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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Salman Rushdie's Ritual Suicide

Rushdie, Salman. Joseph Anton.  New York: Random House, 2012.

It is rare to consider literature as a murder weapon, although in the eyes of some beholders Richard Wright's Native Son (1940) appears as the novel that killed the pretense of American innocence and ignorance in the United States. Seven decades later, the Anglo-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie uses fictive biography as autobiography to commit ritual suicide. Fashioning Joseph Anton from the remains of Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov, Rushdie accomplishes what fatwa could not: the death of the author. Obviously, anxiety, fear, pints of guilt and gallons of spleen drove Rushdie to defend the moral rightness of The Satanic Verses. "He [Salman/Joseph] looked at himself in the mirror and loathed what he saw"(342).  What he saw was the image of an Anglo-Indian, a zigga (T. Geronimo Johnson's magnificent neologism), a male whose desire to become a British gentleman of letters could never be accomplished; thus, the man so alienated from his culture(s) as to become the Other of himself, chose the tragic action of self-murder.

Rushdie can write, can write well, even if the eloquence of his prose descends from time to time into the bowels of what is utterly arch.  But he lacks the deceptive masculinity of an Ernest Hemingway, a writer capable of making suicide the real thing. Instead, he manipulates the kindred genres of autobiography and biography to speak from the grave of being.

Rushdie's ritual suicide empowers him to let slip a truth from which much of the world retreats in fear and denial and trembling: the Sauds of Arabia are ultimately responsible for the tragedy of 9/11. As far as I know, this revelation puts the legitimacy of fatwa under erasure. For providing this choice insight about the cesspool of contemporary history, the intrepid Queen of England should tap him on head and shoulders and give him her garter.  An Anglo-Indian writer who possesses spleen enough to defy Islam deserves no less an honor.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

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