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Author ZP Dala Assaulted at Time of the Writer for her Admiration of Salman Rushdie

Breaking news from the Time of the Writer festival in Durban

Books LIVE has learned that author Zainub Priya Dala was assaulted in Durban on Wednesday, after attending a Time of the Writer festival event at which she professed her admiration for Salman Rushdie.

What About MeeraDala’s debut novel, What About Meera, was due to be launched at the festival tomorrow, 21 March, which is Human Rights Day in South Africa.

Since learning of the news, Rushdie has tweeted his support of Dala:

The author thanked him for reaching out:

Jennifer Malec, editor of Books LIVE, tweeted the news from the festival:

Malec described details of the assault:

Dala’s publisher, Umuzi – an imprint of Penguin Random House – has released the following statement on the author’s behalf:

Author ZP Dala, one of the featured writers at the Time of the Writer Festival taking place in Durban from 16 to 21 March, was assaulted in Overport, Durban, on Wednesday, 18 March. The attack came after a session in which she expressed her admiration for the writing style of Salman Rushdie.

Dala was followed from the festival hotel and was harassed by three men in a vehicle who pushed her car off the road. When she stopped, two of the men advanced to her car, one holding a knife to her throat and the other hitting her in the face with a brick while calling her “Rushdie’s bitch”.

She has been treated by her doctor for soft-tissue trauma, and has reported the incident to the police. A case of assault has been opened. As yet, no witnesses have come forward.

Dala’s debut novel, What About Meera, was to be launched tomorrow at the Time of the Writer, but the event has been cancelled.

Dala believes that the attack occurred as a result of a comment she made during a writing forum for schools at the Chatsworth Education Centre on Tuesday morning, which featured two other writers. Dala, when asked which writers she admired, answered that she liked Salman Rushdie’s literary style, along with other writers such as Arundhati Roy. A group of teachers and learners left the forum.

Steve Connolly, Managing Director of Penguin Random House in South Africa, says: “We condemn completely the brutish attack on author ZP Dala. Her crime? To have expressed her admiration for the writing of Salman Rushdie, which heralded a walk-out by teachers and students. Have we reached such a state of intolerance that we cannot listen to one writer profess admiration for another without wanting to attack her with a brick and a knife? If our constitution is to mean anything we must ensure our right to free speech. It is ironic that at a time when the communities of Durban are welcoming writers, some elements are attacking those writers who hold different views. We must not let this shameful and violent bigotry prevail.”

Dala will allow due process to take its course.

This statement issued on behalf of ZP Dala by her publishers Umuzi

The CEO of Penguin Random House South Africa, Steve Connolly, expressed dismay at the attack:

The assault counts as an extension of Rushdie’s complicated history with South Africa. He was famously “disinvited” from a literary festival in 1988, after the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa was issued against him and his novel, The Satanic Verses. Anton Harber of the then Weekly Mail recounts the episode:

It started on a Thursday midday, when the organiser of the Weekly Mail Book Week put down the phone, walked across the newsroom and interrupted me and my co-editor. “I think we might have a problem,” she said.

It was October 1988 and the “problem” was Salman Rushdie, due to arrive a week later to headline the event. “He says his book has been banned in India; he is getting death threats,” she said. “I asked him what he wrote about and he said, ‘I ripped into the Qur’an.’”

Books LIVE’s thoughts are with ZP Dala. We express support and solidarity and wish her a speedy recovery.

Related stories:

Image courtesy Time of the Writer

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    March 20th, 2015 @22:25 #

    This is utterly vile. Hoping Dala recovers swiftly and gets all the support she needs. And that her book is not overshadowed by this awfulness. Like the fact that Rushdie suggests everyone buy it. I second that.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    March 20th, 2015 @22:38 #

    Thanks, Helen. Doubly seconded.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    March 21st, 2015 @07:57 #



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