Salman Rushdie: 2016 National Book Festival

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>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, DC. [ Applause ]>>Bilal Qureshi: Good evening. It’s really an honor to be
here for the closing event of the National Book Festival
with Sir Salman Rushdie. So, can we just give a round of
applause for him before we begin. [ Applause ] Please, you should come up now
and you can take a seat before– Feel free to come up
and take a seat. Do you want to take a seat now? OK. [ Laughter ] I’m going to make a
brief introduction and then I’ll look forward
to speaking with you. But the [inaudible] against
Salman Rushdie, one’s threatened to silence, one of our
generations most original, prolific and essential voices. Today, almost two decades
after those dark years, Mr. Rushdie has not
only not been silenced, he has published six more novels,
a dazzling collection of essays, literary anthologies,
and a screenplay. His latest novel is “Two Years Eight
Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” and it– which by the way
is a thousand and one nights which he’ll explain to us. And Salman Rushdie was born in 1947, weeks before the partition
of India and Pakistan.>>Salman Rushdie: Forty-seven.>>Bilal Qureshi: Forty-seven, yeah. In the great cosmopolitan
city of Bombay. He studied History at
Cambridge University and worked in advertising. He published his first
novel, “Grimus” in 1975 but it was his second novel,
“Midnight’s Children”, that made him an international
literary sensation. With the Booker Prize,
he was crowned the voice of a new post-colonial generation,
a writer capturing the journey of migration, globalization,
and cultural transformation. I was born in the country where Mr.
Rushdie’s novels were explicitly forbidden and even mentioning
his name considered an act of transgression. Fortunately, my parents moved. It was my privilege to be
assigned “Midnight’s Children” as a college student in
the University of Virginia. The novel changed my life, everything about how I understood
South Asia and my place within it. Most importantly, it introduced
me to Mr. Rushdie as a writer, not a symbol or political
football but as a creative, extremely funny, and
brilliant artist. His latest novel takes his level of
imagination and epic storytelling to new heights and
it’s really my honor to welcome Mr. Salman Rushdie
back to Washington, DC. [ Applause ] So, I want to begin by asking you
your last book before this was a book, many people would ask
you to write for many years, your memoirs of what
happened in those years, was it fun to return to fiction?>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah,
it was a great relief. You know, I never became a
writer to write about myself. When I started if you would said to me would I ever
write an autobiography, I would have said absolutely not. And then I acquired
an interesting life. [ Laughter ] You know, most writers’ lives
involved sitting in rooms for long periods of time. Anyway, I’d– so I knew I was at
some point have to tell that story. But once it was done, I
think two things happen. One is that I had a real desire
to be as fictionally fictional as possible after several
years of trying to be completely nonfictional. And the other is I think
that somehow the consequence of writing the memoir was as
if I had put down a button and I felt sort of lighter. And I think this book,
in a way, shows that. I think it has a kind of lightness
in it which I think has been part of the consequence of having got
the autobiography off my chest.>>Bilal Qureshi: And so, if
I can say, I mean this is a– almost an IMAX 3D spectacle of
a set in New York City of a kind of Marvel Comic style
war of the worlds. It’s sort of how it reads
when you first started. There’s a lot of amazing
things happening in this book. It’s ultimate fantasy.>>Salman Rushdie: I hope movie
studios are listening to you. [ Laughter ]>>Bilal Qureshi: But what
can you tell us about the– your version of “One
Thousand and One Nights”?>>Salman Rushdie:
Well, the “One Thousand and One Nights” was just a
way of thinking about it. So, it doesn’t really have any
narrative connection with the “One Thousand and One Nights”. It’s just that kind of story. I mean one of the things
I thought about all these so called Wonder Tales in the East, which is not just the
“Arabian Nights”. In India there’re so
many other collections. There’s wonderful collection of
animal fables, the “Panchatantra”. And actually from Kashmir which is
where my family is originally from, there’s a very large story
compendium originally in Sanskrit written by Somadeva
called the “Ocean of the Streams of Story”, Kathasaritsagara,
which is actually longer than the “Arabian Nights”. So, there are many of these things
around and they were, in many ways, some of the first stories I
heard and the first things I– first literature that I fell in
love with and originally heard them as children’s bedtime stories. And when I grew up to
read the actual books, it immediately struck me that these
books are not written for children, you know, that the language in
them is very complex and the ideas in them are very complex and
they’re clearly adult fiction. And that interested
me in a different way. And so, after finishing the memoir, I thought in a way I found
myself circling back to that kind of origin point of the place where
my interest in literature had began. And I thought what can I do? Is there some way that I can
use that kind of storytelling but to tell a contemporary story,
you know, not to do something set in the Baghdad, the Harun
al-Rashid or something, but something set in
New York City now. And I also wanted to
do another thing, which is that I’m also
very interested in the kind of Western surrealist tradition. You know, and there
are so many writers and so many different
languages who have all written in a kind of non-naturalistic way. I mean, you know, you could say that
Kafka is a magic realist, you know? And in Russia, Gogol and
Bulgakov and then, of course, there’s French surrealist and so on. And I’ve always been
very interested in that. So I thought what would happen
if I allow this Eastern tradition of the fantastic to collide with a
Western tradition of the fantastic? And, you know, what
would that look like? And I guess the answer is this book.>>Bilal Qureshi: And the results
are genies invading New York City?>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah,
that’s the high concept. You know, in Hollywood– in
Hollywood you have to be able to say it in 10 words or
less, that’s high concept.>>Bilal Qureshi: OK.>>Salman Rushdie: So,
high concept of this is, yeah, genies take Manhattan. [ Laughter ] Three words.>>Bilal Qureshi: But, you know,
you said something interesting about while it’s not obviously
your version of “Arabian nights”, it does have in common that storytellers are often
central characters in your books. And then this one specially, it’s
not just the story of the book but there are many, many layers
of stories within that story. And you said that you feel in
the Western tradition, literature and storytelling became
separated at some point. Can you just talk about that idea?>>Salman Rushdie: Well, there’s– there was a thing that
happened in the– I guess, and this is
very simplifying it.>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah.>>Salman Rushdie: But there
was a thing that happened around 100 years ago in
the Modernist Movement where people became so interested
in form and language and, you know, doing new things with those that
the narrative aspect became less significant, you know? And, I mean, one of
the books I admired above almost all other
books is Joyce’s “Ulysses”. And Joyce’s “Ulysses”
is crowded with stories. I mean, there’s– it’s
got stories on every page, but the actual narrative
of the book, I mean, almost nothing happens, you know? Jewish advertising salesman
walks around Dublin for that day, getting a little drunk, you know,
lusting after girls on the beach, ends up in the red light
district where he runs into a young writer who’s also drunk
and takes him home for a drink, and in the meanwhile his wife
has been unfaithful to him.>>Bilal Qureshi: Right.>>Salman Rushdie: The end.>>Bilal Qureshi: The genie is. [ Laughter ] .>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah. And now, that’s what you call a
big narrative engine, you know?>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah.>>Salman Rushdie:
And yet, you know, his way of telling the story is
so extraordinary that it becomes, you know, one of the
greatest novels I’ve written. But I’ve always thought my
way of thinking about it is that if you’re going
to build a big car, you should put a big
engine in it, you know? And story is the engine. And I’ve always thought that
there are a lot of books which are underpowered because they
don’t have that narrative drive. But in the– You know, in the
18th century, the 19th century, in those great moments of the novel,
the great writers never forgot to tell stories, you know? I mean, Dickens is crowded with
stories and so as Thackeray. So, you know, all of those writers. So, I’m very interested in– I see there’s no reason
at all why storytelling and literature should be separated
from each other, and I think one of the things I’ve tried to do is
to, you know, is to use stories of various– as the driving force.>>Bilal Qureshi: And beyond the
fantastical component, though, in this book, there is a deep
philosophical war also playing out among two figures in the book
who kind of actually the characters that we meet subsequently are almost
“Midnight’s Children” like figures who descend from these
two original figures, which are actually historical
figures from the Islamic history. Two philosophers with
dueling visions of how to deal with the world. Can you talk about
those two figures?>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah. I mean, they would–
they were supposed to be really minor characters and
they’ve kind of got out of control, and insisted on being
more important. And originally, there was–
the book has this prologue in the 12th century, in
Arab-controlled Spain, Andalucia. And I thought in this prologue,
two things would happen. One is that one of the philosophers,
the philosopher known in the West as Averroes, his real name was In
Rushd from which my name derives, that he would have this fall in love
with this girl who he didn’t realize but she’s actually a supernatural
being, she’s a jinn princess. And they have children. A lot of children, sometimes 19 at a
time, and yet he’s so self-absorbed that he doesn’t realize that
she might be something a little out of the ordinary. So, that’s one thing and the–
those children and the descendants of those children in our century
become the main characters of the novel. And the other thing that
was going to happen is that he would have this argument
with this other philosopher. And Ibn Rushd was very– in his time, a very
progressive-minded philosopher who was the greatest– perhaps
the greatest ever commentator on the works of Aristotle
and was a great deliverer in Aristotelian virtues of reason
and logic and scientific method. And what he wanted to do was to incorporate those things
into Islamic philosophy. And against him was the
figure of Al-Ghazali who was a much more
conservative thinker, you know? And that argument in a
way is still going on. And I think that’s why
they ended up not shutting up when they died in my book. Unusual for people to go on
arguing 900 years after they die but that’s sort of what happened. Because I began– Once I had that
argument going on in the book, in this prologue, I thought– A,
I thought they were too much fun to dump and I thought I was
kind of enjoying them too much. And B, I thought in a way, this
argument is still continuing. And so, I wanted to think– then
I thought but how do I allow them to go on having the
argument when they’re dead? And the answer is, of course,
fiction lets you do a lot of things. And, you know, ghosts
can have arguments too. And so, they become this
sort of motif that crops up– I mean, they’re still
secondary characters but they now crop up a few times.>>Bilal Qureshi: And the war
of the worlds as described in the book is a war
between the age of– between reason and unreason
as you described it.>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah. Well, what the book suggests is that
the book begins or the modern part of the book begins
with a huge storm, a kind of super Hurricane Sandy. And this storm, it
suggests it’s so powerful that it breaks open the seals which
separate our world form the world of these supernatural
beings, the jinn. And the jinn pour through
the cracks. And some of them are really very
bad and wanted to take over. And they’re very powerful. One of them– They also
can become very large. One of them eats the Staten
Island Ferry at one point.>>Bilal Qureshi: I really like,
by the way, you did a TV interview where you were riding the Staten
Island Ferry describing what it would feel like to be eaten on it.>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah.>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah.>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah, I
mean, actually with Jeff for PBS who I saw today, we were
reminiscing about how we failed to be eaten off the
Staten Island Ferry. But anyway, so the dark jinn,
you know, invade the world. And they have enormous power so they
can take over the control of minds of many people and so on. And then Dunia who is the good jinn,
the princess with whom Ibn Rushd that had all these children, kind
of returns to the world to try and save the world, to
try and save her children. And so there’s this war. And one of the things that
is really quite strange, is that when I started writing
this book, which is now– I mean, it’s close to five years
ago that I’d started writing it and nobody had ever heard of
ISIS, you know what I mean? That time, Isis was the
name of an Egyptian goddess. And that was all. And so, when I started describing
this war taking place in, you know, in what the novel calls Mesopotamia
but we what we know better as Iraq, there was no such war taking place. And then just as I was getting
to the end of the novel, you know, it started happening. And that was alarming. I would like my books
to stop coming through.>>Bilal Qureshi: I mean, but given
the memoir that you just written and the fact that we– you know,
you’ve had a history with religion. And have you found that
exploring it in fiction presents– or did you mean to explore sort of
a debate internally within religion and forces of secularism or–>>Salman Rushdie: I mean, yeah,
it’s one of the things that happens in the book, but I think there’s
something sort of under that. And the book has– there’s
a frontispiece to the book, this famous etching of Goya’s
which is known as the sleep of reason brings forth monsters. But what is interesting is in
his commentary, on that picture, he said something more complicated. When you look at the picture, you
think what you are being told is that reason is good and
unreason is bad, you know? But in his commentary, he said
something more nuanced, if you like. He says that when reason and
fantasy come together, then– I mean, to paraphrase, then they
become a great creative force and they’re the parents
of the arts and so on. But when they’re torn apart from
each other, it’s when the kind of monstrous aspects
begin to emerge. So, I really took that as my cue to
say I want to write about a world which is not just opposing these
two forces but trying to say that when they come
together, they are creative and when they’re taken
apart, they’re destructive. So, you know, the novel begins with
a man of reason falling in love with a creature of fantasy and their
union produces all these children who become the novel, if you like. So, they’re– that’s sort of, in
a way, shows the creative force of the union of these things. And then there’s this war
which is an illustration of the opposite, you know? So, it’s trying to
say both those things. And yes, of course, one of
the ways it says it is to talk about what we all know to be going
on in the world right now, you know? And as I said, I wanted it to
feel like a contemporary novel. I wanted people reading the
novel to be able to hear echoes with the modern world, you know? I mean, the period of the novel is–
I mean I thought of it as being set in New York like “The Day
After Tomorrow”, you know? Because I didn’t want to worry
about who the mayor was, you know? I mean, actually, the mayor of
New York in the novel is a woman which is not actually the case,
unfortunately, but it’s other than that kind of detail, it
really is supposed to be the city as it is now, but in which
very strange things have started happening. And I– in the novel it’s called
“The Time of the Strangenesses”.>>Bilal Qureshi: Right.>>Salman Rushdie: And I kind–
And even though the strangenesses in the novel, a kind of
surrealist strangenesses, really, I think we live in that time. I think we live in a time in
which the rate of transformation and the radical nature of
transformation, you know, both– the world is changing both very
extremely and at very high speed. And that strangeness, that
alienation that I think many of us would consequently
feel is kind of the mood in which the book is set.>>Bilal Qureshi: And then
you’ve stopped tweeting recently because you were tweeting
quite a bit?>>Salman Rushdie:
Yeah, I’m not doing it. I’m done.>>Bilal Qureshi: OK.>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah.>>Bilal Qureshi: And
why are you done?>>Salman Rushdie: I don’t know. It’s– You know, sometimes, you
wake up in the morning and you look to your right and there’s
somebody sleeping there and you think I don’t
love you anymore. [ Laughter ]>>Bilal Qureshi: So
that was Twitter feed.>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah.>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah.>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah,
that little blue bird. I thought, “I don’t
love you anymore.”>>Bilal Qureshi: But it
was you responding to a lot of the strangenesses around us. I mean, you’ve taken– I mean, you
have a pretty public view of one of our candidates for president and
you were tweeting quite regularly?>>Salman Rushdie: Which one? [ Laughter ] I mean, the thing is I just– I
think it’s very well-named Twitter. It is this kind of
twittering noise in your ear. And there was just a moment of which
I thought I don’t want this noise in my ear anymore. And I just stopped. And I haven’t missed it
for a second, let’s say. And I mean I’ve had to
leave the account alive, because if I delete the account,
somebody will cybersquat my name within five seconds and
will then be tweeting as if they’re me and
I don’t want that. So, the account is alive
but I’m just stopping. Enough. I’m just going to
do this old fashion thing.>>Bilal Qureshi: Write novels?>>Salman Rushdie: Writing books. Yeah. [ Applause ]>>Bilal Qureshi: You know–>>Salman Rushdie: You know, I
remember like a couple of years ago, Jonathan Franzen made
a series of statements in which he expressed his
dislike of social media. And at one point, he even said
I don’t know why Salman does it because I thought he
was too smart for that. And then everybody tried to
make a fight between him and me. But actually, you know,
we get on very well. And I said– I said, you know, I completely understand
what he’s saying. I understand not wanting that noise
in your head when you’re working. And I said I’m just trying this out, I’m trying it out to see
what it is, you know? And I’ve now more or less come
around to the Franzen position. I think I just– I’m just
going to do what I do, and I don’t need all
these peripheral things.>>Bilal Qureshi: But, I mean,
you have– But you have always– I mean you have this
incredible collection of essays that you publish step across this
line which came out of a series of things that you were responding to from political events
to world events. There was a really interesting talk
you gave about news and the media, and the fact that, you know, we’re
all fiction writers now, you say. You say that we have characters
in the news which are novelistic. And do you still feel that way? Do you see– Do you look at
sort of as you read the news, do you see now an age of
fiction and nonfiction?>>Salman Rushdie: Well, I mean
I think I’m not the first person to suggest that we live in a
post-factual age, you know? But I think one of the
presidential candidates is an expert with that, you know? And nobody cares, you know? I mean, he goes on TV
and lies 25 times a day and nobody cares, it
doesn’t affect him. It’s as if we’ve stopped
being interested in whether things are
true or not, you know? And Steven Colbert invented that
wonderful word truthiness, you know? And we now live in
the age of truthiness. You can say anything you wanted
if it sounds kind of truthy. People will not actually worry about whether it’s true,
truthy is good enough. And that’s very worrying, very
worrying to live at a time when people have become
detached from the idea that the truth is important. You know, speaking is a [inaudible]
fiction, that’s very important because we need to be able to tell the difference
between truth and lies. That’s my job. [ Applause ]>>Bilal Qureshi: You’ve also,
though, have been quite critical of people on the left and
have sort of a kind of culture of cultural relativity
and relativism and political correctness,
et cetera. And we’re also living on the
flip side, it seems to me, in the new of identity politics
as well and of the question of representation and who speaks
for whom and who’s able to– you know, you have this great line
of beware of the new behalfism of people who’s claimed to speak
on behalf of a certain community, and yet it feels like on one side
in the left, we’re having a lot of debates about representation. And I wonder what you think of that?>>Salman Rushdie: Well, it’s
too big a question, really. I mean I think it is
a very big question. And–>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah.>>Salman Rushdie: And it has
a lot to do with the novel that I’m trying to write now. So–>>Bilal Qureshi: OK.>>Salman Rushdie: —
you might have to–>>Bilal Qureshi: OK.>>Salman Rushdie: We might have
to come back in a couple of years. But I do think that– you know,
I’ll just say one thing about it, which is that it seems to
me that the thrust of a lot of contemporary identity politics
is to ask us to define ourselves in increasingly narrow ways. We have to be very
specific things, you know? That’s true in politics, politics. It’s true in gender politics. It’s true in race politics. It’s true everywhere. We are being asked to define
ourselves more narrowly. And the trouble with that is that the more narrowly we define
ourselves, the easier it is to find ourselves at odds
with other people, you know, whereas one of the things that the
novel as a form has always known is that human beings are
very, very plural people. We are not singular, we are plural. And we are contradictory, you know? I mean, that’s what’s
been famously said, you know, do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. And that’s what the novel is like. It shows that a human
character is not homogenous, it’s heterogeneous
and contradictory. So, you know, anybody in this
room could probably make a couple of dozen statements
that would be all of them would be equally
a definition of identity. They could define themselves as,
for example, tall or supporters of a certain baseball team or
as the parents of their children or as people who do a certain
kind of job or in terms of whatever their religious
orientation or lack of it might be. I mean there’s a whole range of
things you can say about yourself. And all of them are true. And if you accept that you are all
those things, then it becomes easier to find points of overlap
with other people. You can have strong political
disagreements with somebody but support the same football team. You know, you could–
it’s just much easier. When you see human character as
plural, it becomes much easier to see points of contact
with other people. And the more you have to say, you
know, I am Western, I am Muslim, et cetera, that’s hard to
create conflict, you know? And I think that’s the
problem with a lot of– And it’s not even in
the West versus Islam. I mean in India right now, you know,
the desire to push people into kind of narrow community definitions, you
know, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, whatever, is also creating conflict there. So, I worry about this whole area of
identity politics because it seems to me, to not understand something
very profound about human nature was that all identities are not
singular, they are plural. And the novel has always known this. And it’s one of the reasons I
think why people should read novels because it tells them something
that they’re not hearing enough.>>Bilal Qureshi: And you’ve
said it’s the age of frontiers that we live in that it’s the
time to– that the people– you know, one of the sort of goals
of your creative project has been to explore the idea of
those who step across lines, those who don’t see frontiers.>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah. And I’m the kind of opposite
of I don’t want to build walls. Let’s put it that way. [ Applause ] Let alone get Mexico
to pay for them. [ Laughter ] I would like somebody to
ask him how, just how. Anyway–>>Bilal Qureshi: But do you think–>>Salman Rushdie: But I think the– I mean, look, I’m a
migrant, you know?>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah.>>Salman Rushdie: I mean, I have spent my life
bouncing across the world. And that started off in India–
long time in England, now, almost 20 years in America. And my life is being defined by
that act of movement, you know? And I’m grateful for it and
I think it’s been something which has created the kind
of artist that I have become. And I think on the hold, it was this
age which is an age of migration, has been very enriching both for the
communities to which migrants come and to the migrants who
come to those communities. All you have to do is walk down
the streets of any great city in the world now and you have the
stories of the whole world bumping into each other on the streets
and that’s seems to me much richer than some kind of narrow
pure culture. I’m on the hold in not a great fan
of the idea of cultural purity. I think when people start
talking about cultural purity, other people start dying, you know? I mean, Hitler was somebody who
talked about cultural purity. I’m in favor of dirt, you
know, cultural impurity. Let’s have a lot of just
stuff, dirt mixed in there. Then people first of all– first
of all, people tend to stay alive and that’s probably good.>>Bilal Qureshi: So, the risk of asking another possibly too big
a question, if novels are meant to show us how not to allow
ourselves to be confined by that kind of purity, are artists in some way not addressing
these questions enough? Are they not emphasizing this
kind of multiplicity enough? Are there–>>Salman Rushdie: No, no, no. No, I’m not going to say that. I mean, I–>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah.>>Salman Rushdie: You know, I
think if we talk about the art of the novel, I think it’s
a very, very rich time in world literature for a start. I think it’s a very rich time in
American literature and precisely for this reason, which is that American literature
has always been inspired by and enabled by migration. Eastern European Jewish
migration, Italian migration, all of that has fed directly into the mainstream of
American literature. Now, in a generation
much younger than mine, there are new American writers from really almost
everywhere in the world. You know, there’s Junot Diaz
from the Dominican Republic, there is Jhumpa Lahiri from South
Asia, there’s Yiyun Li from China, there’s Nam Le from
Vietnam, there’s, you know, any number of people coming
from all over the world that they have their families
coming from all over the world with different stories in
their luggage, you know? And unpacking that luggage and
allowing those stories to escape into American literature, you know, and become a part of
American literature. And I think it has been incredibly
enriching of this generation of American writers have. And I– in a way, I was–
this book is in part inspired by those young writers because I
thought I can do that, you know? I thought I’ve got stuff
in my luggage, too. Maybe I should unpack that–
those suitcases and get out some of that stuff and throw it at the Chrysler Building
and see what happens. And now, I genuinely
think that this generation of new migrant stories arriving
in American literature is one of the best things to happen to
American literature for a long time.>>Bilal Qureshi: Well, it’s
interesting time for you to say that too because you’ve recently
become an American citizen yourself?>>Salman Rushdie: Oh, yeah. I get to vote now.>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah. [ Applause ] And so you are an American novelist?>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah, that’s me.>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah.>>Salman Rushdie: Yes.>>Bilal Qureshi: Right.>>Salman Rushdie:
Amongst other things.>>Bilal Qureshi: Right. You’ve often written
about your love of cinema and how the movies kind
of made you a writer. And it was “The Wizard of Oz”,
specifically, is that right?>>Salman Rushdie: Well,
I mean yeah, that was one.>>Bilal Qureshi: One.>>Salman Rushdie: But I
mean, no, I just grew up– you know, I grew up in Bombay. And Bombay is a city
obsessed with the movies, obsessed with the movies. And so it’s impossible to
grow up there without having that in your bloodstream. And, I mean, I had people
in my family who were in small ways involved
in the movies. So, I mean, I have two aunts who
acted in the movies and uncle who wrote screenplays,
and so on and so. And the movies are everywhere. And yeah, “The Wizard of Oz” just
had to– I mean, I wrote a story– I saw “The Wizard of Oz” and I wrote
a story called, “Over the Rainbow”, about a boy who finds the beginning
of the rainbow and walks over it. Anyway, I thought it
was pretty good. My father lost it.>>Bilal Qureshi: No. Salman Rushdie: Yeah. My father said you won’t be able to
look after it, I’ll look after it. And then he lost it. And I thought, you know, “The Wizard
of Oz” actually is to an extent, it’s a story about the
incompetence of adults. [ Laughter ] You know, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry
can’t save Toto from Miss Gulch. They’re useless, you know? When Dorothy gets to the
wizard, the wizard is useless. The wizard is a phony. Pay no attention to that man
behind the curtain, you know? So, the grownups in the story
are pathetic, and Dorothy has to become the adult in order to– because of the incompetence
of adults. So, the fact that my father lost
my story about “The Wizard of Oz”, it’s completely appropriate to
the theme of “The Wizard of Oz”. But no, I mean, I think I was
very lucky that when I was young– when I was like in the
years I was in college, I was in Cambridge from–
in the mid ’60s, ’65 to ’68. I mean, there’s a period from
roughly speaking, the late 1950s to the early 1970s, which we
now think of as the golden age of the sound cinema, you know? And it’s very difficult to
explain to people what it felt like when what we now
think of as masterpieces with that week’s new
movie, you know? So, one week, it would be,
you know, “La Dolce Vita”, and the next week it
would be a new Godard film and then a new Truffaut film
and then a new Pasolini film and then a new Ingmar Bergman film
and then a new Satyajit Ray film and then a new Luis Bunuel film. And week after week
after week, this– I mean, it was dazzling
to go to the cinema. And I think I learnt
at least as much in the movie theaters
as I did in the library. There was this little theater in
Cambridge called The Arts Cinema, which like everything else no longer
exist and now it’s a coffee shop. But I feel I got my education
in that little room, you know, watching, you know, Godard’s
“Alphaville” and Traffaut’s “Jules and Dim, and Ingmar Bergman’s “The
Seventh Seal” and Luis Bunuel’s “Exterminating Angel”,
and so on, you know? And I think those– those
things have a colossal– this book is in incredibly
influenced by those films.>>Bilal Qureshi: And
there’s the golden– so-called the golden age
of television [inaudible]. Well, are you watching
a lot of these series?>>Salman Rushdie: Oh, this, yeah. I mean, I’m interested. I’m interested because
it’s clear that this thing, this new form of the
60-minute drama series, there is something
novelistic about it. The length of time you
have available allows you to do what is difficult
to do in films. It allows you to have time
to develop a character, to have many different story lines. I mean, you think of something
like “Game of Thrones”, there’s an unbelievable
number of story lines in that. And I, you know, I wonder
how people keep them all in their heads but
it works, you know? So, there’s something
novelistic about this. And, yeah, I’m interested.>>Bilal Qureshi: But it
isn’t the novel, right? I mean you–>>Salman Rushdie: I mean, no, nothing is the novel,
the novel is the novel.>>Bilal Qureshi: Right, right.>>Salman Rushdie: You know?>>Bilal Qureshi: Right.>>Salman Rushdie: And one of
the great things about the novel, you know, is that everything. Almost since the birth of the novel, people have been predicting the
death of the novel, you know? And every single new thing that comes along is
supposed to kill the novel. You know, radio is supposed
to kill the novel, cinema, television, you know, the internet. Everything is supposed to kill
the novel and yet, you know, the novel obstinately
refuses to die. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because people like it. Things– [ Applause ] I mean, very interesting
what– you know, the eBooks, they were supposed
to kill the novel. So, they arrived, eBooks,
and they went like a rocket, “voom”, like that, you know? And everybody– including everybody
in the publishing industry panicked. And they got to about
17, 18% of the market and they completely plateaued. And now, they’re actually dropping
whereas the sales of this dinosaur of an object, the hardcover novel,
sales are going up, you know? Our bookstores were
getting out of business, now there’s little indication
that bookstores are beginning to open rather than close, you know? So– [ Applause ] So, you know, here’s this– sometimes I had to go and give
a talk at Google, you know, in Mountain View, California. And I said audience as big as this but entirely composed
of 21-year-old techies. [ Laughter ] And, I mean, very smart kids. And I said to them, you know,
this is a very remarkable piece of sophisticated hardware. I said, you know, if you– what happens if you drop
your laptop in the bath? It’s screwed. So, if you drop that in the bath,
it does not lose its data, you know? You just have to dry it out.>>Bilal Qureshi: Right.>>Salman Rushdie: What happens
if you pour sand on a computer? Not good for it. So, you could read this stuff, this
thing, you can read it in the bus, you can read it at the beach,
you could read it in places where people like to read. Also, if you’re in the beach
and it’s sunny and you look at your Kindle, the screen, you can’t read the screen
because it’s too bright.>>Bilal Qureshi: Right.>>Salman Rushdie: This is not– the text doesn’t disappear
in bright sunlight, you know? So, this is– [ Applause ] This is actually more
sophisticated, you know?>>Bilal Qureshi: Fantastic.>>Salman Rushdie: And also,
it doesn’t become obsolete. The thing about computers,
which was supposed to be this wonderful new
thing, is they become obsolete at incredibly high speed. What’s a floppy disk? You know? If you have– If 20 years
ago, if you were saving your data on a floppy disk, you couldn’t
use it anymore, you know? This, 20 years ago, you could
have a book that’s 20 years old, you could still read
it perfectly easily. It doesn’t need to be translated
into some other technology that will be obsolete in
five year’s time, you know? So, you see, this is
most sophisticated. And that’s why it survives. You know, you don’t need all those
they call them campuses, you know?>>Bilal Qureshi: Google–>>Salman Rushdie:
Google, Microsoft, all of that, they’re
called campuses. You don’t need those
places, you just need this– you know, one person
sitting in a room scribbling.>>Bilal Qureshi: Yeah. [ Laughter ] Well, I think we– I’m sure
many of you have many questions. So please, I think we should
open this up to the audience. There are mic stands
in both of the aisles. And yes, preferably questions and
not statements would be great. OK, yeah.>>Is that OK? OK. So, you said that in drawing
the distinction between the person who sits down to write a novel and
the person who takes to Twitter that there sort of
needs to be truths so that the novelist
can essentially make up a certain form of lies, right? So, in a world where truth and reality are becoming
increasingly fictionalized, what is it that’s left
for the novelist to do or how are the fabrications of
the novelist suppose to differ from the fabrications
of the Twitter user or the spectacularized politician?>>Salman Rushdie: Well,
it’s a question, you know? There’s no doubt. I mean, the answer is you got
to deal with it, you know? I think what happens, is the
world changes all the time and the novel has to change with it. And one of the things that’s
happened now, is that reality or what we consider to be
reality has become very contested. There’s isn’t an agreement
about what it is. You know, whereas, if you think
about the great heyday of the novel, think about, you know,
the 19th century novel, the 19th century realist novel,
that was based essentially on the knowledge that the
writer had, that the writer and the reader would basically
have the same picture of the world. You know, they would
basically see the world in the same way as
being the same thing. And out of that agreement
between the writer and the reader, came the realist tradition. You know, it’s built
on that agreement. But if you now live in a time in which reality has become
incredibly contested and disputed and messed around with, it’s
very hard to write that kind of realist novel, because that
agreement no longer exists, you know? So, you have to think
of different forms. I mean, that’s what I think
many of us are wrestling with.>>Sir, thank you for being here. Might you be willing
to mentor young people, perhaps through the
Rolex Mentorship Program? I was wondering– I know
Anish Kapoor has participated, have you participated with that?>>Salman Rushdie:
They never asked me.>>We’ll make it happen then, OK.>>Salman Rushdie: I mean, they’ve– every so often, I’ve been asked
if I would be willing to be asked. [ Laughter ] It is a kind of meta-question,
you know? And I have expressed a desire– I
have said that I would be willing to be asked and I would be
willing to considering answering. [ Laughter ]>>I’m going to send an email back.>>Salman Rushdie: OK. But they actually never
have asked me. I mean, I do– You know, I do
my bit of teaching and so on. I mean, I’m interested
in the company of young smart minds, you know? And one of the things
that’s a great pleasure when I teach a little
bit in– at NYU. And to sit around with
very smart people talking about very good books, feels
like pleasure, you know, and then they give
you money for it, so. [ Laughter ]>>I’m a smart young person and I
would love to be in your company. You know, my question is a
college student at a time of political correctness, social
justice warriors, trigger warnings, professors who ask you to stop
believing in the purest form of free speech and stop,
you know, raising your voice and sharing your opinions
because they’re controversial. How does a student broaden their
horizons and gain the most they can from the money they’re
paying to college?>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah. Well, you know, I’ll
take two things. One is that I dislike all of
that, the list that you just made. But secondly, I would say I
don’t think it’s as big a problem as it sometimes made out to be. You know, I’ve been teaching in the American Academy
now for a very long time. I was teaching on and off at Emory
College in Atlanta for 10 years. I’m now at NYU. And I have literally never,
never had a student come up to me and expressed a desire
for a trigger warning or safe space or any
of these things. It’s never happened. And so, I think if
it were to happen, I would have a very clear answer, which is that a university is a
place where exactly is a place where you must be exposed to ideas
you have not had before and some of which, which you might not like. That’s what you are there for. [ Applause ] And that the only safe space they
can be in a university is to have– is a safe space for ideas, not a
safe space from ideas, you know? And if you can’t stomach that, then maybe you shouldn’t
be at a university. Maybe you should be working
at KFC or something, you know? Because, really, that’s why people
go to college, they go to college to have– to learn how to think. And you cannot learn how to think
unless you are exposed to thinking, which is not the thinking
you already have. But as I say, that’s– you know, this is the debate that’s
happening a lot I know. And I know some instances
which have been very difficult, but in my personal experience,
I’ve never come across it. And certainly at NYU,
I’ve been talking to my fellow members of the faculty. They don’t come across
it that much, you know? I mean, there are some very
weird things which we all know because they’ve been
in the newspapers. There was this event at Mount
Holyoke College couple of years ago when at Mount Holyoke, they
would, every year, do a production of stage reading of
[inaudible] vagina monologues. And then couple of years
ago, there was a protest, a protest from the left, by
the way, against the play, this famous feminist text was
criticized because it defined women as people with vaginas and therefore
discriminated against women who did not have vaginas. And because of this, the
production was canceled. Now, that’s an example of where this
identity politics things can go. But as I say, I don’t think this is
as huge an issue in my experience as people are making it, and maybe
there’s already a student backlash against it, you know, that students
don’t want it either, I hope.>>For you, what was the hardest
aspect of storytelling to tackle, and how did you approach it?>>Salman Rushdie:
Everything is hard. I mean, it’s not easy, you know? If it was easy, everybody
would do it. And that would be awful
because then– [ Laughter ] Well, look, the hardest thing
is to say something interesting and the great gamble of
writing is that you don’t know if what you think is interesting
will be interesting to anyone else. You know, I mean, I remember
when I finished writing “Midnight’s Children” all those
years ago, I remember thinking to myself, you know,
I think this is– I think this is a good
book, I thought. I had absolutely no–
Nobody knew who I was. I was completely unknown
as a writer. And I was completely uncertain
whether anybody would agree with my assessment of it, you know? I mean, I think it’s a good book but supposing nobody
else does, then what? And that’s really the gamble of art,
you know, is that you do this thing which when you’re doing it
feels like a very private act. You’re sitting by yourself
in a room for five years. It took me five years
to write that book. And really, it’s just you and the
book that’s all there is, you know? And then at the end of it,
you send it out of the room and suddenly this private
act becomes a public act, and you have to hope that
somebody gets it, you know? And that’s the– I
think that’s the gamble and you just you never
know if it’s going to work. And when it works,
it’s pretty damn good. When it doesn’t work, it’s horrible. And I can’t say more
than that, really. I mean, it’s the hardest thing
I’ve ever tried to do writing but it’s also the most rewarding.>>Since you brought up “Midnight’s
Children”, I had a little bit of a question about that. You, of course, always talk
about your debt to the authors that came before you and of course
we see that very much in this novel. You bring up Gogol’s “The
Nose” I think is in there. And you’re very comfortable it seems
with referencing other authors. I was wondering about the end of
“Midnight’s Children”, I read it and thought it sounded
very much like the end of “Villette”, only in reverse. And I wondered at all
if that had come into your mind at all of reading it?>>Salman Rushdie:
“Villette” of Charlotte Bronte?>>Mm-hmm.>>Salman Rushdie: Oh, no. No, that’s actually– I’m going
to pretend that I knew that. [ Laughter ] So that next time anybody ask
me that question, I’ll say, oh, yeah, sure, Charlotte Bronte–>>It sounded like the mirror
like the opposite of it.>>Salman Rushdie: No,
no, I know what you mean. I know what you mean but no, no.>>OK.>>Salman Rushdie: I mean alas. I wish I was smart enough
to have thought of that.>>Thank you.>>Salman Rushdie: My favorite
question of all time was when Midnight sort of first
came out, I was at talking at a university in [inaudible]. A young woman stood up and said–
she said, “Your novel, Mr. Rushdie, ‘Midnight’s Children’,
is a very long novel. I said, “Never mind,
I’d read it through.” [ Laughter ] I said my question for
you is the following. She said, “Fundamentally,
what’s your point?” [ Laughter ] [ Inaudible Remark ] Salman Rushdie: I’ve been trying
to answer that ever since.>>Yes, I have a question not
related so much for being a novelist but certainly literature. You recently espouse the
memorization of poetry as a way of, you know, as a technique
for teaching and being that I’m a schoolteacher,
I’m fascinated by that. You know, we’ve gotten very far
away from memorization of any kind and you just– you basically
refer to it as a lost art. You know, I happen to like
Kipling and other forms of poetry but it doesn’t matter. I mean, I’ve always just
enjoyed that for my leisure. And when I was a young
man, we did memorize things like the Gettysburg Address and
whatnot and anything, you know, that we thought was about related to civics basically
and even some dates. So, could you explain
how that, you think– you know, I know, you basically– I think of you as an
educator like I am obviously. And so I would like to hear your
views on memorization of poetry.>>Salman Rushdie: Well, I mean
I come from that generation where we were all asked to do it. And it’s very annoying, you know? You know, when you’re having to sit
by yourself and try and memorize, you know, especially, when it’s
a poem you don’t particularly like which at school
it often is, you know? But the fact is that a lot of that
poetry has still stayed with me, you know, and I still have it
in my head as a way of thinking about things and I feel it’s
a real resource, you know? And not all of it is great poetry. I mean, I can still recite
the whole of “The Walrus and The Carpenter”, for example. Don’t ask me, otherwise, I will. I just think it’s a way
of training the mind. First of all, it allows you
to understand beauty in a way that you don’t understand
unless you have it at your fingertips, you know? If you have a poem there in your
head for you to think about, you can appreciate it in a way
that you don’t on the page. When the page becomes irrelevant
because it’s inside you, that’s a different
sort of experience. And I just think it’s
an enriching experience, although I admit annoying. And children, young people very
often complain about being asked to, you know, rote learning
is something. And it’s also unfashionable, which
is its second great advantage. So, yeah, I mean, I
think it’s a good thing. And, I mean, I know everyone I know
who spent their childhood being made to learn things speaks
well of the experience, says that they are glad they
did and that they feel happy to have those things in their head. And not everything stays in your
head but, you know, some stuff does. And it’s worth it, it’s
worth it, you know? It gives you a frame of
reference which is broader than you would otherwise have.>>Bilal Qureshi: Thank you.>>Thank you for coming
and thank you for asking such thoughtful questions. I don’t have a question
about literature per se but about the cultural purity thing. Why– I’m curious to hear what
you think is going to be the case for Indian writers in India, like
what that environment will look like with the rise of
the BJP, and especially like what’s really been happening
and all of what Modi is saying. And on top of that, like
do you think we’re going to see more self-censorship
from writers in India or– I’m just curious what you think.>>Salman Rushdie: You
know, I really have to– my problem is that I
have not been to India since the Modi government
took power. So, I’m looking from
a distance, you know? And I’ve always been very
suspicious of people who talk about India from a distance. So, I don’t want to be the
person doing it, you know? I mean, I’m very– I was always
an opponent of Narendra Modi from way back, you know, from
when he was just running Gujarat. I think he is a very alarming figure and I think his government is
a very alarming government. And I do think it’s
frightening for people, you know. Self-censorship, I can’t tell. I mean, self-censorship seems
to me to be the greatest crime that a writer can commit. I mean, if you feel that
scared, then don’t write. Nobody is asking you
to write, you know? And if you– if by writing, you
could only write by saying something which is less than the truth,
then, you know, for goodness’ sake, save the trees, you know? There are plenty of good
books around for us to read. We don’t have to read
second-rate books. I don’t know if any writer to– of my acquaintance who is too
chicken to say what they think. But what I do know is that it is
very frightening in India right now and there are lots of– there’s lots of bullying going on
and lots of menaces. And I don’t want to say more than
that because I haven’t been there, so I don’t have that kind of
boots on the ground knowledge of what’s going on, but
I’m very worried about it.>>Bilal Qureshi: Unfortunately,
we probably only have time for one or two more questions so–>>So, my question is about freedom
of speech, about which you talked. So, some of your critics say that
you are selective about talking about freedom of speech like you–>>Salman Rushdie: That I’m what? Sorry?>>Like you are being selective
about the freedom of speech.>>Bilal Qureshi: Selective.>>So, what do you say to that?>>Salman Rushdie: You’ll
have to say a bit more.>>So, I was saying like
in India, you don’t talk about how the international
[inaudible] and they censor the media
and all those things so you don’t talk about that. Some of your critics say this.>>Salman Rushdie: Well, first
of all, it’s not required to talk about everything, you
know what I mean? Freedom of speech is
the right to speak about what you want
you to talk about. And I’m not obliged to
talk about anything. You know, I talk about the
things I want to talk about. But the point I’m trying
to make is that there is– the value of this thing
is that it is the freedom on which all other freedoms depend. If you don’t have free expression, you don’t actually have
a free society, you know? So, that’s why it’s valuable. I mean, you may– you know, people
are completely free to disapprove of what I say or to disapprove of the things I don’t talk
about, fair enough, you know? That’s not the point I’m making. I don’t have to make a speech on
every subject in the world in order to prove that I believe
in free speech. I talk about what I want to talk
about and let other people talk about what they want to talk about. That’s the point. Does that answer your question?>>Yeah.>>Salman Rushdie: OK.>>Bilal Qureshi: I think we can
probably take one last question. I’m sorry to everybody
else who’s in line.>>Good evening. A simple question perhaps
provoking a non-simple answer, from where do you get
your deepest inspiration?>>Salman Rushdie: Oh, yeah. There’s a store. [ Laughter ] But you have to know the password. [ Laughter ]>>Very good, very good.>>Salman Rushdie: No. I mean, if I knew the
answer to that question, I would have written a
lot more books, you know? It’s very difficult to say
where a book comes from. And in my experience, it doesn’t
come in the same way twice. Every book comes in a different way. Sometimes you have a story line,
sometimes you have a character, you know, sometimes,
you have fragments that you gradually understand
how they fit together. The great American novelist
Joseph Heller who wrote “Catch-22” amongst his other books,
used to say that what happened with him characteristically is
that he would think of a sentence and he would know that that sentence
contained another 200 sentences, you know? So that– I mean, his second novel,
something happened originally began with the sentence in the
office in which I work, there are five people
of whom I’m afraid. Then he knew how to
write the book, you know? That happened to me once. That happened when I wrote
“Haroun and the Sea of Stories”, which I was having– I mean, I was
having some trouble with the tone of voice of that book, you know,
of how to make it not too grownup for children and not too
childish for grownups, you know? And then there was a day when I sat
there and wrote the first sentence. You know, there was once in the
country of Alif Bay, sad city, saddest of cities, a city so sad
that they have forgotten its name. I thought, OK, now I know
how to write the book. Literally, I wrote that sentence
and it was like open sesame.>>Bilal Qureshi: Wow.>>Salman Rushdie: I
thought, OK, got it. And so, yeah, it comes
in many different ways.>>Thank you.>>Bilal Qureshi: Could we take one or two more questions
or– Is that OK?>>Salman Rushdie: Sure. Yeah.>>Yeah.>>Bilal Qureshi: Go ahead.>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah.>>Bilal Qureshi: Oops. It’s not [inaudible] the
person asking the question.>>Salman Rushdie: Oh, yeah. No.>>OK. Oh, wow. First of all, I’d like
to just say it’s an– such an honor for me to have a
chance to ask you a question. So, thank you so much
for being here. Second, since you talked about
movies, I have a two-fold question. First, if you have one, what’s
your favorite Bollywood movie, and second, would you like to
see some of your novels be made into movies or do you think they’ll
lose their essence while being made in movies? Thank you.>>Salman Rushdie: Well, you know,
when I was growing up in Bombay, it was not called Bollywood. Bollywood is a more
recent invention. We used to just call
them Bombay Talkies, sometimes they were called movies. I like– My favorite films
all come from that old period. I like [inaudible], “Mr. 420”
is one of my favorite films. And my favorite song,
unsurprisingly, is the song about Bombay
which is called “Bombay Meri Jaan”,
“Bombay My Darling”, so.>>Bilal Qureshi: Great good.>>Salman Rushdie: This will mean
only something to those of you–>>Bilal Qureshi: And
your novels as films?>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah. And my– Well, “Midnight’s
Children” was made into film by the Indian-Canadian
director Deepa Mehta, and I wrote the screenplay. And so I’m bias but I
thought it was quite good. But one of the things
I was interested in, in the finished film
was that its tone of voice is rather
different than the novel. I think the novel is funnier and
sort of wilder than the film, but the film is much more
directly emotional than the novel. And, I mean, I kind of like it
that they have that difference, that the film really
is Deepa’s work, you know, responding to my work. And, so yeah, I like it. I mean, I would like
all of them to be filmed but that doesn’t seem
to be a stampede. [ Laughter ]>>Hi. So, I come from
the country of– another country [inaudible]
I believe a very– your work unfortunately was not
allowed to be read to the extent that we could go to jail
or– and/or be killed by mob. However, you know, my parents made
the fortunate choice of not leaving that country and going off the
black market and getting your books and going through the process,
so that’s just one point. So–>>Salman Rushdie: No,
I very well respect.>>– given what’s going on in
this country, unfortunately, because all I think you may want
to renew your roots a little bit. But my question to Mr.
Rushdie, if I may, is regard– as an international– as a
non-American, the candidate that you so dislike perhaps, from what he’s
saying, it seems, as a non-American, that he probably would
be a lot more– or a lot less interventionist
than the usual lot, if you know what I’m
trying to say, in terms of– in holding the leaders
of the area that I come from more accountable perhaps
than the other candidates. I’m just curious what’s your view from international perspective
regarding the US elections?>>Salman Rushdie: Well, I
think the only world leaders that I’ve heard Mr. Trump refer to with admiration are
all dictators, you know? Putin, Assad, these are
the people he likes. And I worry about that being
a principle of foreign policy. But, you know, long before
he intervenes in any country, he’s going to intervene in this one. And I, at frankly, my worries
begin right here at home. I cannot imagine a Trump-appointed
Supreme Court which is, you know, which is what would happen. We’d have an extremely authoritarian
Supreme Court for the rest of my life certainly
for a generation. I’m unable to take Trump seriously as a candidate except
as a figure of fear. So, it is my hope that he will be
defeated, and so we will not have to have this conversation.>>Yeah. [ Applause ]>>Bilal Qureshi: We have some
younger readers have a question for you and I want to give
them the chance to ask you.>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah, yeah, yeah.>>Bilal Qureshi: OK.>>Salman Rushdie: OK, yes?>>Me and my sister were wondering,
where’d you get the inspiration for “Haroun and the Sea of Stories”?>>Salman Rushdie: Well, part of it, my oldest son’s middle
name is Haroun. At the time the book
came out, he was annoyed that I didn’t use his first name. Now, I think he’s quite relieved. And the book began because
when he was a little boy, I used to tell him
stories in the bath, when he was in the bath not bedtime
stories with bath time stories. And I would pretend to him that the
bath water contained the stories. So, I would dip a little cup in the
bath water and pretend to take a sip and then tell him a story. So, I would– I said, you
know, I said that, you know, the bath is full of stories. And so, from that bath full of
stories, it became a sea of stories. And that’s– really,
it began with my son in the bath, that’s how it started. Some of it comes out of
Kashmir, because, like I said, it’s where my family is from. The book is, I think, anyone who
has any knowledge of Kashmir can see that the fictional country in the story is pretty
clearly based on Kashmir. So, like that, that’s all of it. Does that help?>>Bilal Qureshi: I–>>Salman Rushdie: Yeah.>>Bilal Qureshi: I think we
can take one last question. I’m sorry, but we have–>>Hi. I read your
book, “Joseph Anton”, and about that very difficult
period of time you went through when you were in hiding
and your life was being threatened and you were actually
separated from your son and your family, much of that time. And I just wondered what
strength you were able to rely on from yourself to get
through that period of time which was a long time,
like 10 years.>>Salman Rushdie: More
than 10 years, yeah. Well, I mean, I– First of
all, I was very fortunate and that I was surrounded by
incredibly loyal friends and family. And had it not been for
their strength, you know, I would probably have had
much greater difficulty in surviving that experience. But I did fortunately have around
me this circle of very brave and very loyal people, you know? And that was a great help. And then there’s a
thing, there’s a thing which relates to this
book, you know? And in this book, there are– these are characters who are
supposedly the descendants of the jinn and have a little
bit of the jinn magic, you know, inside them, which when the crisis
comes, when the great war comes, they discover that power within
themselves that they’re able to use to resist the attack against them. And what I was trying to say
there is something that I learned in those years, which is I
think many of us, many of us, maybe all of us, have within
ourselves unsuspected strength, unsuspected reserves
of strength that we in ordinary life have
no need to call upon and we are maybe not even aware of. But in a time of crisis, whatever
that crisis may be, you know, many of us face crises in
our family, crises of health, crises all sort of things. And I think what very often happens
is that when the crisis comes, we discover in ourselves the
strength to face it, you know? And we surprise ourselves
in our ability to resist whatever it
is that’s coming at us. And I certainly thought– I
mean, if you would ask me in– at the beginning of that period,
if you would say that’s going to be like 11 years of your life and how– what sort of shape do you think
you’re going to be in at the end, I would not have bet on myself
to be in great shape, you know? But I, as I say, with
the help of these– the other people, I also found– I think I found that I was more
bloody-minded than I thought I was. I’d found that I had survival
capacities which were greater than I’d believe I did, you know? And as I say, I think
that’s not just me. I think that is a characteristic
we have that when the crisis comes, we find in ourselves the
resources to deal with it. And that’s what I did, nothing
else that many people do.>>Yes, I agree. Thank you.>>Salman Rushdie: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Bilal Qureshi: And– [ Applause ]>>Bilal Qureshi: And on
that note, thank you so much for being here this
evening and for the sea of stories that you’ve given us. I really appreciate it. Thank you.>>Salman Rushdie: OK. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

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