Matching a name to a person is tricky enough. But confirming that a person is who he says he is has to be far more tricky, especially on an essentially anti- social network playground like Facebook. So it comes as no surprise to us, tragic realists, that when the Facebook account of Salman Rushdie (of Salman Rushdie fame) was deactivated because Facebook janitors thought that the chap with the FB account wasn’t the real Salman Rushdie, the real Salman Rushdie was really cheesed off. If that was the end of the matter, then it would have been a O Henry-type short story rather than a Rushdiesque one. (Borgesian actually, but this is a Salman Rushdie story, so we’ll keep him happy.) When Mr Rushdie sent a photo of his passport page to confirm that he indeed was Salman Rushdie of Salman Rushdie fame, the minions of Mark Zuckerberg reactivated Mr Rushdie’s account under the name ‘Ahmed Rushdie’, in accordance to Salman Rushdie’s full name on his passport, Ahmed Salman Rushdie.
We don’t find Mr Rushdie and his ilk — writers, that is — completely blameless. After all, their propensity to write ‘I’ in their novels and then describe someone totally different from the writer can be confusing, especially for algorithmic slaves who think making billions is the only brilliant thing to do. Mr Rushdie may be less confusing than novelists Jonathan Safran Foer and Michel Houellebecq, both of whom have characters ‘resembling them’ called Jonathan Safran Foer and Michel Houellebecq but who are ‘not them’. But the writer of The Satanic Verses doesn’t make it easy for everyone by being delightfully playful with words and names (such as Mohammad) and then complain when others are a tad post-modern with his name.
Someone feigning to be someone else has been a stock literary device in many a story. But Rushdie, like all those people insisting that they are the Russian Romanov princess Anastasia, shows himself to be someone imploring to be identified as the Real McCoy. But let it be known in the annals of good literary discussion (read: this column) that Salman Rushdie of Salman Rushdie fame is a name to reckon with. Whoever may pretend to bear it.