“The Poet Offers Discord”

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“When the imagination is given sight by passion, it sees darkness as well as light. To feel so ferociously is to feel contempt as well as pride, hatred as well as love. These proud contempts, this hating love, often earn the writer a nation’s wrath. The nation requires anthems, flags. The poet offers discord. Rags.”

— Salman Rushdie, from “Notes on Writing and the Nation”

Read the rest. The essay appears in the brilliant Step Across This Line. I recommend reading the first piece, and then the others out of order. Reading his dispatches from the fatwa years before the essay I quote from, readings deepened by my own recent demonization from blogger among millions to enemy of the state, leaves me with an immense renewed respect for Rushdie. The person as much as the genius.

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2 responses »

  1. Yes, it’s an astounding collection. I especially love “Imagine there’s no heaven” — if I remember correctly, that was the title? The letter to the six-billionth world citizen? I once made the mistake of assigning it to my students, though, and they were horrified.

    The passage you highlight is also wonderful. I often feel that writing and patriotism — at least as most people define it — are incompatible.

  2. Yeah, most people’s definition of patriotism would put writers and thinkers in the categories of anarchists and traitors.

    To love a country because it is your country is like obeying the religion or culture you were born into. If you’ve questioned it, dissected it, and still found your faith and your love standing, it’s real. Otherwise it’s blind and meaningless.

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