Thursday, 17 April 2014

Salman Rushdie remembers Havel in his latest book

20 September 2012

New York, Sept 19 (CTK) - British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie remembers how former Czechoslovak and Czech President Vaclav Havel wanted to help him in the early 1990s in his latest book Joseph Anton: A Memoir whose autograph session was held on Tuesday evening.

During his first visit to Britain in his capacity as Czechoslovak president in 1990, Havel wanted to make a clear gesture to support the writer who has been threatened with death following the fatwa by Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini over Rushdie's "blasphemous" Satanic Verses.

Havel wanted to meet Rushdie, but this eventually did not happen.

At that time, Havel was the first prominent statesman to have supported Rushdie in public.

Rushdie was informed about Havel's intention by British playwright Harold Pinter.

According to Pinter, the meeting with Rushdie was supposed to be the second most important point on Havel's agenda after meeting former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

However, a few days later, Rushdie was told that the meeting would not take place for fear for Havel's safety.

Rushdie wrote in his memoirs that this was a big disappointment for him, due to which he could not speak for several hours.

However, he was given a message that he could speak with Havel over the phone.

During their conversation, Havel gave him quite a different explanation of why the meeting was cancelled.

Havel said he did not want the meeting to be held at the Czechoslovak embassy as it was full of the people assigned there by the former Communist regime he did not trust.

The British government was unable to offer any other venue.

Havel said there was no locality in Britain in which security would be provided to them.

Havel said it was obvious that the British government did not want the meeting to take place.

Havel then asked Rushdie for some of his texts and promised again a permanent contact to him. They met later.

After Havel died last year, Rushdie called him his friend.

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