10 Remarks by Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie
Rebecca F. Elliott

Salman Rushdie spoke at the First Parish Church last Tuesday at an event hosted by the Harvard Book Store. Rushdie, dapper in his dark grey suit, spoke about his recently published work: “Joseph Anton: A Memoir,” and the experience of living under a fatwa.

1. “Stories are not true. These things never happened. ‘Madame Bovary’ is fictional in the same way magic carpets are fictional.”

2. “Sometimes the writers you define yourself against are as important as those you seek to be like.”

3. “Learning that fiction is fiction liberates you to write any way you want.”

4. On why his memoir is in the third person: “It helped me see that writing the Self requires the same process of coming to life as it does for a fictional character.”

5. “Growing up multi-lingual instilled in me a playfulness about language—that you could jump from language to language, that you can be thinking in one language and substitute with a word from another.”

6. “What happened to me came to feel novelistic. There was a story in it: a beginning, middle, and end.”

7. “You live with policemen long enough—they have a very black sense of humor—and it begins to rub off.”

8. On his $3.3 million bounty: “I’ve spent my life among novelists who are all short on money and no one’s tried to collect.”

9. Commenting on the Iranian computer game designed around his life, and his depiction therein as a whiskey-drinking whip-bearer who tortures people by reading to them from “The Satanic Verses”: “If it weren’t for the fact that this stuff wasn’t funny, it’d be funny.”

10. Interviewer: “Are you for real?” Rushdie: “No, we’re fiction.”

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While the discussion was framed around Rushdie’s newest work, “Joseph Anton: A Memoir,” it also touched on his time in hiding, his continuing evolution as a writer, and his thoughts on the religious extremism that almost claimed his life