Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Rushdie talks literature

Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” was so controversial the leader of Iran demanded the author’s death. But as Rushdie spoke to about 1,000 students Monday night at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, he took his troubles in stride when describing his career as a writer.

Rushdie addressed “The Satanic Verses” — and his other major works — in a lecture about his growth as an author and a celebrity.

“I thought ‘The Satanic Verses’ to be the least political novel I’d ever written,” Rushdie said, adding that he would not have spent five years on the novel if he intended it to be insulting.

Rushdie said he is pleased the book is “finally getting back to being a novel.”

“(That was) something worth fighting for,” he said.

The author was guarded by plain-clothes and uniformed officers from University Police, who had no cause to take action, according to UP Lt. Glenn Turner.

At the beginning of the lecture, a Northwestern representative urged students not to be disruptive in respect of free speech.

“You don’t look disruptive to me, I don’t look provocative to you,” Rushdie said, as he stepped up to the podium.

The event was sponsored by the Provost’s Office, using money requested by the Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee. Rushdie’s talk was hosted by A&O Productions.

The author spoke more about his work than politics, but when asked, he shared his views on the war.

“The only way to end the war on terrorism,” Rushdie said, “is for Muslim societies to turn against terrorist groups in their midst.”

Norris Box Office distributed the last of the free tickets Friday, the second day they were available.

An enthusiastic audience applauded and laughed throughout the talk. As attendee Krupal Shah left Pick-Staiger, he said to his friend: “That was a hell of an event.”

“I though he was really honest,” said Shah, a University of Chicago graduate student. “(He was) obviously polished — that comes with his trade. I was afraid he would come across as trite. He didn’t try to please everybody.”

Rushdie didn’t publish his first success until 1981.

“I was a very slow starter,” Rushdie said. “My contemporaries were streaking past in Rolls Royces, I was on this bicycle of … confusion.”

Rushdie said his naturalistic style was inspired by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. He said he differs from these authors in his treatment of destiny.

“(Character as destiny) is no longer entirely true,” he said. “We live in this age where war is destiny, terrorism is destiny.”

Rushdie has lived for extended periods in India, England and the United States and said he tried to capture the experience of migration in his work.

“Everything you bring with you is called into question, (including) your religious beliefs,” Rushdie said. “If that’s what happens, that’s what the novel must do.”

Rushdie, who renounced Islam at the age of 15, also spoke about his religious perspective.

“I’m not at all a religious person,” he said. “I have the religion of a mosquito. Actually, I know mosquitoes with more religion than me.”

Rushdie also read a piece from his new book, “Step Across This Line,” a collection of essays. “Heavy Threads” details his experience living above a clothing boutique in London in the summer of 1967.

In the midst of the “storm that grossly simplified (‘The Satanic Verses’),” Rushdie said he struggled to continue writing in his own style.

“If somebody tries to shut you up,” Rushdie said, “speak louder and, if possible, better.”

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Rushdie talks literature