Leading the new Listener is Diana Wichtel’s interview with Salman Rushdie, who tells her about the Kafkaesque nightmare of living for a decade with a fatwa hanging over him.
Here’s a snippet:
The book [Joseph Anton, a memoir] recounts the moment in 1990 when Rushdie was persuaded into a meeting with Islamic scholars at, of all places, Paddington Green police station. He felt like he was on trial. Never a religious man, he signed a statement renewing his Muslim faith; did painfully unconvincing interviews. “He did not remember what he said,” he writes. “He knew what he was saying to himself … You are a liar and a coward and a fool.” The fatwa remained in place.
“Yes, that was the lowest point,” he says quietly. “The kind of statements I was required to make weren’t true and on the whole I’m a truthful person and I felt … I just felt sick at the compromise that I’d allowed myself to get sucked into.”
Now he sees the episode as pivotal. “Once I recovered from it and repudiated this mistake, I felt much, much clearer about how to proceed, about who I was and what I was fighting for. I just told myself there’s no point trying to compromise about issues there can be no compromise about. I was all done with trying to appease and accommodate people. I thought, ‘I’m just going to fight my corner and try and argue my case and people can make of it what they like.’”
The segment is a wrenching anatomy of bullying. “When I was reading the part of the journal that related to this period, it’s quite obvious to anybody reading it that the person writing the journal is not in good shape mentally,” he says, slipping back into the third person. “It was written in a time of real, deep depression and something close to despair, and I think it was out of that darkness that this mistake happened.”
Elsewhere, Ruth Laugesen writes on the feats being achieved by New Zealand designers, highlighting 10 of the best, and the latest trends.
Max Rashbrooke, an expert on inequality, finds out about the reality in the hundreds of private boarding houses in New Zealand that are not required to have specific minimum standards – despite taxpayer money going into them. He does that by spending three weeks living in one.
At the other end of the spectrum, Linda Sanders looks at how Auckland’s heated property market affects mortgages.
Leading the culture pages, the new pick for the Listener Book Club: Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize is a deceptively understated horror story, writes Claire Allfree.
In reviews, new books by Sebastian Faulks, JK Rowling, Joe Bennett and James McNeish.
And a preview of the new season of Downton Abeey, with Shirley MacLaine upping the melodrama-meter.
Plus two minutes with Toa Fraser, a diary by Richard Prebble, and all the usual columnists, bits, and bobs.