I’ve been trying to come up with a really good, well-thought out post about so-called “Muslim rage” and censorship and Salman Rushdie and J.K. Rowling and artistic control. Because there’s something similar about the way Rushdie, in the New Yorker excerpt from his new memoir, writes about whether or not he was trying to offend anyone when he wrote “The Satanic Verses” and the way Rowling has over the years apparently tried to control the way she is portrayed.
The Harry Potter books have been banned by some, and yet Rowling herself has sought to limit the journalists who cover her. (It’s one thing to refuse interviews. It’s another to agree on condition that you get to approve the quotes.)
Rushdie was imperiled and basically imprisoned for ten years. And yet he seems to me to not allow that, in the absence of a fatwa against an author’s life, people have the right to be offended by a work of literature, or even the idea of a work of literature–just as the author has the right to write that work.
Maybe I’m wrong about Rushdie’s sentiment. It’s hard to say given the awfulness of what happened to him because of what he wrote. The idea that an authoritarian regime could reach beyond its borders to strangle an artist’s creativity or even take his or her life, or the lives of his or her loved ones–that thought is not alien to any artist who lives in a democracy but has family who reside in a totalitarian state.