I am first to complain when the Beeb gets things wrong and they often do, but I would also like to congratulate them for broadcasting an exclusive interview with Sir Salman Rushdie, for serialising his latest book , his account of his years in exile as the book of the week and for featuring a documentary about him on the “imagine”slot.
I have not read that famous book! Though I have read his Midnight’s Children” and it was very good.
What he said in that interview, a lot of it struck home, I could identity with it and there was a lot of it I didn’t know before but agreed with. He comes from a family who were intellectuals,but at ease with themselves in other cultures. his parents have decided to stay in India after the partition, as “they preferred India to Pakistan”,something my parents always said.
His father has chosen Rushdie” as his surname as it was the name of the philosopher Ibn Rashid who translated Aristotle. And challenged the blind belief in religion.
I also didn’t know that Rushdie started his career as a slogan writer for “Aero bubbles” and the phrase “naughty but nice” was also by him!
His thoughts about being an immigrant also hit home with me. He said immigration was not easy,you leave behind the culture, community,language and the belief system. He talked about the oral traditions of the Sub continent,of growing up with stories being told,form the Arabian nights to other fantastic tales.
He said because he was brought up in a very progressive household he never considered himself an alien or different. But when he came to the UK and was at Rugby school,he felt that he was “different” to the rest of the boys.
He said he was at a stage in his life where he was losing his faith and identity and the book was a way to question himself. The passages were contained in a dream sequence, and though he was aware that he was crossing a line,he was simply exploring his own feelings,identity and loss of faith.
Though the struggle for power between the Shia Iran and the Whabi Saudi Arabia,prompted them to jump on the band wagon and give the fatwa!
As he said we are dreaming creatures, we cant dream in chains. if as the trend is these days ,in India a lot of religious zealots of other religions have also started attacking works of art and books.
There is a ray of hope though,one or two who protested and burnt his books said “our detractors had been right,the freedom to offend is a necessary freedom”.
So should we rejoice that Rushdie is now free to roam the streets, write a new book and be interviewed and have his book read on the BBC.
I feel this is a great step forward,especially when we are facing another protest, that in literature and the arts writers and artists should be free to “dream” and write about them without any fear or intimidation.