Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Salman Rushdie Vs Dan Brown


If Dan Brown had joined the Jaipur literary festival he would have been greeted with huge fanfare and the red carpet would have been laid out for him by both the state and central governments. Chetan Bhagat would be heaping praises on him and his works, and protests if any would be too weak to mention. Every author reading his works would become best-selling authors and no one would even think of arresting them.

But why should it be otherwise, you might ask? He didn’t do anything wrong, did he? I mean, you would say, what Salman Rushdie wrote in Satanic Verses hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims and so it was justifiably banned. None of Dan Brown’s books were banned. And therein lies the root of the issue. Why wasn’t “The Da Vinci Code” banned (I have a borrowed copy of the work lying at my home at present) and the movement of the author restricted? Didn’t the Da Vinci Code hurt the religious sentiments of Catholics around the world? Then why didn’t the state and central governments of India respond in the same way? Why doesn’t Chetan Bhagat criticize Dan Brown in the same was as he criticizes Salman Rushdie?

What I am pointing out is the unequal treatment given to different minorities in India as even our rules and laws have been governed by vote bank politics. What I am also pointing out is that what Dan Brown wrote in “The Da Vinci Code” is even worse in intent than Salman’s writings in “Satanic Verses”. Dan Brown questions the divinity of Jesus, claims that he was married (against the teachings of all Christian churches), had children (an even more preposterous claim to believers) and attacks the Catholic Church (I admit that some of their past actions were horrific). This Jesus-cum-church-bashing made not only this controversial book a world-wide best-seller but also gave a tremendous boost to the sales of Brown’s previous three books (which had hitherto not done well). Yes, everybody likes to read stuff detrimental to someone else’s religious sentiments, but then it paradoxically proves our religious beliefs are suspect as almost every religion generally advocates for respecting and tolerating the faith of others.

I don’t know much about Dan Brown’s other books but from what I’ve read online (from experts), the Da Vinci Code had a poorly constructed plot, was full of flaws and inaccuracies, was plagiarized from works of fiction and non-fiction, and advocated preposterous theories like the presence of a thousand-year-old secret society. Any sane person knows that human beings are such blabbermouths that it is impossible for any organization to be a secret society for that long. But we tend to lose our sanity (like the four authors at the Jaipur literary festival) when we are faced with the prospect of some other religion being denigrated. One of the central theories of “The Da Vinci Code” was that a figure sitting next to Jesus in the Last Supper resembled a woman and so Leonardo Da Vinci had presumably actually painted Mary Magdalene. This is baseless as one often notices men with feminine characteristics or if Da Vinci was gay he might tend to imbibe those sort of characteristics to another man in his work due to his bias (read bent of mind). In fact, many have asserted that the Mona Lisa itself is either a self-portrait of Da Vinci or a painting of a man, possibly even a lover, due to her (or his) masculine characteristics.

Anyways, Rushdie seems to be a much better author than Brown although he too indulged in some provocative religion-bashing. He must be appreciated for his other works of literature and not for his provocative writings. Since he was allowed into India without much mayhem previously, I fail to understand the fuss this time round especially by authors like Chetan Bhagat!!!

15 comments :

Vivek Pereira said...

Well BTW my book "Rose Gardens and Minefields" is quite heretical and blasphemous in content but it stops short of hurting the sentiments of religious folks...at least,in a huge way. I'm surprised it hasn't been banned by the Chinese, the Pakistanis or the Vatican. I've attacked everyone including the Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the RSS, the ISI, the Maoists and regional extremists in Mumbai. If it becomes a best seller, I think a not happening video broadcast would be the least of my problems!!!

dorothy p said...

It's the eternal fight - freedom of expression vs safeguarding the sentiments of those harmed by an act committed freely but irresponsibly. It's difficult to know when to draw the line. I strongly feel that the Indian author, Chetan Bhagat, shouldn't have criticised Chetan Bhagat when he himself lives in a glass house.

Vivek Pereira said...

Hey Dorothy, could you please be a bit more specific here? Why do you say that Chetan Bhagat live in a glasshouse and be careful what you say as Chetan Bhagat is one of our best and most-loved authors?

dorothy p said...

I refuse to get into a debate on this issue. It is quite clear what I meant.

Cheryl Coal said...

Hey Dorothy we need answers. You can't just state things off-hand without any explanation. You better clear the air about Chetan Bhagat. Nothing is clear at all.

Cheryl Coal said...

It’s quite amazing that in a book of sixty pages you have a list of poems (about twenty in number), a couple of short stories and essays that take on fascists, dictators, terrorists, Maoists and communal forces. In your book “Rose Gardens and Minefields”, you have written about Indian history, the menace of terrorism, the horror of the Naxalite movement, the current sports scene in India, the nuclear issue, secularism, the hostile acts of regional parties in Mumbai, and lots more. Your book certainly rocks and so do you!!!!!

Vivek Pereira said...

Thank you, Cheryl. Thanks for the flattery.

Anonymous said...

I feel books should not be banned but religious extremist groups like the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, Deobandi fanatics and several other Hindu, Christian, Sikh and Christian extremist groups should be banned and their members thrown in prison. Salman Rushdie has done our nation proud and is this how he is treated? We need to think about this carefully.

Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with you, Dan? It must be you Dan as I presume by your writing style.

Anonymous said...

Cheryl s doesn't usually indulge in flattery.

parkerd said...

That's a neat one.

Anonymous said...

Neat one, it is!

ramudas1 said...

I fail to understand as to why a fictional book be banned at all. Isn't 'Satanic Versus' a fictional book with fictional character?
have people forgotten the meaning of fiction?

Vivek Pereira said...

In India books that are deemed to insult religious or historical characters like Shivaji, etc do get banned. My argument is one on consistency. If you ban the "Satanic Verses" then why are you not banning the "Da Vinci Code" as it is even more hurtful of religious sentiments. As a creative writer myself I know that there is a thin rope we walk between churning out fiction and offending people's sentiments. When do we cross that line?

Anonymous said...

As silly as it may sound,Salman Rushdie chose the wrong religion to mess with.However,having read both the books,I found The Satanic Verses a bit too offensive,the reason primarily being straightforwardness.Dan Brown is a very intelligent man.Most of the part in his book which evoked controversy was spoken through the protagonist Robert Langdon and is open to the reader's interpretation.So he cleverly manifested his thoughts through him and other characters.Also,we often tend to forget that Da vinci code,is also a fiction,it is not a direct take on Christ's life and Catholics around the world.Salman Rushdie,on the contrary,openly attacked Muslims and their sentiments not only through his book but also by incessantly releasing controversial tweets.Furthermore,he answered back to most of his critics,something which Dan Brown never did because he wasn't afraid of criticism.He knew that garnering criticism is infact a stepping stone to success.
To elucidate this theory :

Salman Rushdie on Dan Brown's novel Da Vinci Code :-
'Its a novel so bad,it gives bad
novels a bad name. '
This coming from an author who
himself has a knack for stirring
controversy to desperately stay
in the media limelight.

The world indeed is full of ironies.

What makes it even obscure is tha Brown never once passed a comment on Rushdie's work.Not surprisingly,Dan Brown chose to be mature and not respond to the critcism Rushdie threw at him.


Eventually,it all boils down to whom we prefer.(as you said in the last lines 'Salman Rushdie is a much better author than Dan Brown')
For me,Dan Brown ranks much better,both as a person and an author,than Salman Rushdie.As I reckon,maybe you were just infuriated over why Brown's book wasn't banned while Rushdie's book(which you admire) was.Whick is totally understandable.Kudos !