A 2021 special event presented by the Chicago Humanities Festival is a must-see for those interested in history, philosophy, writing, reading, and simply thinking. On 6/16/21, Salman Rushdie gets into every corner of thought as he introduces his newest book, “Languages of Truth.” A man devoted to storytelling, Rushdie nonetheless identifies himself as a historian by training – and a philosopher by preference – as he outlines the art of the novel: to bring formal meaning out of chaos. Salman Rushdie is interviewed for an hour by Indian-American Srikanth Reddy, a writer, scholar, and author of three full-length volumes of poetry. This is an interview which will awaken the soul.
Born in Bombay, India, to a Kashmiri Moslem family, Rushdie is considered a British novelist and essayist. He was educated abroad and entered the world of movies as a young man, with French and Italian art films of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s a special draw. In this COVID time, he tells his audience about his experience viewing these old films “to see what stood up and what didn’t.” Rushdie even became a fan of the Marvel comics: “I needed the Marvel Universe to bring me to the present.” COVID became “an avalanche of horror so great that it was hard to find creative space to do writing.” Happily, he found time to author “The Language of Truth.”
Acclaim for Rushdie’s writing came early in his career. His second novel, “Midnight’s Children,” was published in 1981, won the Booker Prize, was adapted into a screenplay, and opened in theaters in 2012. “Satanic Verses,” his fourth novel which takes a satirical poke at the Prophet Mohammed, was published in 1988, and quickly brought international fame – especially when Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini put a fatwa (contract) on his life in 1989. Even with the protection of the British Government, Rushdie’s lease on life truly became touch-and-go.
Rushdie’s genre is difficult to pin down, with suggestions like “magic realism,” “satire,” and “post colonialism” not quite defining his style. In reality, Rushdie has proven impossible to pigeonhole. He acknowledges the overlap between his best literature and his own life and has always seen writing as a journey of learning and discovery: “You need to go find something out of a world full of interesting things.” An inveterate traveler, Rushdie has woven his life experiences into his tales with superb sensitivity.
When discussing a character in a novel, questions about the importance of the fatal flaw defining how things work out tantalized Rushdie. Finally, Rushdie concluded that personality is far too complex to formulate so easily: “Besides the fatal flaw, there are other things that can shape character and change destiny.” in addition to the sophistication of complexity, however, Rushdie also longs for the naivety of the child: “Children are very open…as we get older, we become more skeptical…our jaundiced adult self prevents us from opening our minds…the collision of the dream world and the actual is a fruitful place for art…we need to put characters in situations which question them…it’s a situation of ordinariness vs. extraordinariness.” If the viewer wants to be challenged, this is definitely the place to bring your questions. And, by the way, this interview is a must-see for everyone who wants to become an author – or a better author!
SALMAN RUSHDIE: LANGUAGES OF TRUTH is livestreamed on YouTube at 7 p.m. (CST). The interview lasts for one hour. Registration is free and available to everyone on demand.