Just before dawn one winter’s morning, a hijacked jumbo jet blows apart high above the English Channel. Through the debris of limbs, drinks trolleys, memories, blankets, and oxygen masks, two figures fall toward the sea: Gibreel Farishta, India’s legendary movie star and Saladin Chamcha, the man of a thousand voices, self-made self and Anglophile supreme. Clinging to each other, singing rival songs, they plunge downward, and are finally washed up, alive, on the snow-covered sands of an English beach.
Their survival is a miracle, but an ambiguous one, as Gibreel acquires halo, while, to Saladin’s dismay, his own legs grow hairier, his feet turn into hooves, and hornlike appendages appear at his temples.
Gibreel and Saladin have been chosen (by whom?) as opponents in the eternal wrestling match between Good and Evil. But which is which? Can demons be angelic? Can angels be devils in disguise? As the two men tumble through time and space toward their final confrontation, we are witness to a cycle of tales of love and passion, of betrayal and faith: the story of Ayesha, the butterfly-shrouded visionary who leads an Indian village on an impossible pilgrimage; of Alleluia Cone, the mountain climber haunted by a ghost who urges her to attempt the ultimate feat–a solo ascent of Everest; and, centrally, the story of Mahound, the Prophet of Jahilia, the city of sand–Mahoud, the recipient of the revelation in which satanic verses mingle with the divine.
In this great wheel of a book, where the past and future chase each other furiously, Salman Rushdie takes us on an epic journey of tears and laughter, of bewitching stories and astonishing flights of the imagination, a journey toward the evil and good that lie entwined within the hearts of women and men.