‘THE DISAPPEARED – How the fatwa changed a writer’s life’ by Salman Rushdie


Photo from Facebook page Joseph Anton A Memoir

PERSONAL HISTORY
The New Yorker
17 September 2012

1989
Afterward, when the world was exploding around him, he felt annoyed with himself for having forgotten the name of the BBC reporter who told him that his old life was over and a new, darker existence was about to begin. She called him at home, on his private line, without explaining how she got the number. “How does it feel,” she asked him, “to know that you have just been sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini?” It was a sunny Tuesday in London, but the question shut out the light. This is what he said, without really knowing what he was saying: “It doesn’t feel good.” This is what he thought: I’m a dead man. He wondered how many days he had left, and guessed that the answer was probably a single-digit number. He hung up the telephone and ran down the stairs from his workroom, at the top of the narrow Islington row house where he lived. The living-room windows had wooden shutters and, absurdly, he closed and barred them. Then he locked the front door.

It was Valentine’s Day, but he hadn’t been getting along with his wife, the American novelist Marianne Wiggins. Five days earlier, she had told him that she was unhappy in the marriage, that she “didn’t feel good around him anymore.” Although they had been married for only a year, he, too, already knew that it had been a mistake. Now she was staring at him as he moved nervously around the house, drawing curtains, checking window bolts, his body galvanized by the news, as if an electric current were passing through it, and he had to explain to her what was happening. She reacted well and began to discuss what they should do. She used the word “we.” That was courageous.

A car arrived at the house, sent by CBS Television. He had an appointment at the American network’s studios, in Bowater House, Knightsbridge, to appear live, by satellite link, on its morning show. “I should go,” he said. “It’s live television. I can’t just not show up.”

Later that morning, a memorial service for his friend Bruce Chatwin, who had died of AIDS, was to be held at the Greek Orthodox church on Moscow Road, in Bayswater. “What about the memorial?” his wife asked. He didn’t have an answer for her. He unlocked the front door, went outside, got into the car, and was driven away. Although he did not know it then—so the moment of leaving his home did not feel unusually freighted with meaning—he would not return to that house, at 41 St. Peter’s Street, which had been his home for half a decade, until three years later, by which time it would no longer be his.

At the CBS offices, he was the big story of the day. People in the newsroom and on various monitors were already using the word that would soon be hung around his neck like a millstone. “Fatwa.”

I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the “Satanic Verses” book, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I ask all the Muslims to execute them wherever they find them.

Somebody gave him a printout of the text as he was escorted to the studio for his interview. His old self wanted to argue with the word “sentenced.” This was not a sentence handed down by any court that he recognized, or that had any jurisdiction over him. But he also knew that his old self’s habits were of no use anymore. He was a new self now. He was the person in the eye of the storm, no longer the Salman his friends knew but the Rushdie who was the author of “Satanic Verses,” a title that had been subtly distorted by the omission of the initial “The.” “The Satanic Verses” was a novel. “Satanic Verses” were verses that were satanic, and he was their satanic author. How easy it was to erase a man’s past and to construct a new version of him, an overwhelming version, against which it seemed impossible to fight.

He looked at the journalists looking at him and he wondered if this was how people looked at men being taken to the gallows or the electric chair. One foreign correspondent came over to him to be friendly. He asked this man what he should make of Khomeini’s pronouncement. Was it just a rhetorical flourish, or something genuinely dangerous? “Oh, don’t worry too much,” the journalist said. “Khomeini sentences the President of the United States to death every Friday afternoon.”

On air, when he was asked for a response to the threat, he said, “I wish I’d written a more critical book.” He was proud, then and always, that he had said this. It was the truth. He did not feel that his book was especially critical of Islam, but, as he said on American television that morning, a religion whose leaders behaved in this way could probably use a little criticism.

When the interview was over, he was told that his wife had called. He phoned the house. “Don’t come back here,” she said. “There are two hundred journalists on the sidewalk waiting for you.”

“I’ll go to the agency,” he said. “Pack a bag and meet me there.”

His literary agency, Wylie, Aitken & Stone, had its offices in a white-stuccoed house on Fernshaw Road, in Chelsea. There were no journalists camped outside—evidently the press hadn’t thought he was likely to visit his agent on such a day—but when he walked in every phone in the building was ringing and every call was about him. Gillon Aitken, his British agent, gave him an astonished look… Continued

Read more
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/09/17/120917fa_fact_rushdie#ixzz26MSmJpga

From
“The Satanic Verses,” the Fatwa, and a Life 

‘WRITERS TAKE A STAND AGAINST RUSHDIE BAN’ by Salil Tripathi

As the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s withdrawal from the Jaipur Literary Festival rumbles on, Indian writers are organising against censorship

Liverpool had its Fab Four, but now Jaipur in India has its own Fab Five — writers Amitava Kumar, Hari Kunzru, Jeet Thayil, Ruchir Joshi and Anand.

When the Rajasthan police apparently concocted a fictitious assassination plot leading Salman Rushdie to stay away from the Jaipur Literature Festival, the mood in Jaipur was glum. Everyone took the plot to be real, until The Hindu reported the convoluted manipulation by the police.

Many in India wanted to hear Rushdie, who avoided India during the fatwa years and has been able to make only a few visits since 2000. Festival goers were hoping to hear him speak about the filming of Midnight’s Children and his forthcoming memoir. But protests from Muslim groups and the plausible threat made him change his mind.

Which is where the Fab Four came in. On Friday, Poughkeepsie, NY-based Kumar, who teaches at Vassar and who has irritated Hindu nationalists in the past with his magnificent, in-your-face memoir, Husband of a Fanatic started reading passages from The Satanic Verses. Hari Kunzru, a British-Indian novelist based in New York also took a stand at the same panel discussion. Both novelists stopped reading after the alarmed festival organisers pleaded with them.

Kunzru, a former English PEN vice-president, takes freedom of expression seriously. When the European Writers’ Parliament met in Istanbul and Turkish authors protested against the presence of VS Naipaul, forcing Naipaul to cancel his appearance, Kunzru spoke out. Reading from Rushdie’s controversial novel was no different.

The mood in Jaipur had changed. By Friday afternoon, unexpectedly, the poet and novelist Jeet Thayil picked another passage from The Satanic Verses, and read aloud. Finally, Ruchir Joshi, film-maker and novelist, whose magical The Last Jet-Engine Laugh is an uproarious account of a futuristic India, read from The Satanic Verses. Tensions rose.

Soon thereafter, the police arrived, making inquiries about illegal conduct at the festival. Importing The Satanic Verses into India is prohibited but the law is unclear if possessing the novel is a crime, or reading aloud an extract from it is a crime. A lawyer or the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, the only local civil society group to support Rushdie last week, said that as the four authors read extracts from downloads, and not a book, it may not be a crime. Shashi Tharoor, novelist, diplomat, and parliamentarian pointed out he has routinely quoted and cited from The Satanic Verses and never been troubled.

In any case, the police should not throw around terms terms such as “guilt” and “crime”, as they have been doing, when they haven’t filed charges, nor proved their case before a judge.

The government could claim that by reading from the novel the authors incited the public. But incited to do what? Demand overturning the ban, nothing more. In fact, eyewitnesses say that the four authors were listened to in respectful silence, and warmly applauded. In any case, if the government wishes to proceed against the authors and is really mean-spirited, it could do so under S. 295A which gives the state the power to use criminal law against individuals who may have intended to cause trouble. But was there criminal intent, or mens rea? Sure, this is defiance, and it challenges a governmental act but it is Gandhian in its peaceful nature.

Police are seeking recordings of the reading, which, at the time of writing, the festival organisers are refusing to hand over. It is clear that the Rajasthan Police’s actions are meant to intimidate the authors and their supporters.

The role of the festival organisers — while their position is delicate — also requires scrutiny. If an author read from Ma Jian’s Beijing Coma, or Liu Xiaobo’s poems, or displayed Ai Wei Wei’s art at a public event in China, one would expect that the police would swoop down, and the organisers would very likely be forced to hand over the author to the Chinese security.

But this is India; a nation that holds elections, calls itself a democracy, and has a constitution that offers some protection for free speech. The actions of the Indian government in recent days, the intimidation of the five writers and its pusillanimity over Rushdie’s visit fall considerably short of India’s aspirations and claims.

While the organisers haven’t yet handed over the tapes, they told the authors to leave Jaipur immediately, lest they be arrested. It is not known if they offered them any protection. Worse, a lawyerly statement was issued, which in effect blamed the authors for “disturbing the peace”, because they acted outside the confines of the law. The organisers dissociated themselves from the action — which they can make a case for, but did not uphold the four’s right to speak freely, which is harder to justify. They should have said that even though they disagreed with the action, they’d defend the principle of free speech. But India isn’t there yet, it seems.

Future participants, apparently, will have to conform to rules not yet defined, so that they act within the confines of the law. Such rules defeat the rationale of a festival of literature, where ideas are expressed to be argued over and debated; such rules restrict fundamental freedoms.

On Sunday, the writer Anand —who publishes dalit literature under the imprint Navayana — joined the protests, reading an eloquent passage from The Satanic Verses, which underscores the spirit of the protests:

What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive: or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits: but, the hundredth time, will change the world.

On Monday, leading Indian writers began to circulate a petition to the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, calling for the ban on The Satanic Verses to be lifted. The battle to undo the damage of the past quarter century has begun.

There are no ifs and buts. As Rushdie wrote in The Satanic Verses:

A Poets work (is) to name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.

It is time for India to wake up.

Sign the petition for the ban on The Satanic Verses to be lifted

Salil Tripathi is a journalist and author and the chair of English PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee

From http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2012/01/writers-take-a-stand-against-rushdie-ban/
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Sign This Petition: For India to Lift Ban on Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’

Reconsider the ban on Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’

Sign it Here

I just signed the following petition addressed to:

PM, India, Manmohan Singh
Home Minister, India, P Chidambaran

‘We the undersigned support the right of all artists and writers to freedom of expression and we strongly urge the government to reconsider the 23-year-old ban of the Satanic Verses.

‘The Satanic Verses has not incited violence anywhere; others have used the novel’s existence to incite violence to suit their political ends. Within India, in the 23 years since the ban, we have witnessed an erosion of respect for freedom of expression, as artists like MF Husain, Chandramuhun Srimantula, Jatin Das, and Balbir Krishan have been intimidated, and works of writers like Rohinton Mistry and AK Ramanujan have been withdrawn because of threats by groups claiming to be offended.

‘India is one of the very few countries in the world where the ban stands, placing us alongside Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, Liberia and Papua New Guinea, among others. We submit with respect that there is a democratic need to review and re-examine the circumstances that led to the original ban of the Verses in 1988, which have changed greatly over time.’

http://www.change.org/petitions/prime-minister-india-reconsider-the-ban-on-salman-rushdies-the-satanic-verses#

Created by Nilanjana Roy.

Warm Regards,
Fauzia Rafique
uddari@live.ca
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Protest Rushdie’s Forced Withdrawl from Jaipur Lit Fest

Below is a quotation from Salman Rushdie’s novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, published here to protest against his forced withdrawl from Jaipur Lit Fest, and to support Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar who began this protest by using their time at the Festival to read from The Satanic Verses.

From ‘Satanic Verses’ by Salman Rushdie

‘To be born,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die. Ho ji! Ho ji! To land upon the bosomy earth, first one needs to fly. Tat-taa! Taka-thun! How to ever smile again, if first you won’t cry? How to win the darling’s love, mister, without a sigh? Baba, if you want to get born again…’ Just before dawn one winter’s morning, New Year’s Day or thereabouts, two real, full-grown, living men fell from a great height, twenty-nine thousand and two feet, towards the English Channel, without benefit of parachutes or wings, out of a clear sky.’

Page 3
Vintage Canada Edition 1997.
(Typos are mine.)

Posted by Fauzia Rafique

Uddari Contributors may not be responsible/agreeable to this post.
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