Rushdie forgives le Carré

October 6, 2012 at 7:39 pm (apologists and collaborators, Civil liberties, fascism, Free Speech, Guardian, Human rights, intellectuals, Iran, Jim D, literature)

Have you noticed how many of those people who’ve recently been writing about Salman Rushdie and expressing varying degrees of horror at the Ayatollah’s muderous fatwa, just have to throw in a little aside about Rushdie’s alleged arrogance, lack of self-awareness, or simply not being a very nice person? The slippery Pankaj Mishra in the Graun even berated Rushdie (in the context of the fatwa) for “peevish righteousness” against “those who criticised or disagreed with him.” (

Now, I don’t know Mr Rushdie and so if writers in the Graun and elsewhere are saying he’s not a nice man, etc, then who am I to disagree? What I can tell you, however, is that he’s certainly a more forgiving person towards at least one of those who betrayed him in 1989, than I would be.

Let’s be clear about this: what was at stake then and in the years that followed was a fundamental question of freedom of expression. It was, to put it simply, a battle between the forces of enlightenment (actually, The Enlightenment) and the forces of barbarism.  There was no middle ground. Rushdie’s enemies included not just the cynical, fascist, rulers of Iran and some Muslim people foolish enough to allow themselves to be influnced by them, but also plenty of non-Muslims including some Western “liberals.”

The list of writers, commentators and so-called “intellectuals” in the West who scabbed on Rushdie (and I’m omitting those who merely equivocated) is a despicable role of shame: John Berger, Germaine Greer, Roald Dahl, Jimmy Carter and (probably nastiest of all) John le Carré, who accused Rushdie of (you guessed it) “arrogance” and “self-canonisation.” The treachery of la Carré led to a long-running feud between him and Rushdie (the latter vigorously supported by Christopher Hitchens).

As far as I’m concerned the likes of le Carré are simply beneath contempt and branded, forever, with infamy. In fact, I’d go so far as to agree with David Aaronovitch that:

It is a conceit of the British that, had fascism come to this country or we been invaded, then our reaction would have been very different from that of, say, the French. In those non-Muslims who attacked Rushdie, who blamed him for stirring things up, who argued that the book should not be published in paperback, who said that he had brought the danger on himself and publicly resented the costs of his protection, you see the same arguments and psychology that would have justified collaboration with totalitarianism.

Well, it seems old Salman isn’t quite as peevish and self-important as has been made out: according to today’s Times, Rushdie (speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival), expressed his regret for the quarrel with le Carré. “I wish we hadn’t done it,”  he said. “I think of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as one of the great novels of postwar Britian.”

He added that la Carré had also expressed regret: “He’s a proud man, David Cornwell [la Carré’s real name -JD], but he said, ‘If I was wrong, I was wrong for the right reasons.'”

That would not be good enough for me. But then, I’m obviously more “peevish” than Rushdie.

NB: Before they made up: the Rushdie-le Carré exchanges,

H/t (for the Aaronovitch quote): prof Norm,


  1. Jim M. said,

    Erm… le Carre, I think.

    Oh… I think you’re right about le Carre. A shit is still a shit, even if you forgive ’em.

    Feel free to delete. 😉

    • Jim Denham said,

      ” le Carre, I think.”

      Thank you, Jim. I really do need a proof-reader don’t I?

      I wouldn’t dream of deleting you.

  2. Rosie said,

    I can’t find the original article in the Guardian that Le Carre wrote in 1989, but going by that exchange, I suppose it was to the effect that there was something to be said on the Ayatollahs’ side of the case. It’s the first instinct of the British liberal – to be even-handed. Totally wrong in this case, being even-handed between a free-thinking novelist and a bunch of theocrats who try get him killed, and opining that the theocrats might just have a point.

    And what a cheeky bugger Le Carre is, and how off key, saying of Rushdie and Hitchens that two Ayatollahs couldn’t be worse because they were grossly rude to him. They hadn’t offered anyone money to murder him. Pompous sod.

  3. Stoopid said,

    “I can’t find the original article in the Guardian that Le Carre wrote in 1989, but going by that exchange, I suppose it was to the effect…”

  4. Matt said,

    Le Carre’s semi-autobiographical A Perfect Spy is one of my favourite books. As with art, music and sport, in literature you have to separate the work from the writer.

  5. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    As I’ve probably said before down here there is very often an inverse relationship between an author’s political judgement and the quality of their work.

    In fact very many late C19 and C20 novelists and poets whose books I would risk my life to save from the last library on earth if it was burning down are fascists or reactionaries or racists of some ilk and very few indeed are really left (and even those tend to be Stalinists).

    Dostoevsky, Eliot, Yeats, Lewis, Chesterton, Conrad, Faulkner, Celine, de Montherlant, Hamsun, Green, Junger, Cioran, Borges, Waugh …I could carry on and on but I’d just be listing every other writer on my bookshelves.

    And afraid this inverse law also applies to Rushdie whose very bourgeois liberalism makes him such a fucking awful writer – while I can happily plough through great modernist tomes even I found Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses unreadable (in fact the latter must be up there with Mein Kampf ,A Brief History of Time and the non-dirty bits of Lady Chatterley’s Lover as one the most unread bestsellers in literary history).

    As for Joseph Anton which was read on Book of the Week not long ago unless the abridgers did an inconceivably bad job it is quite simply the worst autobiography I’ve ever suffered through.

    Utterly vile people often produce truly great books (and films and music and works of art) and decent people often produce total dreck – this is just the way of the world and we have to accept it.

    • Andrew Coates said,

      Jim I share most of your tastes, and particualrly like Celine, but Rushdie’s best books are Shame, Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses. It’s after that that he became unreadable, and the Moor’s Last Sigh – which embodies amongst is meanderings the conceit and falsehood about (slave-owning) Moorish Grenada fits yoru criticism exactly.

  6. Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

    On Broadcasting House radio4, D. Aaronovitch advocated the use of water canon against protesters wot a cunTT

    • bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

      why does jikm quotle that PiRCK? jursT caLl le caRRe a cuRRNt wiout citikng ARONIVICh shihEED. sHIRT poYSt annyway – yeS and SHit to the poINT and thaT buYt this is jusrst softpedlING HunTINGtON for the SaucER scum fanbAyce. If U WaNNa deferneD THE enlitonmernt adRREss the inherenT contRadicshions in the commodity ForM aND the Wayh that iT reifies sociAl reLAtions and invErts objecTs and SubjjecTS and Shit – liBERalim canNot mediate THEse cONtraDikktions as ideolGY – to ooverturn Al ll that oLD crAP ur goner hev to transennd liberal ideolgyu not just sure it UP and HTika.

      • Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

        “The Fetish-Character of the Commodity and its Secret”

        ‘Political economy has indeed analysed value and its magnitude, however incompletely, and has uncovered the content concealed within this form. But it has never once asked the question why this content has assumed that particular form, that is to say, why labour is expressed in value, and why the measurement of labour by its duration is expressed in the magnitude of the value of the product. These forms, which bear the unmistakable stamp of belonging to a social formation in which the process of production has mastery over man, instead of the opposite, appear to the political economists’ bourgeois consciousness to be as much a self-evident and nature-imposed necessity as productive labour itself.”

        Marx Gadgie

  7. Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

    i want to see that owld senile cunt (aarovitch) scared witless by Bolshevik revoulution and RED TERROR. So I do. Him and his ilk. isn’t it and that.

    • comradeNosaj said, bunch of wibberal shit here about Zizek and how he loves dictatorship and terror and boofuckinghoo someone call the whaaaambulance

      • Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

        Oh that’s Alan — not the minister, the vicar you have when you are not having the vicar — Johnson.

      • Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

        Alan Johnson is not sophisticated enough to have any original ideas other than those that would self-promote his career. You must understand this…his is *not* a political project.The inexorable climb up the academic ladder in a very small institution, then into CooMent iS FreE, hawking his slimey, fuckfaced, twadry pieces of flim flam and ill-thought out slanders to any barmPOTT who will give him the time of day. He has carved out a niche for himself – a nice little earner. And that is all.

  8. comradeNosaj said,

    That Mishra article is one of the dullest, boring pieces of shit I’ve ever read. Spend half the “review” going on about how Rushdie is some cosseted celebrity which is pretty fucking rich coming from someone married to David Cameron’s cousin. Then add a bunch of relativist shit about how all the excess abuses of the war on terror are worse than fundamentalism. In short: Mishra is a cunt and a supercilious one at that what with that bollox about Sri Lanka and the general tone of “oh I’m sooo much smarter at geo-politics than you!!!!” cunt.

  9. Jimmy Glesga said,

    Jelly. Water cannon was used in the spray baths when I was at school. Kept the lice doon.

  10. Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

    ps. Put German idealism on the national school curriculum. The revolution would then only be a generation away.

  11. Dancing about architecture – PooterGeek said,

    […] about reduced state funding for the arts and education in the UK and the kind of people who excuse the burning of books, advocate the closure of places of learning, attack performances of classical music, and disrupt […]

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