Crossing Paths with Salman Rushdie: Renowned Author to Address IABC's International Conference in Los Angeles

Article excerpt

To cross a frontier is to be transformed.... The frontier is a wake-up call. At the frontier, we can't avoid the truth; the comforting layers of the quotidian, which insulate us against the world's harsher realities, are stripped away and, wide-eyed in the harsh fluorescent light of the frontier's windowless halls, we see things as they are."

--Excerpt from "Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002"

Salman Rushdie ushered in a new genre of 20th century literature with his clever mingling of magic realism and historical events to create the classic modern epic. Rushdie's ability to evoke an age by transforming historical facts into an imaginative, multicultural tapestry has been likened to F. Scott Fitzgerald's swirling pictorials of the 1920s.

Rushdie's novels capture the past in such a way that the reader unwittingly steps into history. "To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world," Rushdie explains. It's this philosophy that gives his work enduring value.

As keynote speaker at IABC's international conference, 6-9 June in Los Angeles, Rushdie will offer a rare view into his life and an invitation to communicators to "step across this line" by exploring borders and crossing frontiers.

Born in Mumbai (Bombay), India, and educated in Britain at Rugby School and the University of Cambridge, Rushdie started his career in communication. He was working as an advertising copywriter when he wrote his first novel, "Grimus" (1975). Rushdie has penned five works of nonfiction and eight novels, including the Booker Prize-winning "Midnight's Children," a brilliant and intoxicating satire on the history of modern India.

He is possibly best known for "The Satanic Verses," a fantasy published in 1988, which led to accusations of blasphemy against Islam and demonstrations by Islamist groups in India and Pakistan. Iran's orthodox leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a religious decree, or fatwa, against Rushdie, offering a multimillion-dollar award for his assassination. The notorious fatwa captured international attention and cast Rushdie on the world stage as a political figure and champion of free speech.

EXPRESSING FREEDOM

Rushdie spent almost 10 years in hiding until 1998, when the Iranian government officially disassociated itself from the fatwa after the Ayatollah's death. While living under threat of violence, Rushdie campaigned vigorously for the right of freedom of expression and produced a body of fiction unrivaled by contemporary authors. His collection of children's tales, "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," warns about the perils of storytelling and won the Writers Guild Award.

After many years working and living in England under the protection of the British government and police, Rushdie now lives in New York. He was recently elected president of the PEN American Center, an association of literary writers and editors with a mission to advance literature, promote a culture of reading and defend free expression.

Outgoing PEN President Joel Conarroe hailed Rushdie as an "internationally celebrated artist whose life and work embody, in spectacular ways, the institution's very reasons for being: enhancing the importance of the written word; supporting freedom of expression throughout the world; and working with sister associations to defend the rights of readers, writers and editors. A productive novelist of seemingly endless imaginative gifts, Salman Rushdie has also shown himself to be a fair-minded and rigorous thinker."

A gifted lecturer as well as writer, Rushdie has spoken at Yale, Harvard and Oxford universities. He is an Honorary Professor in the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Distinguished Fellow in Literature at the University of East Anglia and recipient of eight honorary doctorates.

His recent work, "Step Across This Line," is a book of collected nonfiction based on essays and articles written between 1992 and 2002. …