Friday, October 13, 2006

"You see it every day, this surrender"

Great Johann Hari interview with Salman Rushdie in the Indie. I'll change the link when it goes onto Hari's site, or I might even post the whole thing.

Life's little ironies. Rushdie was the Zadie Smith of his day, Mr Metropolitan multicultural cool. Seems to have a few doubts now.

He became the poet laureate of mongrelisation, a writer who rejoiced that "everywhere was now part of everywhere else. Russia, America, London, Kashmir. Our lives, our stories, flowed into one another's, were no longer our own, individual, discrete." In 1985, he wrote - with soaring hope - that "the effect of mass migrations has been the creation of radically new types of human being: people who root themselves in ideas rather than places... people who have been obliged to define themselves - because they are so defined by others - by their otherness." But the gloriously disembodied, pan-national ideology that emerged from this swirl turned out to be his nemesis: Islamism ... the mass uprooting he celebrated helped to create the Islamist pining for a fictitious lost purity that is trying to kill him, a desperate quest to recreate the Mecca of Mohammed in the world's cold concrete jungles: "I have spent a lot of my life looking positively at the consequences of migration. Now I'm being forced to see that there's a nightmare as well as a dream."

"The world has become this mixed up place, the age of mass migration has taken place and we live in its aftermath - now what ?"

When it came to slagging off his adopted home, few could better him. And the chattering classes loved him for it.

At the time of the fatwa, Rushdie was widely known as a fierce and fearsome critic of US foreign policy, a man who condemned Israel's "monstrous" occupation of Palestinian lands, a man who damned Margaret Thatcher as " Mrs Torture" and warned that "British society has never been cleansed of the filth of imperialism".

Turns out the evil West wasn't so bad after all.

"When people ask me how the West should adapt to Muslim sensitivities, I always say - the question is the wrong way round. The West should go on being itself. There is nothing wrong with the things that for hundreds of years have been acceptable - satire, irreverence, ridicule, even quite rude commentary - why the hell not? "But you see it every day, this surrender"

Not so bad ? He loves it, in fact. He didn't really mean it. In fact he seems a bit worried that all those educated Brits seem to have taken him seriously.

He runs through a list of the theatres and galleries that have censored themselves in the face of religious fundamentalist protests. He mentions that the entire British media - from the BBC down - placed itself in purdah during the Mohammed cartoons episode. "What I fear most is that, when we look back in 25 years' time at this moment, what we will have seen is the surrender of the West, without a shot being fired. They'll say that in the name of tolerance and acceptance, we tied our own hands and slit our own throats. One of the things that have made me live my entire life in these countries is because I love the way people live here."

It was that same surrender, that disdain of the British elite for British culture, that made Rushdie a literary lion when 'Midnight's Children' was in the bestseller list. Just as with immigration, there's a nightmare as well as a dream.


Anonymous said...

I want £20 from those cretins who burned Satanic Verses in Bradford in January 1989. I would not have bought the thing otherwise and it was awful...........really awful..........I thought Rushdie was ill..........he must have won some prize like the Booker or The Orange Prize because it was a book for those who shoot up in dark rooms.............I still think Douglas Hurd, erstwhile Home Secretary should have publicly hanged the idiots who burned books - would have saved so much trouble.........but i guess Hurd just wants to be Woy Jenkins

Anonymous said...

Hey, all we need is Julian Barnes on-side and we'll have the full set. So glad these "leaders" have finally caught up with the Clapham omnibus.

James G. said...

I think Rushdie's public reconsideration of opinion is laudable, actually. It takes a real man to admit when he is wrong. Very few people in the public light ever do.

Gordon Freece said...

I read Satanic Verses fifteen or so years ago, but I remember liking it. "A book for those who shoot up in dark rooms"? Not hardly. It's no Naked Lunch.

From what I've read of his stuff, Rushdie's not afraid of entertaining anybody. He's not the greatest writer ever, but he is, at least, a real writer, not an academic fraud like John Barth or Don DeLillo.

Anonymous said...

Mass migration is a problem if the new immigrants are not willing to assilate. I came from South Africa to Israel. The latter is an immigrant success story while the former has an annual murder rate of around 20,000 - for the past ten years. I kid you not.

Why? SA's open border policy which - according to a friend of mine who is the State Prosecutor for Violent Crime - has let in hundreds of violent, out of work, revolutionary soldiers from Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Seems they are the ones carrying out the majority of the violent crimes. Hard to catch as they employ military tactics and slip over the borders at will.

I say, "Yes" to border control and a tight immigration policy. It's not about Islam. It's about protecting those you love, it's about standing up for who and what you are.