A country that can not welcome writers like Salman Rushdie must not expect high hopes of intellectual achievements coming out of the country. Government’s refusal to provide security to him is very condemnable but totally expected. No government will touch this issue in the election year.
I saw an interview of Salman Rushdie, in which some caller asked him about his reasons to live in US. He answered, “Do I live in US? I didn’t know that. I live in New York.” He subsequently explained that he does not identify him self with the nation state, an intangible idea, but with the city, which he can feel tangibly.
After living 5+ years in various cities in Europe, I share his feelings about living in a city rather than in a nation state. I can feel the city. I can walk across it. I see neighborhoods. I recognize shop keepers. I feel that I know the city but not the nation state. The city is my home not the nation state.
In India, it was opposite. I had distinct feeling about being in India, which was pushed into my conscience by patriotic songs and propagandized education. But, once I step out of the mother country. I do not have that emotional attachment with any other nation state. When I move to a foreign nation state, the attachments that I form are with the streets on which I walk to my workplace, the shops where I buy bread, and the passersby to whom I say hi. The city becomes the home. I do not know if this feeling is shared by many people who move every other year. But, it is an interesting idea. This feeling saves one from the dreadful nationalism.
The current conception of an identity implies that citijan(city person) can not be a unit of identity for modern society. Since world is globalized and people are increasingly interdependent, city identity is too fragmentary. We need to rethink the notion of identity and tone down some emotional aspect of an identity. I think that the concept of nation states are getting more and more at odds with the social and technological world in which we are living. May be the city identity can serve our need to feel part of some thing greater and derive a social support system. Emotional element can be removed from the nation state and it will reduce into an administrative body such as UN.
* citijan == city+jan == city person
I got Satanic Verses around 6 years back. I couldn’t read it beyond few pages. The same reason which made it the most unread bestseller. Hard English. His allusions move all over the planet. You need to know a lot of history and literature to catch-all those allusions. I recently found this source, which listed all the allusion made in the book. Finally, I was able to read it from front to the back, without skipping boring chapters.
The book is about immigrants in London, mostly Indian, who came there around 60s-70s and living there in 80s. It paints a good picture of 80s. Margaret Thatcher in London and Rajiv Gandhi in Delhi. People loving film stars like Sri devi, Vinod Khanna, etc. Many events described in the book were actually happened. I learned many facts about India. I feel that the story attempts to point at certain hippocracies and behavioral clichés of the people–both British and immigrants–and its effect on their own life. I think that this book has done it well.
The fatwa. The controversial part was dreams of a character called Gibreel, who was very successful film star in India. He was very religious man. Once he started having series of dreams, which lead him to lose faith, and by the end he goes mad. These dreams were not random. They are closely related to some real events. One of them was controversial. It was based on Prophet Mohammed’s life. In this dream, story takes satirical look at prophet´s life. Some part of it simply makes fun of the prophet. Rushdie’s main crime was not that he made fun of the prophet but he seriously challenged the legitimacy of the prophet, which lead to the fatwa.He wrapped it all in a fiction, which many say obscene. There has been serious criticism about weakness of plot. It is hard to make sense out of the fiction.
All in all I liked the book. I wish to meet someone who has read this book and disliked it. I want to discuss what makes this book bad to some people, except fanatic muslims.
( You may find this video on youtube (In 12 parts) interesting. It is a talk by some Muslim cleric to explain what is wrong with Satanic Verses. Noticed that he is speaking in London. So, he is only focusing on the obscene part of the book rather then the blasphemy part. Quite smart of him. Here is another video by the same cleric speaking in South africa. Here, he deals with actual blasphemous material. He waste lots of time in saying random things but it is worth watching it if religion interest you in anyways. )