I’ve always been fascinated by author’s biographies, especially when those authors seem to be rebellious. Reading the autobiographical information about Salman Rushdie in Rob Burton’s “Artists of the Floating World” was no exception. It was even more fascinating because, in the context of our culture, it doesn’t seem like it’s all that rebellious to write your opinions in a book.
This chapter dealt more with the trials that Rushdie underwent after publishing Satanic Verses and not Midnight’s Children. Even though I’m not sold on Rushdie after reading a few of his books, the intrigue behind his rebellion makes me want to read Satanic Verses. The chapter states that Rushdie had a $5 million dollar bounty on his head for committing “3 offences, each punishable by death under Islamic law: he had insulted the Prophet, he had spread corruption on earth, and he had repudiated his Muslim faith” (108). He also had to move several times under the protection of the Scotland Yard.
It’s fascinating because he had to be aware of what he was doing to some extent. He had to have known that he would get in trouble for his writing and that he could be punished.
Apparently, I am not the only one fascinated by the idea of him being published because of his rebellion. Burton tells us that “Pen upheld the sanctity of the written word by putting out a strongly-worded statement on behalf of a writer‘s entitlement to free expression” (108). They valued what he’d written and did not think there was a reason for punishment. When the book did hit the stores in America, it sold out immediately. “Waldenbooks and B. Dal-ton‘s, temporarily withdrew the book from sale, apparently to protect their stores from threatened acts of sabotage” (108). Even though they probably agreed with PEN’s statement, they had to fear for their own safety just because they carried the book.
The idea of rebellious writers has come up a lot this semester. We’ve channeled a lot of classic novelists through our readings, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, D.H. Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, etc. They are all authors who have made profound statements in the literary field through their rebellious writings and lifestyles.
The chapter this week also pointed out that “There was also another starkly original feature to Rushdie‘s writing: his playful use of language. There seemed to be an unrestrained joyfulness about his word combinations and phrasings, as if he taken to heart the legacy of French postmodernism which was to reinvent language, to play with its structures, in order to deconstruct it. After all, when the signifiers had floated free from the signified, then artists should be allowed to indulge in the texture of a liberated language” (106). I couldn’t help but think of the idea of “chutnification.” It’s always interesting to see how authors play around with words and reinvent language.