What Salman Rushdie told me about how to deal with fear

·1-min read
<span>Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

I knew Salman Rushdie in the days and years when he was in hiding from the fatwa and lived, as the phrase goes, in fear of his life (Salman Rushdie on ventilator after being stabbed on stage at New York state event, 12 August). He once told me that the thing with fear was to quell it immediately – immediately, or you were lost. It’s the most convincing advice on fear I’ve ever had, though I’ve never had to test it.

He knew that, even if the fatwa were lifted, unless he chose to continue in hiding and self-imprisonment, he would always be vulnerable – for example, to some lone attacker at a public event. A strong and principled man, he has chosen to live freely and openly and to speak out bravely about those freedoms we all have – or should have – the right to live by.

Nothing has essentially changed since that day, decades ago, when fear came along to try to claim him. Anyone who cares about our liberties, especially freedom of speech, owes him a debt of gratitude as well as heartfelt wishes for his full recovery.
Graham Swift
London

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