Saturday, April 16, 2011

Salman Rusdhie's Call to Writers

On April 12th, I had the rare opportunity to see Salman Rusdhie speak at Duke University this past week, thanks to free tickets form my friends Brian and Megan. As a writer, he admits he's not comfortable with public speaking, but as he got rolling, he was amazing, personable and down to earth, passionate and thoughtful, sarcastic and caustic at times, but mostly he called out to writers worldwide to take their stand, tell their story and claim a spot on the steps of history. He believes the role of the writer or artist is to shape our understanding of the world.
Like so many others who believe news is no longer the news, he states how the ever evolving novel must now be not just the story of a family of characters, but also the story of the world. Where will our archives be once newspapers are defunct? How will future generations find all the details of our histories?  Because of the radical changes in human society thanks to the Internet, few societies are not aware of what is happening globally minute to minute. As Salman reiterated, man is a creature enthralled with story. So in the future, novels will relate not only the intimate stories, but also how world events affect each individual's life. Multiculturalism and a shrinking global awareness will require it.
While less vitriolic and more reserved as a speaker than writer, Salman did not hold back on his opinions or requests.  When he recounted stories from his past, running the gamut from the years of the threats, exiles and deaths surrounding the Satanic Verses, to the tales of India's history, we saw a wide-angled view of the world, yet it was shared in a way so personal with the audience, we felt involved as part of the human race and not as voyeurs.  Perhaps this is the future path of the novel, hopefully to remain both in print and on the likes of Kindles and E-books.  He believes the cross-section of tales from every perspective, are how we must share our stories for future generations. We must remain steadfast to protect the voices of the individuals and the necessity of free speech.  Even as Salman stated, despite the risk of authors being isolated, persecuted, or even murdered; despite the rapidly changing media, the writer must write, the novel must be shared, the stories must be told. 
Brian, Chris and I left inspired and invigorated, also a little guilty and certainly humbled. Rushdie's speech was targeted to writers and he left no wiggle room for those who even thought about writing. He repeatedly called upon their single voices to offer an overall perspective to crush tyranny. It certainly made each of us more aware of  the importance of the novel and it's multiple effects: from entertainment and storytelling. Rushdie views the recounting of world events in an intimate manner as tales of flawed but constantly struggling humanity, the global politics hared alongside loves, passions and our fascination with life. The ultimate cross-section of these tales, told in one perspective from one corner of this complex rapidly changing world become a mosaic which illuminates and relates the truest history of our times.

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