When i read of the proposed knighthood for Salman Rushdie, my first thought was 'poor bastard'. Having lived with armed bodyguards for ten years, he was finally regaining a semblance of a normal life.
My second thought was 'why'? They must have known how inflammatory this would appear; how dangerous to Rushdie's life; how simply in-your-face 'fuck you Muzzers' this would seem.
Err, apparently not.
The committee that recommended Salman Rushdie for a knighthood never imagined that the award would provoke the furious response that it has done in parts of the Muslim world, according to the Guardian.
Gotta be a joke?
It also emerged yesterday that the writers' organisation that led the lobbying for the author of Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses to be knighted had originally hoped that the honour would lead to better relations between Britain and Asia.What??!
The arts and media committee that proposed him for a knighthood is chaired by Lord Rothschild, the investment banker and former chairman of the trustees of the National Gallery. The other committee members are Jenny Abramsky, the BBC's director of radio and music; novelist and poet Ben Okri, who is vice-president of the English chapter of PEN International, which campaigns on behalf of writers who face persecution; Andreas Whittam Smith, former editor of the Independent; John Gross, the author and former theatre critic of the Sunday Telegraph; and two permanent secretaries, one from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and one from the Scottish executive. Mr Smith said that,
"Very properly, we were concerned only with merit in relation to the level of the award,"
Very properly indeed, but a little reckless to Mr. Rushdie's health?
PEN International, which campaigned on behalf of Rushdie when he was in hiding during the fatwa years, has lobbied consistently for him to be honoured. Yesterday the director of its London chapter, Jonathan Heawood, said that he was taken aback by the scale of the reaction.
"The honour is for services to literature and a very belated recognition that he is a world writer, who was in the vanguard of a writing tradition that exploded in the 80s in south Asia. It seems a shame that a few lines in his fourth novel should have turned him into this hate figure. He has become a Guy Fawkes figure to be thrown on a bonfire whenever it suits a government to divert attention from what is happening in their own countries."
Too true Jonathan. But you really should already know this.
No date has been set for the investiture. Rushdie could become Sir Salman in the next batch of investitures between October and December or early next year. Or the Foreign Office could veto the proposal.
An unusually sensible remark from Will Self,
"Given the furore that The Satanic Verses occasioned, it does strike me that any responsible writer might ask himself whether the fallout from accepting such an honour was really worth the bauble ... it is surely better that writers decline any form of honour."