NPR : News

Filed Under:

Salman Rushdie, John Le Carre End Literary Feud

It began with a war of words in the letters pages of the Guardian and ended with comments made to The Times of London. It took 15 years, but, as the Guardian reports, the feud between writers Salman Rushdie and John le Carre is at an end.

The spat began in 1997 when Le Carre, the author of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and other novels, wrote to the Guardian, complaining that the forces of political correctness in the U.S. had unfairly described him as anti-Semitic for his portrayal of a character in the novel The Tailor of Panama. Rushdie responded with a letter of his own, saying he wished Le Carre had felt the same way when Rushdie was targeted by an Iranian fatwa for his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims view as anti-Islamic.

Here's how Le Carre, whose real name is David Cornwell, described his view of The Satanic Verses:

"My position was that there is no law in life or nature that says great religions may be insulted with impunity."

The war of words didn't end with that. It played out in true pre-Internet fashion in the letters pages – with Rushdie calling Le Carre "a pompous ass," and Le Carre accusing the Booker Prize-winner of "self-canonization."

Here's how The New York Times reported on the spat at the time:

"The exchanges have taken place in a time-honored arena for mudslinging in Britain, the letters page of a newspaper, The Guardian. While other parts of the paper were covering the continuing push in high places to have Britain portrayed as a sensitive, caring, compassionate nation, Mr. le Carre and Mr. Rushdie were striking blows in the letters columns for the tradition of literary invective."

Rushdie extended the olive branch last month, when he told a British literature festival that he admired Le Carre as a writer.

"I wish we hadn't done it," he said, of the feud. "I think of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as one of the great novels of postwar Britain."

Le Carre responded Monday, telling The Times, "I too regret the dispute."

Here's more of Le Carre's comments:

"I admire Salman for his work and his courage, and I respect his stand. Does that answer the larger debate which continues to this day?

"Should we be free to burn Korans, mock the passionately held religions of others? Maybe we should – but should we also be surprised when the believers we have offended respond in fury? I couldn't answer that question at the time and, with all good will, I still can't. But I am a little proud, in retrospect, that I spoke against the easy trend, reckoning with the wrath of outraged western intellectuals, and suffering it in all its righteous glory. And if I met Salman tomorrow? I would warmly shake the hand of a brilliant fellow writer."

The reconciliation between the two writers follows the rapprochement between writers V.S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux last year. My colleague Eyder Peralta reported on it at the time, as did The New Yorker, which posted a video of the two men shaking hands after a long falling out.

(h/t Salon)

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

When Caravaggio Plays Quevedo In Tennis, The Court Becomes A Sonnet

"It's a little space, well-measured and precise, in which you have to keep the ball bouncing," says Álvaro Enrigue. His book, Sudden Death, pits the Italian painter against the Spanish poet.
WAMU 88.5

Does "Made in DC" Matter?

D.C.'s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Undone Chocolate, got its start in local food incubator space Union Kitchen, part of a wave of interest in locally made products which includes a push for a "Made in DC" logo.

WAMU 88.5

Does "Made in DC" Matter?

D.C.'s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Undone Chocolate, got its start in local food incubator space Union Kitchen, part of a wave of interest in locally made products which includes a push for a "Made in DC" logo.

NPR

Password Security Is So Bad, President Obama Weighs In

In unveiling a sweeping plan to fund and revamp cybersecurity, the president asks citizens to consider using extra layers of security besides the password.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.