Salman Rushdie talks with TIME about his book Luka and the Fire of Life and describes his life after the fatwa calling for his death.
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true of false.
1 Salma Rushdie has written Luka and the Fire of Life for his two sons.
2 Salma Rushdie objects to a specific area of literature for young readers.
3 For Rushdie 'crowd' is the word that best summarizes India.
4 The main problem Rushdie is finding to write his memoirs is that he has to ask permission to too many people to mention specific events.
5 In 1999 the fatwa calling for Rushdie's death was ended.
6 Rushdie still has heavy security procedures around him.
7 He's written the screenplay for Water, Fire, Earth.
I’m Tim Morrison for Time Magazine, and this is 10 Questions with author Salma Rushdie, The new book is called Luka and the Fire of Life. Thank you very much for joining us.
Thank you, nice to be here.
We can just start with the first one, which is about your new book. Eugene Hong is a reader in Normal, Illinois, wants to know how is Luka and the Fire of Life different from your earlier work.
Well, the one of my book set it has a lot of common with is Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In fact, the two are kind of paired because they are the two books that I wrote basically for my two sons, and in that sense they are different from all the others because they have this desire to be… to talk to younger readers and not just to grownups, but the thing that I found when I wrote the first one, it was 20 years ago when my older son was 12, 13 years old, was that there’s this very interesting area I think in fiction now which is, exists on this kind of blurred boundary between books for adults and books for younger readers, you know, and obviously Harry Potter’s the most famous example of that, but there are, Philip Pullman’s works, there are lots of other books and I thought that’s a very interesting place to try and put a book, where a young person can read it and get one kind of pleasure and an adult can read and get a different kind of pleasure.
Now you were born in Bombay, which is now Mumbay…
… in India. We have a question from a reader who asks, it’s often said that it’s impossible to describe India in one word, could you please try?
Well, I think the thing that I felt when I started writing about India way back when I was writing Midnight’s Children, if you go to India, you are immediately struck by the crowd. The crowd is the great fact, you know, and so my question that I ask myself was how do you represent in a book, on a page, how do you represent that multitude, you know, how do you represent a crowd, and so I thought the answer is that you tell a crowd of stories, that you’ll literally overcrowd your narrative on purpose, overcrowd your narrative with too much incident, too many people, too much going on, so that your main story kind of has to push its way through the crowd, you know. So I think the one word would be crowd or multitude.
Now you’ve recently said that you were working on your memoirs. Do you find it harder to write about your life than it is to write fiction, or easier or about the same?
Well, it’s very different, that’s what it is. It’s easier in some ways because you know the story. It’s harder in other ways because you’re dealing with living people and so questions of appropriateness and taste come in because you’re not only dealing with your own private life, you’re dealing with other people’s private lives, and so the question of what is right to talk about and what is wrong is the thing which comes up every sentence more or less. You know, you have to make those decisions more or less instinctively but you do have to make them all the way along. That’s very different.
And the story you’re telling here is your entire life?
You know, because this event happened in my life after the publication of The Satanic Verses, that became, of course, a very large kind of global event.
It’s been a while, I mean, just to add the chronology the book The Satanic Verses came out in 1990… 89…
That year, well, 88 in England, 89 here.
In 89 the ayatollah of Iran declared a fatwa calling for your death and it was 10 years really before the the Iranian government…
It was 9… 1998, it’s over. Yes, it’s when it sort of ended.
It’s when it sort of ended.
Yeah, but the truth is that an enormous amount of what happened has never come out in public. A lot of it was just undercover, you know, and so there’s a bit of me, there’s the writer bit of me which is sitting on this good story, and if you’re sitting on it, at a certain point you have to tell the story. So the starting point was that, tell the story of that event, which was about 9 years, start to finish 10 years. But, of course, in order to tell that story properly you have to go back and tell earlier stories, how did this person become the person who wrote that book…
... and where did it come from.
After this entire sort of ordeal, is going back to normal really an option? Can that really happen?
Well, I mean, as you know, it has happened. I mean, it’s what I have been for the last dozen years meeting and more, I mean, put it like this, my younger son, Milan, for whom I wrote Luka and the Fire of Life, really for him, that was the a period that has not, it’s not been part of his life. You know, he’s had a more or less normal childhood which has not been involved with security procedures and so on, you know, and his older brother, of course, grew up through those years and had a very different experience.
But are sort of security precautions, aren’t really much part of your day?
No, they’re not, not at all, really. In fact the subject only comes up when I’m talking to journalists.
I’m sure it does. Which, if any, of your books would you like to see made into a movie?
Well, actually, we have… there’s a project right now to make a film of Midnight’s Children and I’ve actually, I’ve written the screenplay and it’s going to be directed by the Canadian-Indian director Deepa Mehta who made… she filmed the film Water, Fire, Earth, you know that trilogy, but Water, of course, it was Oscar-nominated and so on, and that’s you know, we’re in the process of setting that up, so hopefully we can make that.
Our last question comes from a reader in Sao Paolo, Brazil, who wants to know what will you do the day you decide you’re no longer interested in writing?
That, I don’t foresee that day. I mean, the question is a very good question because what would I do. You know, well, I can’t think of anything else I would do, so I’d better do this.
Alright, Salman Rushdie, thank you very much for joining us.
KEY: 1F 2F 3T 4F 5F 6F 7F