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Salman Rushdie and the decision to live without fear


Now one thinks that he should never have lowered his guard, but choosing a normal life rewarded him with these splendid years in which his literature and his voice have enjoyed absolute freedom.

Salman Rushdie, on September 9, 2012 in Toronto. DPA via Europa Press (DPA via Europa Press)

Over and over again I watch and read the news of the attack on Salman Rushdie in Chautauqua, New York, and think of what this man has meant to the world and especially to me.

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Last minute of the attack on Salman Rushdie

In the 1980s, Harold Pinter, Julie Christie and Salman were the spokespersons for solidarity in the United Kingdom against the Contra war that the Reagan Administration financed to end the Sandinista Revolution.

Salman was invited to Nicaragua for one of the anniversaries of the revolution.

I met him at a dinner at Sergio Ramírez's house.

It was 1985. We liked each other and we laughed to see, as he said, that we shared the “shameful past” of having been


for advertising agencies.

We also discover our youthful dazzle with

Lawrence Durrell

's Alexandria Quartet .

I was then writing my first novel:

The Inhabited Woman


I told him that I was going to start it over again and I remember her emphasis when he replied “No, no, just go ahead, add the new stuff and at the end you remove what you don't want.

Do not discard anything because later it can be useful to you”.

She was leaving the next day, but she promised to write to me.

She did it.

She also sent me her novel

From him Children of Midnight.

It was the beginning of a long friendship that lasts until now.

In fact —it seems unbelievable to me, and it makes me cry in these hours of anguish, the circumstance—, she wrote to me hours before the attack.

The day before, from Madrid, I sent him an email asking him to follow the tradition of sending me the manuscripts of his novels before they were published.

I wanted to read

Victory City,

his most recent novel.

Waiting until it was published in February 2023 was waiting too long, I joked.

I had just received an email from him with the novel attached.

“Here it is”, he told me, when I found out with horror about the attack.

I can't help but think that he would have written and sent that message from Chautauqua hours before leaving to fulfill his commitment to advocate for persecuted writers and the need to give them asylum.

I couldn't open his novel file.

I read and reread his message and imagine his haste to get dressed, drink coffee, go out to the premises, with the alacrity and seriousness with which he took those obligations, ignoring the aggression that he has once again stopped, and I tell myself and beg that temporarily, the course of his life.

Hadi Matar (left) is arrested after attacking Salman Rushdie in Chautauqua on Friday.


I dined with Salman at his house in Islington a week before the fatwa.

We talked about his book.

He autographed it for me.

He knew it was an earthy look at the Prophet Muhammad, but he didn't expect the reaction that would put him in hibernation for 10 years.

Through Harold Pinter, whose friendship he bestowed on me and who was also an ardent critic of US policy in Nicaragua, he heard from him and wrote him unanswered letters.

Salman's incommunicado detention was absolute during that period.

Now that we have been through the confinements of the pandemic, we can imagine what it must have been like for him to exist in that time alone, without access to anything other than a typewriter or a rudimentary computer.

When the Islamic State stopped persecuting, but did not annul, the fulfillment of the

fatwa, Salman emerged.

I remember when he came to my house in Los Angeles the first time in a gray car, driven by some sort of bodyguard.

He said that in a few more months he would no longer need it.

I asked him if he wasn't running a very high risk.

He told me that without the resources of the Iranian state bent on assassinating him, his risks were those of any person who could be attacked by a fanatic or a madman.

And that he was not going to impoverish himself and stop living his life to the full because of that possibility.

He had already lost 10 years.

"Let's go to Las Vegas" —he told Charlie, my husband, and me—, and we went with him that weekend, commending ourselves to all the gods of Olympus, but unable to deny him that escapade, like many others with which he re-released his longed for freedom.

Since leaving the hiding place where he had to take refuge after Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa, Salman made the decision to live his life without fear.

It was something that moved us, he worried us, but we also admired his friends.

The love of life, friendship, his prodigious sense of humor, and his courage ended up convincing us that he was right when he gave up living eternally protected.

And he dedicated himself to a full life.

Like a sail that opens to the wind she so she sailed.

He faced fear open-chested, letting the wind carry him.

Now one thinks that he should never have lowered his guard, but living as he has lived until now, a normal life, rewarded him with these splendid years in which his literature and his voice have enjoyed absolute freedom.

As a symbol of those who have been persecuted for exercising their freedom of expression, Salman was president of PEN America and the founder of the Voices of the World festival, created to bring writers from everywhere to New York, to break the trend in American culture of seeing only his own navel.

In his lifetime, without flinching, Salman has lectured, taught, and supported libertarian struggles, and written and written and written important novels and essays.

For me, who loves his unpredictable, imaginative, profound lyrics, my great fascination has been seeing him enjoy life;

watch him drink it every day.

I have been dazzled by his ability to have fun like a child with baseball, soccer, rugby;

his enthusiasm for social media and technology—months ago he became a pioneer by starting to publish a serialized novel on a modern platform called Substacks;

his generous celebration of other artists: actors, singers, painters;

the passion with which he suffered Trump and celebrated the end of his term;

his search for love from the great mistakes to the successes;

his immense generosity with his friends through thick and thin;

his love and erudition for that source of pleasure that is literature.

This Friday, August 12, Salman ran into intolerance, hatred, the distorted reality of those who divide the world between the faithful and the unfaithful and use a God they build to try to plunge us into darkness.

The word continues to be a fearsome weapon for them because it shows them that freedom will not give up.

Many risks can be taken for it, but as long as there are people like Salman Rushdie, that dearest friend, whose life we ​​hope will also continue, the obscurantists can do harm, but they will not win.

Gioconda Belli

is a Nicaraguan poet and novelist.

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Source: elparis

All life articles on 2022-08-14

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