It’s a civic holiday in glorious Ontario, Canada. (My roommates and I have no idea what we’re supposed to be celebrating, except summer weather and Tim Horton’s ice caps, maybe.) Therefore I should give my magnificent brain a rest but when I see a fellow human in need I cannot turn my head aside. I cannot deny our shared humanity (as much as I may like to).
Rushdie is threatening legal action over some of Evans’s wilder allegations, which of course places him in a difficult situation. Two decades back, he was being held up as an icon of free speech beset by censorship, theocratic totalitarianism and mob violence. He’s clearly aware of the potential ironies: “I am not in the business of suppressing books,” he declares. “I just want the stuff taken out of which he knows to be untrue.”
“Untrue”; a tricky word. On Her Majesty’s Service purports to be a non-fiction book, and must be judged on that basis. But Rushdie’s whole career has been based on the artful renegotiation of the distinction between fact and fiction, history and fantasy. The magic realism of Midnight’s Children; the alternate history of The Ground Beneath Her Feet; the postmodern self-reference of Fury; the liberties taken with Hamlet and Star Trek in East, West; above all, the cavalier reworking of ancient texts and myths in The Satanic Verses; all of these are liable to the pedantic corrective that “it didn’t really happen like that”.
Yes, Mr. Footman, very good! You’re almost there. Your final conclusion should be: Mr. Salman Rushdie writes fiction: “An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.” F-I-C-T-I-O-N.
Hint: Any need for the word “magic”, “myth” etc.
Bonus charity gesture: Hamlet is a play (P-L-A-Y), also an imaginative work, and while you may have endeared yourself to some fan boy communities, even Wikipedia knows that Star Trek isn’t depicting reality either.
Helpful suggestion: A political science beginner’s course on matters related to free speech and the limits thereof.
Token of thanks: No tangible objects needed! Just promise to think before you hand Guardian any more word vomit, especially on Rushdie news of which we readers get far too much. I’m subscribed to its RSS feed after all. Cheers!