BARTHES, RUSHDIE, & FREEDOM OF SPEECH
BARTHES, RUSHDIE, & FREEDOM OF SPEECH by Norman Warwick
Salman Rushdie was on a ventilator for 48 hours and may yet lose an eye. He was attacked on stage in New York state, and was later reported to have been stabbed up to fifteen time by a single assailant. Sir Salman received immediate attention from medics in attendance at the literary event and was then placed on a ventilator on arriving at hospital..
The 75-year-old author suffered severed nerves in an arm and damage to his liver, literary agent Andrew Wylie said.
He was unable to speak after he was airlifted to hospital and undergoing hours of surgery following the attack on the afternoon of Friday 12th August 2022.
“The news is not good,” Mr Wylie said in a written statement.
“Salman will likely lose one eye, the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
The Indian-born British author was being introduced to the audience ahead of giving a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution, when a man stormed the stage and stabbed or punched him 10 to 15 times, according to witnesses.
The 75-year-old remains on a ventilator after being airlifted to hospital and undergoing hours of surgery following the attack in New York state
And messages of support have been pouring in for the Indian-born British author.
3 Fellow novelist Ian McEwan said: “This appalling attack on my dear friend Salman represents an assault on freedom of thought and speech.
“These are the freedoms that underpin all our rights and liberties. Salman has been an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world.”
Norwegian William Nygaard, who was shot and severely wounded in 1993 after publishing Sir Salman’s work, said: “Salman Rushdie is a leading author who has meant so much to literature, and he had found a good life in the United States.”
Salman Rushdie is an Indian-born British author whose writing about religion and politics has made him controversial in some parts of the world.
His first three novels – Grimus (1975), Midnight’s Children (1981) and Shame (1983) – were all met with praise but it was his fourth – The Satanic Verses – that brought criticism.
Some of the scenes in the 1988 book depict a character modelled on the Prophet Muhammad and this was met with anger from some members of the Muslim community in the UK.
They considered it blasphemous.
Protests spread as far as Pakistan in January 1989 and the following month, the spiritual leader of revolutionary Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, condemned the book and issued a fatwa against its author..
A bounty was offered for his execution.
The book was burned around the world and translators of the work
The fatwa was never actually revoked, however, and The Satanic Verses remains banned in Iran and a number of other countries.
Rushdie wrote about his experience in the third-person memoir Joseph Anton in 2012.
Speaking in New York three years later, he said: “If you’re a free expression organisation, if you believe in the value of free speech, then you must believe in the value of free speech that you don’t like.
“If you only defend free speech that conforms to your own moral framework that’s what is normally called censorship.”
He was knighted in 2007, a move that was criticised by the Iranian and Pakistani governments.
It is easy, of course, to jump to a conclusion that Rushdie´s assailant was motivated by such concerns but, of course, no official comment has yet been made on any motive.
Nevertheless, I´m sure that Rushdie will have read the literary theories of philosopher Roland Barthes, who named the phenomenon of The Death Of The Author, which he said figuratively occurs every time a writer releases his words to the general public. Words are murdered to dissect by every individual reader, Wordsworth suggest, and the evidence gathered may be used against the author.
Neither Sir Salman nor the French literary theorist could have ever have foreseen the phrase ´death of author´ being employed so literally.
After the Fatwah was imposed .Rushdie adopted an alias and went into hiding under the protection of Scotland Yard, although he appeared in public occasionally. However, Rushdie continued to write, despite the threat to his life. Other authors have also been attacked, though, and Hitoshi Igarashi, who translated it into Japanese, was murdered in 1991. Nevertheless, .despite the threat to his life, Rushdie continued to write and in 1998 the Iranian government said it would no longer enforce the fatwa.
The attack, though, would seem to carry frightening implications for artists in all genres. There have already been threats on social media to other wrioters, such as JK Rowling, that they will be next !!
rSidetracks And Detours will carry a feature on the rights (and wrongs?) of the freedom of speech ethos in tomorrow´s pages, but whether or not that will illuminate matter might depoend on the interpretaion of the readers.
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