“Migration and the Grotesque in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses.” . Vol. 131/1 (2013): 100–120.
This article explores the mutually enriching dialogue between the grotesque (based on Mikhail Bakhtin) and postcolonial literature that provides a leitmotif in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses on multiple levels: first and foremost, it defines the migrant protagonists’ experience as one of metamorphosis, transgression and change; in the grotesque just as in the experience of migration, the familiar and the unfamiliar conflate, and this is foregrounded in The Satanic Verses in striking manner: the protagonists Saladin Chamcha and Gibreel Farishta transform physically into grotesquely jointed creatures, one an incarnation of the archangelic divine, the other a goatish Satan. In so, the often violent physicality of the grotesque foregrounds the migrant’s identity formation to be one in which the self not only encounters, but physically integrates and eventually transforms constructions of alterity. In very concise terms, identity here emerges to be a relational process, and this is the reason, too, why the grotesque has been hailed as a new form of postcolonial ethics (Majumdar 99) concerned with representations of alterity. The grotesque, however, is also a transformatory force, which overtopples hierarchies and binary oppositions. In The Satanic Verses, the migrant protagonists are thus empowered, by way of their transformations, not only to cross but temporarily to displace borders; their chimerical forms interact with the narrative structure and multiple voices of the text to question the value of cultural hierarchies and divides. The grotesque opens up these borderlines into spaces of hybridity and creative energy, and takes effect, too, on the discourses of fundamentalism that are deconstructed in the text itself and became decisive in the notoriously dramatic aftermath of its publication.