted comes in fact from Henry James, Sr.’s book, Substance and Shadow (1866), p. 75. It is quoted in William James’ introduction to his father’s writings, collected in the volume entitled The Literary Remains of the Late Henry James (1884) but is not presented by him as a letter. The passage is most readily available in Matthiessen (156). David Windsor points out that Rushdie evidently encountered the passage as the epigraph to José Donoso’s novel, The Obscene Bird of Night where the quotation is (mis-) attributed thus: “Henry James Sr., writing to his sons Henry and William.” This isn’t the only mistake Donoso makes: a comma gets misplaced, and a number of elisions are made as well of the quote that William James uses. But William himself is misquoting his father: in Substance and Shadow the sentences are in a different order, and there’s a bit that William puts in that isn’t there in the original. So Rushdie has to be quoting the misquote (Donoso’s) of the misquote (of William’s) of Henry James. Donoso’s novel tells of a horribly deformed son (called “Boy”) born to an important politician, who sets him up on a remote family estate where, but for one person, all of the people will be “freaks of nature,” so that he will never grow up feeling abnormal. The one “undeformed person” (who is also writing the story of “Boy”) is thus the one “freak” that will further reinforce Boy’s “normality.”
Bright Elusive Butterfly
Bob Lind’s recording of his song “Elusive Butterfly,” was an international hit in 1966. The last line of each stanza is “I chased the bright elusive butterfly of love.”
From B. F. Skinner (b.1904), developer of experimental behvioral psychology, which focusses on responses to stimuli. The B. F. Skinner Foundation.
Othello . . . Shylock
Two Shakespeare characters; the first the Black protagonist of the play by the same name, the second the villainous Jew in The Merchant of Venice.
the Bengali writer, Nirad Chaudhuri
Bengali by birth, writes in English; author of a genial travel book based on his broadcasts for the BBC entitled A Passage to England.
Civis Britannicus sum
I am a British citizen, in Latin to suggest the colonial’s allegiance to the empire.
the Golden Bough
Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, first published in 1890, grew through many editions into a massive survey of world mythologies intended to demonstrate an underlying pattern which he first discerned in the legend of the Priest of Diana at the temple of Nemi, who could only gain that post by slaying his predecessor.
Goa is a former Portuguese colony on the southwest coast of India. Indian claimed it from the Portuguese in 1961. Information about Goa.
hospitality . . . the Buster Keaton movie of that name
Keaton’s 1923 comedy is actually called Our Hospitality. The hapless Keaton finds he is the guest of a family which has carried on a deadly feud with his own family for generations. As good southerners, their sense of hospitality forbids them from killing him while he is actually in their home, so much of the film consists of their efforts to get him to leave and his frantic efforts to prolong his stay.
Ho Chi Minh to cook in its hotel kitchens?
The future Vietnamese leader did in his youth in fact work in the Carlton Hotel as a dishwasher and cake maker.
Allusion to the Emma Lazarus verses (entitled “The New Colossus”) on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Text of the poem and background information about it.
Applicants for immigration, among others, are frequently asked to sign forms asking whether they are now or have ever been members of the Nazi or Communist Parties.
Ho Chi Minh
Leader of the communist National Liberation Front during the Vietnam War. The Ho Chi Minh Reference Archive?
A law which for decades forbid those with radical political views entry into the United States.
Marx lived and worked for many years in London.
Long live (Urdu & Farsi), meaning the same thing as “Viva.”
Briefly summarize what Saladin admires about England and what Pamela objects to about it.
Author of Il Principe (The Prince, 1513), a pragmatic and ruthless guide for the Medici, who ruled Florence during the Renaissance. The revisionist view that The Princeis a satire rather than a set of serious proposals has become fashionable in recent years. The Discorsi are The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius (1513-21). The text of The Prince.
1986 film directed by Jim Henson and involving Muppet characters of his creation. More information about the film.
A 1985 film directed by Ridley Scott in which demons seek to annihilate unicorns. More information about the film.
Howard the Duck
A 1986 satire on superheroes which cost millions because of its special effects but was a spectacular flop at the box office. More information about the film.
Not since Dr. Strangelove.
The mad scientist in the film by that name (played by Peter Sellers) has an unruly arm which keeps giving the Nazi salute, and which ends by strangling him. The character is a satire on the way in which the U.S. Army adopted a number of scientists who had worked for the Nazis in developing German rockets so that they could help develop the American missile program. More information on the film.
Stephen Potter’s amusing little books
Potter popularized the concept of One-upmanship in his best-selling book by that title (London: Hart-Davis, 1952) and in several sequels. When one has gained an advantage over someone else one is said to be “one up.” To be at a disadvantage, hence, is to be “one down.”
denied him at least thrice
Alluding to the Apostle Peter’s three-fold denial of Christ (Matthew 26:69-75).
entine, Milligan, and Sellers
Michael Bentine, Spike Milligan, and Peter Sellers were the stars of the long-running BBC radio comedy series, The Goon Show. See below, p. 406 , “the Goons.”
Rushdie claims to have made this story up himself.
Sunt lacrimae rerum
They are tears for misfortune. From Virgil’s Aeneid, Book 1, line 462 (Latin). (See Verstraete 333.) The John Dryden translation of the Aeneid.
In Greek mythology Procrustes laid out travelers on his bed, stretching them until they fit (if they were too short) or cutting off the parts that extended (if they were too tall).
Pun on mutant (mutilated?) Asians; alluding to the tendency of popular culture to create Asian villains.
‘I Sing the Body Eclectic’
Punning on the title of a poem by Walt Whitman: “I Sing the Body Electric.” Text of Whitman’s poem.
What is the common theme running through this paragraph and the following one?
the names of the two trees
According to p. 299 , they were laburnum and broom.
Esperanto-like vacuity of much modern art
Esperanto is an artificial language designed to be an easy-to-learn international communications medium. Aside from the fact that its roots are entirely European, it has never been very widely adopted and is therefore a failure at communicating, as is much modern art. More about Esperanto.
An expression which uses the spread of Coca-Cola to almost all the corners of the earth as a symbol of the exportation of cheap and tasteless American (or Western) culture.
See Bentine, Milligan, and Sellers above, on p. 403 .
See note on p. 5 on “My shoes are Japanese.” This film contains some of the most popular of Indian film songs.
The British firm of Parker Knoll makes luxurious modern furniture.
Why does Saladin’s agent compare him to Dracula?
crazed homosexual Irishmen stuffing babies’ mouths with earth
Perhaps alluding to the scandal surrounding the mass grave of babies borne by unwed mothers at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home. Although the full extent of the scandal didn’t emerge until 2014, the first bodies were discovered in 1975. For details, see the Wikipedia article.
‘Why demons, when man himself is a demon?’ the Nobel laureate Singer’s ‘last demon’ asked from his attic in Tishevitz
In Isaac Bashevis’ story “The Last Demon,” he portrays a demon who has been sent to plague an obscure Polish town inhabited entirely by Jews. He finds himself stranded there for eternity when the Nazis destroy the entire population in the Holocaust. Information about Singer at the Nobel Prize site.
man is angelic . . . the Leonardo Cartoon
The Leonardo da Vinci cartoon is a large, elaborate drawing he made for a never completed painting of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus with St. Anne and the infant John the Baptist. Though the children have cherubic smiles, neither one is literally an angel. A reproduction of the cartoon.
In the north Indian Muslim tradition.
pack it in
Discuss Pamela and Jumpy’s differing reactions to Saladin.
Why do you think Jumpy has the same dream that Saladin used to have? (See above, p. 400 .)
Scene of a famous horse race called “the Royal Meeting” attended each June by royalty and nobility, decked out in high fashion.
 The black man who changed his name to Mr X and sued the News of the World for libel
London tabloids like the sensational News of the World are prone to label someone involved in a scandal and whom they hesitate to name in person “Mr. X” because British libel law restricts publishers much more than it does in the U.S. Black Muslims used to substitute “X” for the family names which their ancestors inherited from their slavemasters. See note above on Bilal X, p. 207 .
Brickhall Friends Meeting House
The “Religious Society of Friends,” popularly referred to as “Quakers,” have “meeting houses” instead of churches.
 the young Stokeley Carmichael
Radical leader of the the U.S. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, later of the Black Power movement; born in Trinidad–another immigrant.
Perhaps named in tribute to the famous Black Caribbean Nobel-Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott.
the World Service
The BBC’s foreign broadcasting service, whose announcers are famed for their cultivated “proper” accents.
Biblical name for a whale or mythical sea monster, associated with apocalyptic prophecies (see, for instance, Isaiah 27:1).
we shall ourselves be changed . . .We have been made again .
Phrases with vaguely religious connotations, the first perhaps alluding to Paul’s comment on resurrection, “We shall all be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51-52) and the second to the Christian concept of being “born again” (that is, saved).
hewers of the dead wood and the gardeners of the new
Reversing the connotations of the phrase “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” which refers in the Bible to slaves (See Joshua 9:21)
Nkosi sikelel’ i Afrika
” God Bless Africa,” Xhosa hymn, used by the Transkei and some other African countries as a national anthem. The first verse was written by Enoch Sontonga in 1897. Often sung at rallies to support South African blacks. Text and recordings of the hymn.
What is it that Saladin objects to about this rally at the end of the full paragraph on this page? What do you think of his objection?
I Pity the Poor Immigrant
This Bob Dylan song contains such lines as “that man who with his fingers cheats and who lies with every breath” and “who falls in love with wealth itself and turns his back on me.” Complete lyrics. More information about Bob Dylan.
a blazing fire in the center of her forehad
Forecasting the disastrous fire on p. 466 .
bun in the oven
Britishism for “pregnant.”
Brilliant Hungarian film (1981) based on a novel by Klaus Mann.
–Who art thou, then?
–Part of that Power, not understood,
Which always wills the Bad, and always works the Good.
The demonic Mephistopheles offers this definition of his role to Faust in Goethe’s play (Part I, lines 1345, 1348-1349), arguing the ambiguity of good and evil. It is also the epigraph of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, The Master and Margarita, which Rushdie has identified as an important inspiration for The Satanic Verses (see below, p. 457 , Petersson 288).
Gondwanaland . . . Laurasia
Names assigned by paleogeologists to the early protocontinents which, according to the theory of continental drift, broke apart millions of years to form today’s continents. The theory given here of the origin of the Himalayas is widely accepted. Note that in a sense India itself is an immigrant to South Asia. More information on the theory.
This punning store name alludes to the saying “’tis an ill wind wind that blows nobody good.” Rushdie is not the first to link this saying to wind instruments. It is a common joke among musicians that the oboe is an “ill wind that nobody blows good.”
Ave atque vale
“Hail and farewell;” from Catullus’ Ode 101, line 10. The text of the poem.
Reversing the phrase “phony war” used to label the long pause in the winter of 1939-1940 between Hitler’s conquest of Poland and his invasion of France. Many observers felt that a war which would spread widely was unlikely, and denigrated what they viewed as war hysteria with this term.
Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend. The title satirizes the tendency of musicals to shorten the titles of literary works, so that, for instance, the musical version of Dickens’ Oliver Twist became simply Oliver!
The name of an English pragmatic philosopher (1748-1832), not usually associated with entertainment.
the Stucconia of the Veneerings
The Veneerings are a pretentious newly wealthy couple in Our Mutual Friend. Their name suggests a veneer of elegance above a crass reality. Stucconia is their mansion, whose name suggests a structure built of cheap stucco rather than noble stone.
A ghoulish figure in the novel who makes his living dragging drowned bodies from the Thames and robbing them.
When coal was widely used in London, the city was plagued with notoriously thick smogs which were said to be “as thick as pea soup.” Such a fog is here recreated for the stage with dry ice.
London Bridge Which Is Of Stone
The first paragraph of Our Mutual Friend introduces Gaffer Hexam as follows:
In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames between Southwark Bridge, which is of iron, and London Bridge, which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.
The pun on “icecream cone” must have been in Rushdie’s mind much earlier, when he first began referring to her as the “ice queen.”
a Curiosity Shop
Alludes to the title of a Dickens novel: The Old Curiosity Shop.
Ours is a Copious Language
These lines are a verse arrangement of a passage from Our Mutual Friend. Martine Dutheil notes that in the original context “the fatuous Podsnap condescends to a Frenchman who is at pains to make sense of the conversation. Instead of engaging with his questions, Podsnap keeps correcting his pronunciation: : ‘”Our language,’ said Mr. Podsnap, with a gracious consciousness of always being right, “is Difficult. Ours is a Copious language, and Trying to Strangers. I will not Pursue my Questions.”‘” Clearly Rushdie is plucking a passage about British insularity in regard to foreigners out of this very English novel (Dutheil 77).
The brilliant actor Rex Harrison was no singer, but he developed his own manner of talking his way through songs when he starred as Professor Higgins in the musical My Fair Lady.
mongoose to her cobra
Mongeese are valued in India for their ability to attack and kill deadly cobras unscathed.
What follows is tragedy.
Margareta Petersson suggests that this passage echoes a similar passage in Apuleius’ Golden Ass: “Readers are warned that what follows is tragedy not comedy, and that they must read it in a suitably grave frame of mind” (Apuleius 239, Petersson 334).
in which clowns re-enact what was first done by heroes and by kings
Alludes to the opening lines of ” The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” by Karl Marx: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”
mutton dressed as lamb
An older woman dressed to look younger.
See above, note on Procrustean bed, for p. 405 .
Allusion to the title of the 1980 film in which the main character is transmuted into a violent beast.
In literary criticism, the phrase “intentional fallacy” refers to the view that a work’s meaning should be judged by its author’s intentions. A short definition.
 I follow him to serve my turn upon him
A quotation from the villainous Iago in Act I, Scene 1, line 42 of Shakespeare’s Othello, explaining that the former serves the latter only so he can work his revenge upon him.
The bird-women who punished those who commmitted certain crimes; their most noted victim was Orestes.
Orestes returned from exile to kill his mother and her lover for betraying and murdering his father, dramatized in Aeschylus’ The Eumenides. A translation of the play.
Like that of the very vulnerable would-be knight, Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
Well done, congratulations (Urdu & Persian).
That is no lady
Variation on the old joke: “Who was that lady I saw you with last night?” “That was no lady; that was my wife!”
What effect does Saladin’s revelation about his wife’s pregnancy have on Gibreel?
that bridge Which Is Of Iron
See note, above, on p. 422  on London Bridge Which Is Of Stone.
A wall built to defend Roman Britain from invading northern tribes.
the old elopers’ haven Gretna Green
Gretna Green used to be famous throughout England as the first town across the border in Scotland in which one could be married without the delays required elsewhere; hence it was a popular destination for eloping couples.
Scottish town, seemingly mentioned at random, but by coincidence the site several months after the novel was published of the Pan Am 103 explosion (see above, p. 4).
character isn’t destiny any more
The saying “character is destiny” is attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus.
Discuss the disagreement between Allie and her mother over modern history.
Cockney version of “was here.”
some rakshasa kind of demon
The Rakashas (Sanskrit), ruled over by Ravana, have the power to change their shape into those of animals and monsters.
The obsessed captain who hunts Moby Dick in Herman Melville’s novel and is ultimately destroyed by the great white whale. The text of the novel.
Ishmael is the narrator of Moby Dick, and is the sole survivor of the shipwreck which ends Ahab’s quest. A “trimmer” is one who refuses to take sides, who trims his sails to suit the winds of popular opinion.
the Grand Panjandrum
A pompous official, from a 1755 story by Samuel Foote.
Brother and brother (Hindi).
a Crusoe-city marooned on the island of its past, and trying, with the help of a Man-Friday underclasss, to keep up appearances
In Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe the shipwrecked mariner tries to recreate his civilization in miniature, using as his servant the marooned native he calls “Friday.” The British are now marooned on their own island home, and the natives of their former colonies have come to live and work, often at menial jobs. The Defoe novel is a favorite object of allusions by postcolonial anglophone writers. The text of the novel.
Formerly a famous outdoor produce market, now specializing in handicrafts and souvenirs. History of Covent Garden.
Vagina (Sanskrit). The traditional female counterpart to the male lingam (see below, p. 517 ).
Sergei Eisenstein’s revolutionary 1925 film, The Battleship Potemkin about the 1905 Russian revolution, highly innovative and widely admired.
Otto e Mezzo
The original Italian title of 8 1/2, the autobiographical film by Federico Fellini (1863). More about the film.
The Seven Samurai
Akira Kurosawa’s influential 1954 film.
See above, p. 4.
El Angel Exterminador
Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel (1962). Note that each of these films was made by a director from a different country.
A spectacular 1957 film about rural poverty directed by Mehboob Khan. Rushdie says of the film that it was
the big attempt to make a kind of Gone With the Wind myth of the nation, and took the biggest movie star in India at the time, Nargis, and asked her, basically, to impersonate the nation. And the nation was invented a village woman who triumphed over horrible hardships. At the beginning of the film, she has two children, and her husband is working in the fields and a boulder rolls down the hillside and crushes his hands. And she is required, therefore, to take over the male role, to run the family, to work in the fields and so on, and there is the usual run of wicked land owners. She has a good son and a bad son. There is quite an interestingly suppressed incest theme. Some of this crops up in The Moor’s Last Sigh. Anyway, the point about Mother India is that it had a success on a scale that is almost unimaginable. It became a sort of gigantic event in the history of the country, and it did become a kind of nation-building.
Rushdie goes on to comment on Nargis’ later career:
. . . after she played Mother India it’s as if she couldn’t get rid of the part. She had been so stamped with that part that not only was it difficult for other people to see her differently, it became difficult for her to see herself differently. So she started pontificating, and there’s an extraordinary passage which is recorded in the biography of Satyajit Ray, in which Nargis lays into him and says that his films are terrible, because they are anti-nationalist. And the reason they are anti-nationalist is because they show “negative aspects” of India. Whereas she, in her films, always tried to concentrate on the positive aspects. I think this passage is very illuminating. It indicates how Ray was never really popular in India, and the way in which the people who had been involved in Bombay cinema’s sentimentalisation of the national ideal were actually quite hostile to that kind of art cinema–they thought it was negative.
Rushdie: “Interview,” pp. 53-54.
A science-fictional 1987 thriller directed by Shekhar Kapoor, starring Anil Kapoor, Sridevi and Amrish Puri.
Shree 420 (Hindi). See note on p. 5 on “My shoes are Japanese.”
Satyajit Ray, director of The World of Apu and other fine Indian films not widely appreciated in his homeland. See Rushdie’s “Homage to Satyajit Ray.” Information on Satyajit Ray.
A Bengali filmmaker whose 1969 feature Bhuvan Shome was widely viewed as harbinger of a “new cinema movement,” featuring low-budget, serious films.
Art film director from Kerala.
Ritwik Ghatak is a distinguished Bengali director.
Skewered roasted meat.
Member of a subcaste of businessmen stereotyped as greedy.
August Strindberg, Swedish playwright (1849-1912). More on Strindberg.
Married to the notoriously jealous and misogynistic Strindberg 1901-1904.
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Hugely popular British pop star of English ancestry, but born in India. See Nazareth, p. 170.
How does the anonymous caller know the intimate details of Allie’s body and preferences in lovemaking?
Suggesting that these, too, are Satanic verses.
“Knickers” are panties and a “knacker” is a person who slaughters worn-out horses to sell them for dog food; so this invented word has an aggressive sexual connotation.
 Glory of the Coming of the Lord
Allusion to the apocalyptic opening line of Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic: “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord./He has trampled out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” (These lines allude to a passage at the beginning of Isaiah 5 in which God’s coming judgment is compared to the crushing of grapes.)
Popular newspaper columnists. Most London newspapers used to have their offices on Fleet Street.
The legendary trumpet to be blown by the archangel Gabriel at the end of the world.
It appeared that Dr Simba . . .
This account satirizes the tradition of police murdering radical captives in prison, then claiming they died either through highly improbable accidents or by committing suicide.
Why do you suppose that Rushdie has chosen to have Gibreel go on his apocalytpic mission just as the reaction to this incident breaks out? How are the two actions connected with each other?
John Kingsley Read
Leader of the neo-Fascist National Party, Read was tried in 1978 under the 1965 race relations act for incitement to racial hatred when he reacted to the murder of a young Southall Asian boy by saying “one down, a million to go.” A sensation was created when the judge at his trial instructed the jury to find him innocent. A motion calling for the judge’s removal from the bench was signed by 100 Labor Party members (See “Judge Defends Racial Slurs”). Rushdie first referred in print to this episode in his essay ” The New Empire within Britain” in 1982.
One of several possible spellings in English of the name of Libya’s ruler, Muammar Khaddafi.
The Ayatollah is here alluded to by name, a fact ignored by most of those who have discussed the Rushdie controversy. See “ Freethought Traditions in the Islamic World” for a discussion of this topic.
The vituperative Black supremacist American leader. All three of these figures are the sort of extremists that the “moderate” press would call on a radical to repudiate.
The name is probably an allusion to the nickname of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce‘s Ulysses. On p. 455  we learn that his first name is Stephen.
Crowds began to gather
The riots which follow are based on the black riots in several British cities in 1980-1981 and 1985. See Solomos, pp. 175-233.
A military formation invented by the ancient Romans, in which a mass of men covered themselves with their shields to form a solid roof, resembling a turtle (Latin testudo).
Pint of bitters=beer.
not by a long chalk
Americans say instead, “not by a long shot.”
Billy the Kid, Ned Kelly
See note for p. 262 . All of the outlaws mentioned in this passage had something of a reputation as popular heroes.
Founder with Harry Longbaugh (“the Sundance Kid”) of the Wild Bunch, which robbed banks and trains in the 1890s in the Rocky Mountains. More on Butch Cassidy. More on the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Jesse and Frank James robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains in the decades following the Civil War. More about Jesse James.
In the nineteenth century this term referred to rural gangs that often robbed and burned English farms in Ireland. They were popularly regarded as resistance fighters, and thus this reference is much more closely related to anticolonialism than the others. “Captain Moonlight” is also included by James Joyce in the “Cyclops” chapter of Ulysses in a long list of famous heroes and heroines (Comerford, p. 45).
The gang led by Australian Ned Kelly (see above, p. 263 ).
Gibreel who walks down the streets of London, trying to understand the will of god.
Rushdie provides his own comment on the scene which follows:
It should . . . be said that the two books that were most influential on the shape this novel took do not include the Qur’an. One was William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the classic meditation on the interpenetration of good and evil; the other The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, the great Russian lyrical and comical novel, in which the Devil descends upon Moscow and wreaks havoc upon the corrupt, materialist, decadent inhabitants and turns out, by the end, not to be such a bad chap after all.”
(“In Good Faith” 403). See Radha Balasubramanian, “The Similarities between Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses.”
what is to be done?
Title of a number of important Russian works, most famously a 1902 pamphlet by Lenin about the organization of revolution. Like Lenin, Gibreel is contemplating his own violent plan for redemption (Kuortti).
The name George Orwell gave England in his nightmarish novel, Nineteen-Eighty-Four.Information about George Orwell.
Brecht and Weill’s decadent American city, see above, p. 3.
See above, p. 4.
Babylon crossed with London; see above, p. 4.
Queen of the English tribe the Iceni; led a revolt against the Romans in Britain and sacked several cities, including London. More often spelled Boadicea.
Prostitutes, but alluding to character of that name played by Honor Blackman in the James Bond film Goldfinger.
Who do you say that I am?
Jesus’ query to his disciples in Mark 8:29. Compare with the refrain, “What kind of an idea are you?”
genie of the lamp
The spirit that inhabited Aladdin’s lamp in The Thousand and One Nights.
See above, note on p. 117 .
‘Isandhlwana’, ‘Rorke’s Drift’
On January 22, 1879, the Zulus attacked and annihilated a British force in the South African village of Isandhlwana inflicting one of the greatest defeats on Britain in modern history. Later that same day, 4,000 Zulus who had failed to arrive in time for the first battle turned on the nearby mission station of Rorke’s Drift and assailed it in waves in a battle that lasted for many hours. The heroic defense of the station by a handful of British troops is celebrated in the 1964 film Zulu (featuring, among others, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi as his own ancestor), which probably brought the battle to Rushdie’s attention. The film is interesting as a post-colonial document since it portrays the Zulus (definitely “worthy enemies”) as almost unimaginably brave and extremely intelligent, their defeat being made possible only by the fact that they had few rifles. But Rushdie’s white residents have chosen these names for their apartment buildings as symbols of white resistance to black encroachment. The 1979 film Zulu Dawn depicts the battle of Isandhlwana. Compare with American “Remember the Alamo!” Account of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Anglo Zulu War Historical Society
Nelson Mandela, long-imprisoned member of the African National Party of South Africa, symbol of resistance to apartheid. Mandela’s freedom and election to the presidency occurred after the publication of the novel.
Black leader of the successful Haitian revolution during the French Revolution. More information about Toussaint l’Ouverture.
See above, p. 406 .
a river the colour of blood
Fulfilling Enoch Powell’s prophecy, cited earlier, Chapter 3, p. 462 .
there he blows!
The traditional cry of the whaler upon spotting a spouting whale–“There she blows!” is here punningly used to refer to the blowing of the apocalyptic last trumpet. Gayatri Spivak notes that Gibreel’s patronymic, Ismail Najmuddin, contains a reference to the Biblical figure called “Ishamel,” which is also the name of the narrator of Moby Dick (47).
‘most horrid, malicious, bloody flames’
From Samuel Pepys’ description of the Great Fire of London, September 2, 1666: “When we could endure no more upon the water, we to a little alehouse on the Bankside over against the Three Cranes, and there stayed till it was dark almost and saw the fire grow; and as it grow darker, appered more and more, and in Corners and upon steeples and between churches and houses, as far as we could see up the hill of the City, in a most horrid malicious bloody flame, not like the fine flame of an ordinary fire” (Pepys).
Why is the style of the Communications Relations Council significant?
In soccer (English “football”), when a player inadvertantly puts the ball into his own team’s goal. The police are suggesting that the victims have blown themselves up by accident in trying to carry out a terrorist bombing.
What do the narrator’s questions imply about the fire at the CRC?
‘I look down towards his feet,’ Othello said of Iago, ‘but that’s a fable.’
Shakespeare: Othello V:ii:286. Othello says this just after learning that he has been tricked into jealously killing his wife by the villainous Iago. He means that he thinks Iago must be a devil, so he looks at his feet to see whether he has demonic cloven hooves. But he dismisses this test for a grimmer one when in the next line he says “If that thou be’st a devil, I cannot kill thee,” and stabs him shortly before killing himself.
like the red sea
See above, p. 236 , and the next chapter, “The Parting of the Arabian Sea.”
fire . . . smoke
The fleeing Hebrews were led by a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day (Exodus 13: 21-22). Compare to the Hijab in the preceeding chapter. See note above, on p. 376 .
The Ten Commandments
The 1956 film uses spectacular special effects to depict the flight of the Hebrews from Egypt, including the parting of the Red Sea and the death of all the first-born Egyptian children. Gibreel is beginning the dream constituted by the next chapter.