Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, September 28, 2012

This is sad

I read this story from the Times of India today in a state of total disbelief.

I have little doubt there will be all kinds of criticism levelled at The Casual Vacancy (which I haven't read yet), but I must say that the one linked above definitely blind-sided me. So, if a character in a book (especially one not portrayed sympathetically, as I guess "Fats" might not be) voices a homophobic remark, does that render the book homophobic? Or its author? Davies in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker is openly racist: does that mean Pinter despised blacks? I realise that Ayatollah Khomeini believed that having characters in a work of fiction slandering the prophet Muhammad was unacceptable enough to require its author's elimination, but in The Satanic Verses there was an entire narrative stream of the novel, with no authorial distancing, to complain about. Khomeini's fatwa was disgusting but one can just about understand why some Muslims, especially those unused to Rushdie's multi-layered writing style, might have taken offense. But reviews of The Casual Vacancy have mentioned the "ill-disguised racism" of the society it describes, and Fats - the character whose remarks have caused the trouble - has been described as "mildly sociopathic". So a character we're presumably not meant to like says unlikeable things, and this is a problem why?

Honestly, Sikhism had always struck me as a remarkably level-headed religion: not without its violent fringe (as Indira Gandhi could testify had she not experienced it herself) but on the whole taking even genuine insults in its stride. All the Sikhs I have known personally have been lovely people. I visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar and was made immesely welcome. For fuck's sake, I recently linked Balpreet Kaur's picture and comment on my Facebook page because I thought it showed a terrific attitude. (My comment was "Wow. Just. Wow.")

I don't think Avtar Singh Makkar is showing a terrific attitude. I think he's being a jerk. And I'm not a fictional character.


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