Video produced by Frank Carlson and Mark Hiney.
Salman Rushdie’s new novel, “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights,” tells the story of an attack on New York City by mystical genies. It’s a work that combines fears and anxieties of the real world with manifestations from a fantastical one. The NewsHour’s chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown reported on the book’s release this week.
In the extended interview above, Rushdie talks about the process of writing a world influenced by both reality and fantasy. “What the book is about is … the engagement between the world of imagination and dream, the irrational world, you know, which is not subject to logic,” he told Brown.
He also addressed the destruction of cultural artifacts in wartime, such as the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, which was destroyed recently by the Islamic State. “Culture has no armies,” he said. “I think people of a tyrannical bend fear art, because art is not controllable. Art is the expression of human genius and liberty. And if the game you’re in is to control liberty, then you dislike manifestations of it.”
Rushdie himself faced protests and threats of violence over his 1989 book “The Satanic Verses,” which some called blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini called for the author’s death, which led him to go into hiding for almost a decade.
Now, he said, he still believes that free expression is important to any society. “One of the things I think we must remember as free societies is that one of the parts, essential parts, of freedom is to say things that other people don’t like,” he said. “I think that idea of accepting … what you find objectionable is absolutely essential to an open society.”
But there’s one way Rushdie does not always enjoy speaking out: on Twitter, which he says he may quit soon. This, after Rushdie tweeted a snarky comment at Jonathan Franzen, who quit Twitter in 2012, calling it “unspeakably irritating“:
— Salman Rushdie (@SalmanRushdie) September 16, 2013
Watch the full interview for more.