A rumour spread in Bangladesh that in my autobiography ‘KA’ I was guilty of character assassination, that I had written obscene material about some of the country’s intellectuals. A few journalists took the initiative to spread the rumor, resulting in angry protests from some poets and writers. I was alleged to have lied by writing sensational material in order to sell my books.

It is disappointing to learn that anyone would be angry with me because of a rumour, that they would attack me without having read or understood my book. As is well-known, I have been forced to live with a fatwa issued by religious extremists, but it is disheartening to find that any intellectual who claims to believe in the freedom of expression would take a position about me similar to that of the religious extremists. 

I was alleged to have written obscene material. Obscenity, it was said, has no place in literature. Some who in the past praised me for my honesty and the truths about which I wrote are now attacking me for that very same honesty. What I wrote were descriptions of what literally, physically, and emotionally happened to me. I wrote about those of my friends who surrounded me at different times of my life’s story. In my book I portrayed them as human beings, and a disinterested observer would question why anyone would object. Were I to have damaged anybody’s character, I would have been damaging my own, not theirs.  My memoir’s purpose was not to prove that I am good person, a saint, a goddess. My purpose was to describe the beautiful, the not-so-beautiful, and the in-between events that happen in one’s literary life.

  Il faut cultiver notre jardin,” Voltaire wrote in Candide, satirizing those unquestioning people who think that “all is for the best in the best of possible worlds.” Voltaire satirized those who are uncritical, who say, “Let us work without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.” However, as was Voltaire’s concern, my own concern is to expose life’s injustices, not to go about blindly cultivating my little personal space without regard for what is happening elsewhere.

In Bangladesh, it has always been shameful for women to have relations with men who are not their husband. Men, however, have always been proud of having multiple relations. The recent uproar in Bangladesh shows that it is shameful if a man’s extra-marital affair is disclosed.  This, I should say, is a commendably positive development.

My book KA, would be banned because, I have been told, pressure on the Government by certain intellectuals. This strikes me as illustrating fundamentalist logic, for what I wrote is analogous to material found throughout the world’s literature. Is there any other country in the world whose literature contains only sweetness and light and, if there were such a mind-controlled place, why would its intellectuals be content?

The first and the second parts of my autobiography were banned in Bangladesh, my beloved country, because of pressure by Islamic fundamentalists. If the book’s third part does get banned because of any pressure by intellectuals there, this is cause for them to be indicted, not me. They should be the very ones who are working to open closed eyes, to come to my defense. As Voltaire said, “History is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.” In my books I aim to describe that tableau.

Taslima Nasreen

7 November,2003