May return to India for my next novel: Rushdie
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Salman Rushdie’s next novel is likely to be set entirely in India and for that he may return for a while to the country of his birth, the celebrated New York-based author revealed at the Times Lit Fest on Sunday.
“After these 10 years of writing western-based novels, I’m starting to write a book that appears to be an Indian novel entirely set over there… which means I have to come,” Rushdie said during an online conversation with TOI’s Vinita Dawra Nangia. This was Rushdie’s first appearance at an Indian litfest since his withdrawal from the Jaipur fest amid a row in 2012.
Rushdie rued his fraught visits to India, where his 1988 book The Satanic Verses remains banned to this day.
In many ways, fiction is opposite of a lie: Rushdie
The last time I was in Mumbai was more than seven years ago. Sometimes it’s made quite difficult for me to come to India and that can be off-putting. Either because of religious objections or being engulfed in security operations. You can’t go have coffee with friends at Colaba Causeway if you’re accompanied by an army of men with guns!” Rushdie laughed with a promise to return.
The reading public has the pandemic to thank for a chance to peep right into Rushdie’s writing sanctuary in New York — a long, pleasant room lined with tall bookcases and a crisp white fireplace — that has birthed some of the author’s most beloved novels. It took Covid-19 and the digital intimacy of this year’s Times Lit Fest for the British-Indian author to hand over the keys to his out-of-bounds territory as he spoke to TOI about his quixotic quest for truth. Via fiction.
Rushdie’s work, over the years, has packed in multiple universes teeming with an assortment of characters, cultural references, literary allusions and absurdities of the contemporary world. But a Salman Rushdie novel is usually not what it might appear on the surface. Quichotte, the fourteenth novel from the Booker prize winning author — where he reimagines Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes’s classic Don Quixote to tell the story of an aging pharmaceutical salesman who sets off on a drive across America — is much more than a parodic remoulding of Cervantes’s famous novel.
If Cervantes wrote about an old Spanish nobleman to satirise the culture of his times, at the heart of Rushdie’s playful Quichotte — separated from Quixote by four centuries — is a “breakdown of reality and people living in a post-factual world where truth and lies are so confused,” he said.
Responding to a writer’s responsibility to fiction in an era when truth is suspect, he repeated his barefaced reaction to people whenever they ask him, ‘Why are you making things up when the world is full of lies anyway?’ “In many ways fiction is the opposite of a lie. The purpose of literature is to say what and who we are and move towards human truths whereas the purpose of a lie is to obscure the truth. Which is why historically authoritarians have attacked writers,” said the 74-year-old writer, his tongue and wit sharply in place.
The author who feels like a “product of the three cities that he’s lived in — Mumbai, London and New York — calls himself a “Bombay boy” who can’t help but reinvent Breach Candy, the neighbourhood where he grew up, in all his stories.