With the launch of its Literary Series on Sept. 16, the Arvada Center welcomed renowned author Salman Rushdie to speak on his latest novel, Quichotte, for which he will tour approximately 25 …
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With the launch of its Literary Series on Sept. 16, the Arvada Center welcomed renowned author Salman Rushdie to speak on his latest novel, Quichotte, for which he will tour approximately 25 locations across the United States and Canada. The event, a partnership with Denver's Tattered Cover Bookstore, brought in more than 260 people from across the metro area to hear from the famous novelist.
Rushdie is known for his numerous works and novels including Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses. In 1989, Iran's former spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Rushdie's execution, saying The Satanic Verses falsely depicted Islamic figures and traditions. In 1998, then-Iranian president Mohammad Khatami declared the fatwa finished but did not officially lift it, and in 2016, some Iranian media outlets collectively raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to add to the bounty for Rushdie's assassination, according to the Guardian.
Rushdie moved to New York 20 years ago and has set his latest novel in the US as character Quichotte and his imaginary son Sancho — based loosely on Miguel de Cervantes's characters in Don Quixote — take a road trip across America.
Now going across the country himself, Rushdie said he hoped his Arvada visit would be an opportunity to meet his modern-day, Denver area readers and challenge them to take a closer look at the country around them.
The interview was condensed for clarity.
Why analyze social and political issues in the US?
There are issues that are so 'everyday' right now in America that it would have been kind of chicken not to look at them. Given that my main character is Indian-American, it was impossible to believe he would not encounter any hostility if he was going to make a journey across America. I had to face up to the issue of race and the opioid crisis. But just as much as that, it's a novel about the internal lives of the characters. For me, that combination is what makes a good book.
What has been your goal in writing and touring with this novel? Do you believe the book will have an impact on society, and has your previous work had such an impact on readers?
I don't know, really. You'd have to ask them. But the fact that they're still coming back for more indicates that maybe it did. I don't want to over-claim for what fiction can do; I think it can offer readers a kind of vision of how things are and create a world they enjoy being in. And hopefully, while they're having that experience, it makes them think a little bit, so they come out of it affected by what I've done. If people love a book, then it does color the way they think.
There's a novelist in Quichotte who's on a quest to write a book unlike any he's ever written before — was that true of you with this book, as well?
That's true of me every time. I have a real dislike of writing the same book twice. One of the things I've been really pleased about is that people are finding this book to be very funny. The first readers of the book said they thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever written, and I'm happy about that because making people laugh is very hard. If you can make people laugh, you've done something really worth doing.
After all of the events you've done, what drives you to continue going on tour and speaking about your work?
You sit alone in a room for several years writing a book, and one of the most enjoyable things about publication is meeting the readers. When Midnight's Children came out, it was very successful amongst younger readers and it always had a very ethnically diverse, racially diverse range of readership. It's quite exciting to me that all these years later, that demographic pattern is still the case. I'm not too old for young people. Young readers have the future in their hands, so anything I can do to influence their minds, I'm happy to try and do. What I want is the conversation about the book — I think that's the most nourishing thing, both for the audience and for me.
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