I have been thinking about my favourite English writing living author. He is fortunately still living despite the horrendous stabbing attack last week.
I remember that I wanted to buy The Satanic Verses when I found out about the fatwa. I saw Midnight Children in the local bookstore. I asked if they had any other Salman Rushdie books. The shop assistant was careful.
“What did you have in mind, Madame?” When I said “Satanic Verses”, he told me he can order it for me. The book arrived a month later. It was posted from the USA.
I live in Watford, UK, a town with a large Muslim, mainly Pakistani minority. Shortly after, I was reading the large paperback on the underground. I looked up and there were 5 young men, dressed in traditional Muslim dress. I put my thumbs on the top of the pagers, covering the name of the book and the name of the author. Nobody said anything.
I liked The Satanic Verses, but not as much as Rushdie’s other books. My favourites are Shalimar the Clown, and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. I bought the autobiography, Joseph Anton, but I never read it. I’m reading it now. Written, unusually, in the third person, it makes it sound less subjective. It reads like fiction. Was that intentional?
In a new rebellion against the fatwa, I bought all the books I only had on kindle, I want his books in my bookcase, I also bought two of his books I haven’t read before.
This is my Salman Rushdie time. I am an emigrant from a communist country. There was censorship, banned books, banned authors. We read samizdat books, or books smuggled in from the Czech Canadian exile publishing house- 68 Publishers, run by Zdena Salivarova, wife of another of my favourite author Josef Škvorecký. She was a talented writer but given up her writing career to concentrate on enabling other authors to be read. She should get a Nobel Prize.
Then I emigrated and could read anything, Even The Satanic Verses.
Freedom of expression and tolerance to various opinions is important for me. Salman Rushdie is important to me. The theme of his books is very often migration, identity. I think my novel is about that. Some reviewers think my book is mainly about a mother -daughter relationship. I suppose it is both.
I hope Salman Rushdie is going to get better and will write many more books. I hope he is going to be able to give talks, like his wonderful essays about other writers. Do you know the one about Philip Roth?
Let’s make September 2022 a Salman Rushdie month. Let’s read his books, talk and write about them. We are living in a time of increased oppression in Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, many other places. We all need freedom, access to non-biased news, free press, tolerance to other people’s opinions, beliefs, a safe environment for open discussions about anything.
If you are reading this, and you never read a book by Salman Rushdie, read one now. In the Salman Rushdie September 2022. But don’t stop at that, maybe we could make it a Salman Rushdie year.
We must not let the hate and bigotry win.