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‘My creative relationship with India remains my strongest motivating force’: Salman Rushdie

A new volume, 'Languages of Truth', brings together writer Salman Rushdie’s essays, written between 2003 and 2020

Written by Paromita Chakrabarti |
July 4, 2021 6:37:42 am
rushdieLanguages of Truth: 2003-2020 By Salman Rushdie Penguin Random House 368 pages; Rs 999

A new volume brings together writer Salman Rushdie’s essays, written between 2003 and 2020. Rushdie, 74, speaks on Cancel Culture, Midnight’s Children turning 40, and his first play:

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Midnight’s Children turned 40 this year. If you were to write a sequel set in India today, what sort of a narrative would that be?

I’ve always thought that The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) was as close to a sequel to Midnight’s Children as I would ever write — another family, another age of the country, a different Bombay/ Mumbai. I don’t think I’m likely to write another.

How do you reflect upon your relationship with India?

My creative relationship with India remains just about my strongest motivating force. Thanks to the pandemic, my personal relationship is in abeyance. I truly hope India comes through the nightmare as soon as possible. After that, I hope I’ll be back.

You have been vocal in your criticism of Cancel Culture. If you were to choose a moment in recent history that would reflect this turn towards censorship, what would that be?

The triple triumphs of (former US President) Donald Trump, (British Prime Minister) Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi.

In one of the early essays in this collection, you write that the books that one truly loves speaks of who the person is at that moment in time. Which books would make it to your list of favourites and what does that say about you?

It’s a long list, but it includes the work of Charles Dickens, Miguel de Cervantes, Italo Calvino, Mikhail Bulgakov, Franz Kafka, JL Borges, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Anita Desai, RK Narayan, and, more recently, the African-American writers Jesmyn Ward and Natasha Trethewey, and such authors as Junot Diaz, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Edwidge Danticat. What does it say about me? Probably, that I’m still a bookworm.

Could you tell us about the play you are working on?

It’s about Helen of Troy. It’s written in verse. I think of Greek tragedy as belonging to the world, and take inspiration from the way Peter Brook made The Mahabharata into a sort of world theatre. We’ll see. I hope the work may see its first production in the UK — probably next year, because of theatres’ COVID-19-created backlogs of already-commissioned plays.

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