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My mother's career as a woman surgeon

Oliver Sacks


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In defence of a free society

Peter Mayer - Publisher

The most devastating aspect of an entire career, which I never thought was a dangerous one, but which in fact was a dangerous one.  And it's not the danger that makes me give you this answer that it was the most significant thing that happened to me in the course of some 60 years or whatever in publishing.  It's that the issues that it presented are the largest issues for a free society.

And I do say, as I also said in the Index on Censorship piece, which is the only thing I've ever written, that I think we won the battle but we lost the war.  In other words, the book exists.  Salman is alive.  Most people involved in this book are alive, too.  But today, publishers are very nervous about flexing their muscles.  I do know that, if you don't use your muscles, they turn to pap.

It's very difficult to disassociate the person – Salman or me – from the… egalitarian and libertarian and constitutional issues that surround it.  But, as we look at what is happening in Nigeria, or Iraq and Syria, or Egypt, or many, many countries where Islam is an issue, we have to be aware that there are forces, not necessarily arrayed against us, but arrayed against these ideals of freedom and the rights of the individual vis-à-vis the state.

And I don't know how it will come out in this battle of civilisations, but I know that, when the opportunity arose, we were not found wanting.  But today, many publishers will not publish either a cartoon or a novel.