Sunday 30 September 2012

Banned Books and Poetry

We are back to that time of year, Banned Books Week (there is also a UK Banned Books Site), when we celebrate the right to read whatever we goddam please. 'Midnight's Children' by Salman Rushdie remains one of my all time favourite books and it is a long time since I read anything by him so I decided to read 'The Satanic Verses'; according to the Wikipedia page it is banned in Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Kenya, Kuwait, Liberia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Senegal, Singapore Sri, Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand. I recall the furore at the time this was published but for some reason got the impression that it was not a novel, which it is. I just want to put in a little taster, which reminded me of why I like his writing so much: Saladin, one of our heroes has been forced to eat a kipper for breakfast at his private English boarding school,

"By that time he was shaking, and if he had been able to cry he would have done so. Then the thought occurred to him that he had been taught an important lesson. England was a peculiar-tasting smoked fish full of spikes and bones, and nobody would ever tell him how to eat it. He discovered that he was a bloody-minded person. 'I'll show them all,' he swore. 'You see if i don't.' The eaten kipper was his first victory, the first step in his conquest of England." (p.44)

It is also, on Thursday this week, National Poetry Day. I have been reading recently this book, 'Poems Before and After' by Miroslav Holub, a collection divided in half by the events of the Prague Spring in 1968. He is another poet I discovered in my well thumbed copy of 'The Rattle Bag'. I thought I might share a few this week, maybe from some other places too. 

A boy's head

In it there is a space-ship
and a project
for doing away with piano lessons.

And there is
Noah's ark,
which shall be first.

And there is
an entirely new bird,
an entirely new hare,
an entirely new bumble-bee.

There is a river
that flows upwards.

There is a multiplication table.

There is anti-matter.

And it just cannot be trimmed.

I believe
that only what cannot be trimmed
is a head.

There is much promise
in the circumstances
that so many people have heads.


  1. I loved Midnight's Children (and The Widow haunts me still) but for the life of me can't remember Satanic Verses even if I've read it - oh so so so so so long ago! LOL!! I remember not quite grasping what on earth the novel was about - I do remember that! I guess then I was totally naive about what exactly he was satirising and could not understand why it was costing him his life! I know better now though but I still can't remember the story! LOL! Oh but I remember the furore clearly!

    The poem is just gorgeous - thank you! I've read it a few times now and it's sublime! Take care

  2. Just read a really good excerpt from Rushdie's memoir: Read it here.

    I've been trying to find those two Rushdies on secondhand bookstores for years!

    Regarding Holub, that poem is interesting...


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