Statement from SF Canada about the attack on Salman Rushdie

On Saturday, August 13th, the Booker-winning author Sir Salman Rushdie was attacked in Chautauqua, NY, by a knife-wielding assailant. At the time of writing he is expected to live and no longer on a respirator, but it is reported that he may have lost an eye, and suffered other possibly-permanent injuries. SF Canada wishes Sir Salman a speedy recovery.  We would also like to voice our support for Rushdie’s work, and for writers everywhere who write on controversial topics.
The attack appears to have been in retribution for Rushdie’s authorship (in 1988) of the magic-realist novel The Satanic Verses. While in one sense it was the act of a lone would-be murderer, the attack was encouraged by a fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and by blood money offered by entities connected to the Iranian government.
 
Of course, being controversial does not in itself make a piece of literature worthwhile. The quality of a piece of literature depends upon numerous things, in many cases subjective, and controversy in the service of bad writing is no virtue. However,  a writer may legitimately make use of controversial material. It is perhaps not widely enough remembered, three decades after the publication of The Satanic Verses, that the passages so widely objected to were not presented as true representations of the prophet Mohammed and those around him, but as the delusions of a mentally ill protagonist, aggravated by the stress of his experience as an immigrant.  It is ultimately the reader’s decision whether this, or any other, piece of writing succeeds: many have thought that The Satanic Verses succeeds brilliantly.  But, whatever the reader’s opinion on a piece of fiction, violence or persecution of the author are never legitimate responses.
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