Lyrical, lush and poetic in descriptions of both beauty and horror, the book rings with honesty, moving the reader through a range of emotions without a hint of manipulation.
That is how I described Nadeem Aslam’s The Blind Man’s Garden after reading the first 100 pages. And the description remains relevant now that I’ve finished the book.
The title of this post comes from a part of the dialogue between two characters and conveys the fragility and uncertainty of life caused by the invasion of Afghanistan by American forces. A conflict that spills out from the recognised battle front and over geographical borders to affect the lives of average people in nearby regions, sandwiched between the forces of extremist religion and extreme nationalism their homelands become the venue of a fight they didn’t seek.
Aslam is an author I’ll certainly read again, I’ll be looking out for his other books. I’ve had a look on the Book Depository site and have added them to my wishlist. One is still available in hardcover which is my preference, but for the cost of that I could buy two novels in paperback. I have to decide which path to take, whether I’d eventually regret the paperback option.
Here is a link to a recording of Aslaam talking about The Blind Man’s Garden (22 mins).
My reading of The Satanic Verses has made it clear to me that the Moslem response to the book came from people who had not read it – they merely responded to hysteria whipped up by others. The majority would not have known whether Rushdie was guilty or not of the accusations of blasphemy against him.
How can I say that? Because the book is NOT one that the everyday reader would tackle, it’s not an easy read. It’s DIFFICULT and a struggle to get through. It’s not a book the average man-on-the-street (even the average Moslem) would attempt to read.
Moslems therefore seem very much like most Christians in their willingness to “follow the leader” without giving those leaders and their teachings due scrutiny; without holding their teachers to account. Without holding THEMSELVES to account for the things they accept as being true. In this case most condemned Rushdie on the say-so of others without conforming the facts for themselves.
Overall is Satanic Verses “blasphemous”? – I could see it that way, but NOT specifically against Islam. I’m sure Christians would find its representation of God to be blasphemous but what god is Rushdie portraying? I suspect he portrays a composite god based on various religious traditions and filtered through the author’s preconceptions of those traditions. I think my view is supported by the way Rushdie picks and mixes references from a variety of traditions as if they were all part of the one.
So what kind of damage could this book do to Islam or to their prophet, or to their god? Nowhere near as much damage to the public perception of Islam as that caused by the death sentence placed on Rushdie’s head, or the acts of violence committed in response to the book. Surely any god worth worshipping doesn’t need his “honour” to be protected by angry violent mobs. Christians should also take note. Maybe there aren’t so many violent Christian “angry mobs”, but there have been some very unwise, counterproductive protests against objectionable films and books that MOST of the “angry mob” wouldn’t have seen or read.
I don’t know how much Rushdie really knows about Islam, even though I understand he grew up as a nominal Moslem. If he knows as much as most nominal Christians know about the religion they claim to be part of, then his real knowledge would be minimal and any offence given to the Moslem world would be a result of ignorance and possibly arrogance as much as any intention to offend.