Salman Rushdie, praise for freedom and humor

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The writer never lost his smile during the ten years he lived hidden and in his literature there is no resentment but a passion for life

Salman Rushdie did an important symbolic exercise of freedom in adolescence. He was in London, where his family had sent him to study after spending his childhood in India. One afternoon he was walking down Oxford Street and saw a stall selling ham sandwiches. He then thought that the religion he was brought up in, even in a relaxed way, forbade him to try any of those snacks that his classmates ate naturally. But he decided to take the risk: it could happen that as soon as he touched the ham with his lips, he would be struck by lightning or nothing would happen. Since then, as he told in ‘Joseph Anton’, he looked at religions, their prohibitions and taboos in a different way. He learned to exercise freedom.

‘Joseph Anton’ is an autobiography I had no intention of writing. But, as he explained in an interview with this newspaper, his life had “some interesting episodes” and he found it helpful to tell them. Joseph Anton is the name he used during his ten years in hiding to avoid Khomeini’s fatwa. Joseph by Conrad and Anton by Chekhov. In that book he tells a thousand anecdotes about those years in which he changed his home twice a month on average to avoid being located by the radicals. He talks about the incredible blunders of the Security Service ordered to him by the British government, and especially how he forced himself not to lose hope or humor, to continue to live and love. And to write, because “if you can’t tell your story, it’s like you don’t exist.”

The followers of the fatwa came close to him several times, but failed. Instead, they attacked publishers, translators and booksellers who had the audacity to expose “The Devil’s Verses,” which cost him his sentence. That’s why the fear spread. He even reached Stockholm, the headquarters of the Swedish Academy.

A Rushdie who is still under threat was invited to meet with academics, who each year choose who will win the Nobel Prize. The room where the meeting took place was fitted with bulletproof glass (the windows face a very narrow street and there are houses across the street) and the act had an air of secrecy that some academics didn’t like. Several of them have said that when the Nobel Prize was being studied to reinforce the Swedish Academy’s commitment to freedom – not to mention that the high quality of its work already justified it – several voices of fear arose. That prize could unleash the wrath of radical Islam against academics, they said. A prize was excluded and some members of the jury muttered something about cowardice and did not return to meetings.

Meanwhile, the threatened wrote. “Children of Midnight,” which was a double Booker, was a paragon of fantasy with one of the funniest and most ingenious scenes in the history of 20th century literature: that in which the protagonist’s grandfather, a doctor, who would later become his wife through the holes in a sheet through which the painful part of the girl peeks out at each visit. ‘Los versos satanicos’ is far from a thesis book, but a novel with the finest irony.

‘The Enchantress of Florence’, already after the fatwa, is an expression of love, ingenuity, diversity and above all freedom. ‘Shalimar the clown’ combines intense lyricism and violence. And ‘Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights’ is a surrealistic story, full of nods to contemporary culture, where laughter is unleashed.

His literature has been described as ‘Indian magical realism’. It’s not a wrong approach. Spanish culture has always been a source of inspiration for him – he felt a huge admiration for García Márquez – and the narrative philosophy that infuses his works is the same from which the ‘boom’ started: telling real stories that seem fantastic in a different cultural context. For example, he explained that a scene from one of his novels in which a chain traffic accident takes place in a city because motorists are distracted by the beauty of a girl walking down the street was not the invention of a feverish writer. He had seen it happen himself and the young woman was the model Ladma Pakshmi, his wife at the time.

I. STEPHEN

“We are very relieved that he was taken off his ventilator,” Salman Rushdie’s son Zafar said on Sunday. “He keeps his quarrelsome and sassy humor intact,” he added shortly after the family of the writer, who was stabbed Friday by an Islamic fundamentalist at the start of a literary act in upstate New York, had already arrived. detubated, and confirmed he had regained his speech.

Rushdie has embarked on the “road of recovery,” influenced his literary agent, Andrew Wylie, one of the most powerful in publishing. “The injuries are serious and recovery may take a long time, but his condition is moving in the right direction,” he added.

The accused in the attack, Hadi Matar, has pleaded not guilty (‘not guilty’, under US law) and pressured him. Support for the writer and signs of condemnation from the attack have not stopped since the news broke. One of the first to voice her denial was JK Rowling, the author of the ‘Harry Potter’ series, who received a threat from a Twitter user identified in her profile as a student and political activist from Karachi, Pakistan. . “Don’t worry, you’re next,” he wrote on that social network. Scotland Yard has said it is investigating the matter.

Although Iran’s government, which issued the death sentence or fatwa on Rushdie, has remained silent about the attack, the country’s media continues to speak out. According to the ultra-conservative newspaper ‘Javan’, the attack could be the result of a US strategy to spread Islamophobia in the world». On the other hand, for the ‘Kayhan’ government, the attack shows that ‘it is not difficult to retaliate against criminals on American soil’.

The French philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy asked this Sunday on the pages of the ‘Journal du Dimanche’ the Nobel Prize for Rushdie: “I can’t imagine a writer who nowadays suspects that he deserves it more than he does.” The list of the five finalists, which is being kept secret, has been written since May. One of them could be Rushdie, the perennial candidate.

Source: La Verdad

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