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Literary Icons Rushdie and le Carré End 15-Year Feud

Posted on Nov 13, 2012
Alexander Baxevanis (CC-BY)

Nobody fights better than writers, so it’s a little sad that novelists Salman Rushdie and John le Carré have agreed to stop hating each other. The two have been fighting in public through their preferred medium—the written word—for many years, but now appear to have independently agreed to admire each other from afar.

It began after le Carré, who is best known for his espionage thrillers such as “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” took objection to “The Satanic Verses,” Rushdie’s classic novel that earned its author a fatwa. Rushdie replied that le Carré was “a pompous ass.”

The fight even drew in some other famous voices over the years. As The Guardian reminisces, “and then Christopher Hitchens waded in, taking Rushdie’s side and saying: ‘John le Carré’s conduct in your pages is like nothing so much as that of a man who, having relieved himself in his own hat, makes haste to clamp the brimming chapeau on his head.’ ”

The paper, which hosted the feud, quotes John le Carré explaining his position as it has evolved:

“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.”

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer. Follow him on Twitter: @peesch.

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