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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The angel and the toady - Sanjay Subrahmanyam

It is here that we come to the heart of the matter: it is not clear to me that many of those who have supported Rushdie any more than those who attack him have a clear sense of what Said terms "literature's apartness". After all, those who give the Booker prize, Prix Goncourt and other such awards frequently defend them using all sorts of instrumentalist social and political arguments rather than ones that centre on the literary merits of the work. It is no mystery that literary production as a commercial enterprise has little place for a discussion of literary quality as such. It would therefore be mistaken to imagine that this lack of autonomy granted to literary space is some peculiar attribute of the Islamic world - as right-wing Hindu fundamentalists have usually claimed in India, using The Satanic Verses as evidence. It may also arise, as the Telugu critic and poet "Nara" recently wrote, "If a poet has the delusion that his poetry is meant to change society [when] the business of a poet is to write poetry".


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