by Ibn Warraq (May 2015)
“Someday I will go to London and revisit all the places where I housed at the time of my greatest poverty. I have not seen them for a quarter of a century or so….I see the winding way by which I went from Oxford Street, at the foot of Tottenham Court Road, to Leicester Square [i.e. along Charing Cross Road]... Dozens of my books were purchased with money which ought to have been spent upon what are called the necessaries of life. Many a time I have stood before a stall, or bookseller’s window, torn by conflict of intellectual desire and bodily need. At the very hour of dinner, when my stomach clamoured for food, I have been stopped by sight of a volume so longcoveted, and marked at so advantageous a price, that I could not let it go; yet to buy it meant pangs of famine. more>>>
This is fascinating. to think that the "Phantom" comics - which my father avidly read, and which I and my siblings avidly read, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, back when you could buy a whole "Phantom" comic-book for twenty cents (Australian) in the newsagent of a little country town - were being equally avidly read by the likes of the young Ibn Warraq. And "Mandrake the Magician"! Well I remember him, also, serialised in the comic pages of the "Sunday Mail" (Australian). And yet again, in the biography of an apostate from Islam, one encounters a childhood love of Enid Blyton. Curious to reflect on the fact that Ibn Warraq, now an apostate from Islam, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, another apostate, count Enid Blyton amongst the English-language children's books that they devoured - and deeply enjoyed - upon first learning to speak and read English. Ibn Warraq does not mention - as Ayaan does - the really revolutionary aspects of those books for anyone reared in a family and culture suffused with Islam: the companionship of boys and girls as they share adventures together. But it would have been there. All those grimly officious persons who have banished from public libraries and school libraries Enid Blyton's "Famous Five" and "Secret Seven" and the so on, on the charge that those books are insufficiently politically correct, failed to recognise what Ayaan Hirsi Ali so clearly saw, and the young Ibn Warraq probably sensed also: these cheerful children's books are in fact revolutionary literature.