Posted on June 12, 2011
Filed Under literature | 2 Comments

imgSalman Rushdie6

Back before email, flame wars used to take place over weeks and more particularly, were conducted with an articulate and elegant hostility that leaves today’s expletive ridden harangues looking like nothing more than the dummy spits of petulant children.  In this wonderful exchange between Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie and John Le Carre conducted on the letters page of the Guardian we see three heavyweight intellects face up for an all in brawl.  It’s excellent stuff…

November 18, 1997,

John le Carré complains that he has been branded an anti-Semite as a result of a politically correct witch-hunt and declares himself innocent of the charge. It would be easier to sympathize with him had he not been so ready to join in an earlier campaign of vilification against a fellow writer.

In 1989, during the worst days of the Islamic attack on The Satanic Verses, le Carré wrote an article (also, if memory serves, in The Guardian) in which he eagerly, and rather pompously, joined forces with my assailants.

It would be gracious if he were to admit that he understands the nature of the Thought Police a little better now that, at least in his own opinion, he’s the one in the line of fire.

Salman Rushdie

Novemer 19, 1997

Rushdie’s way with the truth is as self-serving as ever. I never joined his assailants. Nor did I take the easy path of proclaiming him to be a shining innocent. My position was that there is no law in life or nature that says great religions may be insulted with impunity.

I wrote that there is no absolute standard of free speech in any society. I wrote that tolerance does not come at the same time, and in the same form, to all religions and cultures, and that Christian society too, until very recently, defined the limits of freedom by what was sacred. I wrote, and would write again today, that when it came to the further exploitation of Rushdie’s work in paperback form, I was more concerned about the girl at Penguin books who might get her hands blown off in the mailroom than I was about Rushdie’s royalties. Anyone who had wished to read the book by then had ample access to it.

My purpose was not to justify the persecution of Rushdie, which, like any decent person, I deplore, but to sound less arrogant, less colonialist, and less self-righteous note than we were hearing from the safety of his admirers’ camp.

John le Carré

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2 Responses to “flamed”

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  2. felix on July 26th, 2014 5:33 pm

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