Events / People

Salman Rushdie in a Public Discussion

I had the chance to attend the public discussion with Salman Rushdie about his new autobiography, “Joseph Anton: A Memoir” on Tuesday at the Centre for Fine Arts Bozar. The memoir presents the period of the fatwa against him when he had to live in hiding.

There was a long queue in front of Bozar for tickets and then inside at the wardrobes. Everyone had to leave their coats and bags before entering the main hall which was packed up to its full capacity.

In the 1,5 hour interview, led by Annelies Beck, a journalist at VRT Salman Rushdie talked about that dark period of his life in a calm, poised way and was even able to joke about its consequences.

The interview was also full of insights about writing. For example, his memoir is written in third person which he explained as follows:

“When you write an autobiography in the first person the use of “I” means that the I-character is somehow separated from all the other characters or all him and she. If you don’t do that, if even the character, that is yourself, is just one of the he-s and she-s in the book, then you can approach that person, that younger self, as a novelist. You can write about that person as a character even though it happens to be you. And also I wanted to suggest that the person I was writing about, that “me” I was writing about, is a little different than the “me” now, partly because I am older now. When this thing happened to me, I was 41. Now I am 65. So it’s a very different self. I wanted to suggest that the point from which I am writing the book is slightly different from the point which the character in the book is in. So again the third person helped with that.”

And something which I deeply related to as a writer:

“When you are creating a fictional character, the process is more of understanding than about invention. You have to get to know the character, you have to let the character begin to talk to you and say what they have to say, what they are interested in being”.

I found his both presence and words enigmatic and fascinating.

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