Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Salman Rushdie Steps out - Feisty and Undaunted INTERVIEW

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Salman Rushdie Steps out - Feisty and Undaunted INTERVIEW

Article excerpt

Seven years ago, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, a death sentence, against Indian-born British novelist Salman Rushdie for the views on Islam expressed in his book "The Satanic Verses." The fatwa had the ironic effect of focusing greater attention on this writer's work than it was already receiving. For most of the time since, Mr. Rushdie has been in hiding.

Rushdie was interviewed by Monitor Radio host Sharon Basco on his current US book tour to promote "The Moor's Last Sigh." The interview was conducted in a conference room at a Boston hotel. The following are excerpts:

I can't resist talking to you about security, because here we are, and our IDs haven't even been checked. We were left alone in this room. The doors aren't locked. What's going on?

It's what's not going on that I think is relevant, and I think one of the main purposes of this whole trip is to make that point: that, you know, the world is not as it was. I just thought it was time to get back to normal.

It's a great relief to me because I was very determined that publishing this book was the appropriate moment for me also to be able to get back to being a writer and doing what writers do.

A writer for The Atlanta Constitution wrote: "Rushdie is ... a symbol of two worlds that have no comprehension of each other." Do you feel some sort of responsibility {for living up to that symbolic role}?

No, I have to say that I don't feel symbolic. I think one of the problems was my invisibility. When people are invisible ... they can be made to represent all sorts of things, good and bad, because the person himself is a sort of absence. I think now that I'm ... more of a presence it's easier for me to ... be seen as a person rather than as an abstraction. I do think it has been extraordinary ... to be asked to stand up for values that I care about.... I think I would go on being involved in {that} whether it was my case or somebody else's.

What's happened to freedom of speech because of your case?

Well, I think the one thing to say is that it did get defended....

I think that one of the things that was interesting in the way that the United States responded to this case was that people said that we . …

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