Roberto Saviano tells Salman Rushdie: “Against all fanatics he took back his life”

from Roberto Saviano

He has decided not to be a recluse. For years he fed on meetings, dinners, loves, happiness. He has already won, with his free, libertine and intense life

The stab wounds that cut Salman Rushdie’s flesh hit a free man. Salman had taken into account the risk that what happened in New York would happen even though he thought it unlikely by now. He decided to fight against Islamic fanaticism not with proclamations or pamphlets but by choosing to live a fanatic love of life and freedom
. In the decades after the condemnation, the 1989 fatwa what freed him from persecution was the choice to live away from the pressures of persecution. He loved, married several times, traveled to every possible literary festival, decided not to be forced in any way by those who hated him to live hidden, armored, monitored. After the first years in which he had literally disappeared in a bubble of total protection, constantly changing his address, living among policemen and Salman armored cars he decided to take back his life.

Desire for freedom

And how did he do it? Literally escaping from the policemen who protected him and avoiding any request to intervene with comments regarding the events of Islamic terrorism or religious fanaticism. The fatwa had forced him to live in an obsession with death
, people were afraid to go to one of his events, but above all they were taking away from him what more than anything else matters to a writer: his gaze on the world, the language through which to tell and invent it. So he decided to come back to life.

His vital fanaticism was nourished by meetings, dinners, the happiness of literary debates. He chose not to be condemned to be similar to himself, to write only what they expected of him, he wrote novels set in the Renaissance, futuristic stories, New York families devastated by power and ambition, tales of mythical figures in satirical plots mythological and surreal, fairy tales.

went to TV, to the theater, to participate in music videos and films. Rushdie saved himself with literature, that is by practicing the world of the possible, creating worlds, probing relationships, becoming himself: a man who experiences life and not a martyr. He was not determined by the declaration of a dying Khomeini nor terrified by an alleged millionaire reward that self-styled organizations close to the Tehran regime promised to those who would hit him. This cost him a lot in terms of credibility, including attacks by the community of journalists and writers ready to read whatever happens to an author based on the effect it will have on copies and fame: umma who wants to kill you and you go around the parties? or here is the clever one who uses persecution to seduce beautiful women or even directly from colleagues you should bring a bouquet of flowers to Khomeini’s grave that made you so famous, no one would have bought your incomprehensible books.

A world of images

Rushdie chooses to ignore, leave in the cesspool of slander the constant suspicion that everything was fake, exaggerated, because a death sentence could not live such a free, libertine and intense life and even try to have a good time. He decided to determine the perimeter of what he was himself, not allowing it to be drawn by religious fanaticism which instrumentally used Rushdie’s sentence to condemn all intellectuals and intellectuals of Islamic origin who did not defend the Iranian regime. Who used the fatwa to send a clear message: the free Islamic writers are no longer listenable, they are no longer legible, and indeed, as you can see, they insult the Koran, dirty the prophet, bring shame into our house. Rushdie and the Satanic Verses they are used to create a front of attack and delegitimization: those who do not defend the regime do not belong to the community. the official act of war (never withdrawn) to any kind of dialogue with the intellectual world of Islamic education and they declare it by dressing it with a theological argument. We do not argue with writers who do not defend the regime, we condemn them.

Salman Rushdie did not imagine this could happen, his writing is imaginative, imaginativethe plot is just a stage on which events of all kinds then happen that follow nothing but the flow of his writing. Satanic verses it has nothing to do with the criticism of Islam or with religion, set in contemporary times and has as its protagonists two Indian emigrants of Muslim origin, one a very successful actor in Bollywood, the other a mediocre voice actor who can hardly stand its roots. The focus of the novel concerns their surviving (in a completely surreal way) to a plane crash and the subsequent transformation of the two, one into a sort of angel, the other into a demon. The novel is a full-bodied dream construction, in a delirium of images and narratives where the protagonists are continually pushed to be the opposite of what they had chosen to want to be.

Precisely from this path Rushdie decides to combine a history of the Islamic tradition which will then be the reason for the condemnation. The Bollywood actor has a dream and here Rushdie is inspired by the episode of the Koranic tradition, a famous story removed from the Koran because it tells of a moment of weakness of Mohammed, when the prophet in Mecca declares before the faithful that the three daughters of Allah, Allat, Al Uzza and Manat, are venerable. He is basically saying that there is no one God and giving legitimacy to paganism. But the prophet was deceived by Satan and therefore realizing it cancels this declaration of his. Allah the creator God, all are children of him and the only God, but the story of the satanic verses refers to the pre-Islamic tradition and the three daughters are ancient Arabian goddesses. Historians tell us that it was an Islamic strategy to convert populations, take their local deities and associate them with Allah, but Rushdie doesn’t care about this dynamic, everything used to show in the novel how we continually live in the opposite of who we are; the demon in Satanic Verses will find redemption, the angel on the contrary torment and damnation, good and evil are indefinable, even more when we believe, while we instead delude ourselves to recognize and understand them, to be able to measure and manage them.

The bravery

The constant pressure of life so constant as to allow no single choice, no single vision, and illusion and deception are enemies that can become allies if considered in human fallibility as inevitable steps. This is the wandering of Rushdian writing that absorbs everything from the continuous change of existence.

My first thought when I learned that he had been stabbed was not like many other friends who damned Salman’s choice not to have an escort, because if he was protected it would not have happened. But, on the contrary, I have thought of his courage to live life fully and the wound of this blade the pain of a few moments in the face of years of life that he managed to subtract from the condemnation of fanaticism and from the threats of religious bigots. Salman has already won, the fanatic love of life managed to make the fanaticism of death recoil, which wanted him to be a recluse, prudent and silently equal to himself. Whatever happens this is the ultimate truth of his triumph.

August 13, 2022 (change August 13, 2022 | 07:41)

Roberto Saviano tells Salman Rushdie: “Against all fanatics he took back his life”