Lengths People Will Go To Write

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.