Salman Rushdie on “The Rushdie Affair”

I just read Salman Rushdie’s personal essay in the 17 September 2012 issue of the New Yorker about the first few months of his life after the fatwa against his life was issued upon the publication of The Satanic Verses. It is a moving, heartbreaking text that makes one realize how much of a hero Rushdie was and is in his willingness to stand up for free speech, and to continue writing even though he knew that thousands of people hated him for it. Several bookstores were bombed in England for stocking the novel, so never let anyone tell you that literature is not political. The essay is essential reading for anyone who cares about literature.

I saw Rushdie read at the Barnes & Noble on the north end of Union Square in Manhattan in late 2002 or early 2003, and it was an amazing experience because even then there was the sense that he was risking his life to give us an evening of enjoyment. He had pre-signed copies of his newest book because it was too dangerous for him to meet readers personally to sign their copies, but he graciously took people’s (sometimes gratingly asinine) questions after the reading. About a year later I saw him standing outside of a bar smoking and talking with some friends (I can’t remember if he was actually smoking, or if he was just accompanying his acquaintances while they smoked, as this was soon after the City banned all smoking in restaurants), and it made me happy to see that he was able to have this moment of normalcy after everything he’d been through.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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