LONDON – Ian McEwan is shocked but has no doubts: “This shocking attack against my friend Salman Rushdie represents an assault on freedom of thought and speech”, he hotly writes to Republic and al Guardian the English writer, immediately after the sensational attack suffered by 24-year-old Hadi Matar, from New Jersey and arrested for trying to kill the author of the satanic verses, after buying a $ 30 ticket for the event in Chautauqua, in the north- west of New York State.
“Yet these”, namely that of thought and word, “are the freedoms at the basis of all our rights”, continues McEwan, also an intellectually free writer and friend of Rushdie for over two decades, after that damned fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini . The 74-year-old English writer, one year younger than Salman, was one of the intellectuals who immediately came closest to him, despite the fact that the British establishment initially took it out on the “offensive” and “dangerous” Rushdie.
So much so that, as an old article recalled eight years ago, Rushdie was reprized by former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, the Archbishop of Canterbury, former American President Jimmy Carter and even Prince Charles, as a another giant of English literature – and another staunch supporter of Rushdie – Martin Amis. “We talked about Salman at a dinner,” the novelist reminded the American magazine, “and we quarreled because at a certain point the prince started saying” well, if one offends the deep convictions of others … “. I replied that a novel does not offend anyone. Carlo apparently pretended to understand but I suspected that he would say the same thing again at the next party… ”.
Writer friends do not, however. They never left Rushdie. “Salman has always been the inspired advocate of persecuted writers and journalists,” McEwan reminds us today, “around the world.” He, Amis, Doctorow, Ishiguro and the other exponents of the group of committed writers “Pen” adopted Rushdie right away, out of friendship, solidarity but also for ideological issues. Indeed, in the hottest years after the 1989 fatwa, McEwan invited Salman to stay with him, in his bucolic cottage in English Gloucestershire: “Security” cleaned up “and checked my whole house, Salman came to rescue me living a mixture of energy, madness and relief.
The memories of this “forced” coexistence, and kept secret for about twenty years, are extraordinary. “I’ll never forget when we woke up the first morning and saw us at breakfast. We were in the kitchen, making toast and coffee and listening to the radio, and the BBC was telling how Hezbollah promised to kill him. It was all so sad and tragic.” Rushdie added, always a Vanity Fair: “Ian was very shaken by all of this. For me it was different: I received death threats every day, even more than one … sure, I was upset too. But Ian is an exquisite person and he was very upset about it. more, seeing what was happening to a friend “.
“Salman has a courageous and generous spirit,” McEwan comments today, “a man of immense talent and courage. And”, despite what has happened, “he will continue to fight.”