For lovers of good literary controversy, Salman Rushdie is the gift that keeps on giving.
A few months after the publication of Rushdie’s memoir “Joseph Anton,” the New York Review of Books (where they specialize in this sort of thing) published a takedown of Rushdie, written by the British novelist and journalist Zoe Heller.
Heller accuses Rushdie of being disingenuous when he says in his memoir that he had no idea his iconoclastic 1989 novel “The Satanic Verses” would set off such a violent and vicious controversy--more than 50 people were killed and the Iranian regime declared a fatwa against him. Rushdie told The Times in an interview this summer that he was “naïve” about what the reaction to “The Satanic Verses” would be.
Baloney, says Heller. Rushdie had already been sued for libel by the prime minister of India for his second novel, “Midnight’s Children,” and his third had been banned in Pakistan. He always sought to deliberately provoke, she writes, and “was better qualified than most to appreciate literature’s capacity for eliciting hostile, nonliterary responses.”