/**SNAP Code begin **/ /**SNAP Code end **/

Saturday, June 23, 2007

John La Carre Has it Right

Response to Salman Rushdie's knighthood is amusing to say the least. Most of the western news houses, naturally picked up by Indian media, have Islamic nations protesting the knighthood. Rushdie himself probably doesn't care. He has been through lot worst. Whether one agrees with the protesters or not, Eugene Robinson, a columnist for Washington Post, has an interesting flash back in one of his columns. It's regarding his meeting with Rushdie many years ago, when Rushdie was still in hiding (because of Iran's fatwa to Muslims to kill him for blasphemy in Satanic Verses). Apparently Rushdie was taking the whole thing in stride, but was peeved at some of his fellow writers in London for not supporting him completely. Rushdie apparently singled out La Carre.

Robinson writes of La Carre's response:

He considered the prime offender to be none other than le Carré, whose real name is David Cornwell and who also happened to be a neighbor of ours -- his city house, as opposed to the country house where he spent most of his time, was just across the way, and we had met him socially. So there we were, torn between literary lions.

Le Carré's position, as he later explained in a published letter, was that "like any decent person" he of course deplored Rushdie's persecution but that he also believed "there is no law in life or nature that says great religions may be insulted with impunity."

Leaving aside an earlier feud between the two authors over a book review, le Carré makes a reasonable point about gratuitous insult. It's basically the same point I made about those Danish cartoons that ridiculed the prophet Muhammad in a stunt whose only purpose was provocation. [Knighthood for a Literary Lion - Washington Post]

When apparent secular folks are up in arms about freedom of speech (based on first amendment of US constitution?) and Hindu fascists with regards to Durga Devi's offensive painting, it would be wise to take La Carre's words in advice.