Last week, Coe College students had the absolute joy of getting to hear Sir Salman Rushdie speak on our campus at the 10th Annual Contemporary Issues Forum. Best known for writing “The Satanic Verses” and “Midnight’s Children,” Sir Rushdie is also the winner of a Booker Prize for literature. His memoir “Joseph Anton” was published in September 2012.
Many people have heard the complicated nature of Sir Rushdie’s controversial politically-charged background, and for many people I talked to before the lecture–other than his novels–the controversy surrounding those novels were the main things they knew about Sir Rushdie. However, the fascinating thing about his lecture was not about that business. It was about hearing someone incredibly knowledgeable in fiction discuss literature from English classics to Latin American magical realism. It was about hearing someone speak about writing who loves to write, but also loves to read. It was about being encouraged to find our own fictional versions of truth.
Sir Rushdie claimed he sees literature as something “worthless to the world.” A bold statement. He followed that up by saying, that to some, fiction does not change the world the way that history and politics and money necessarily do, and that we don’t have to have fiction in our lives. But, as authors and readers we feel as though we must.
Everyone has a different version of their own truth, and that is what becomes fiction. History is something different and separate–though Sir Rushdie was a history student in his undergraduate studies, and his books are heavily tinged with historical elements– his books are not everyone’s history. They are his version of it, rather, his truth, and his fiction. The writer’s job is to give the world these truths, and to “carve out little spaces in the world” to explore the truths that still remain to be written about.
He encouraged us all to write the story we have to write. I think after hearing Sir Rushdie speak, we all felt inspired to do just that.
To read an interview with Sir Salman Rushdie in the The Paris Review click here.