There are two main characters, Saladin and Gebreel, whose stories are closely connected. They are both victims of a suicide bombing in an airplane. Rushdi reviews their backgrounds, and then two separate storylines begin:
1. In Gebreel’s story, we follow his dreams where he becomes the archangel of Revelation. He meets three persons: Mahound, which is an fake name for the prophet of Islam; An exiled sheik who is a symbol of the leader of the Iranian Islamic Revolution; and a mad girl who convinces her fellow villagers to travel to Mecca on foot. We also learn about his gradual plunge into madness, which endangers his relationship as well as his career as an actor…
2. In Saladin’s story, the main themes are immigration, treason and identity crisis. He abandons his family, country and heritage in order to become an Englishman. He loses everything he has, without reaching what he wants. This total defeat makes him angry and evil, and he makes some horrible mistakes…
While I can’t express how truly I was fascinated by Gebreel’s story, I should say that I found Saladin’s story painstakingly boring. Sometimes I was tempted to skip the pages about the latter. Although, eventually we understand that the whole story is about Saladin.
Overall, I learned a lot from this book. It made me think seriously about many subjects. I even started reading about early Islamic history, which is odd, because I tend to loathe historical books. I’m also reconsidering my materialistic beliefs, because this story reminded me that even unbelievers could be led by a prejudice: that everything that the prophets say is wrong.
I know it’s a little banal, but I wish to express my understanding of the book’s main message: We (i.e. Muslims) must appreciate our heritage, but we should stop believing in nonsense.
I find it hard to enjoy the magic realism genre. If you like this genre and you have no problem following some mentally unstable people’s POV, you will enjoy this book.