An evening with Salman Rushdie in LA ( Japanese American Theatre)….in Conversation with Reza Aslan- On his latest book : Luka and the Fire of Life
We were first among few to be in the theatre, and as the time got close to 8 pm on 30 Nov 2010, at the American Japanese Theatre in Los Angeles, I could see the admiration for an Indian born-British writer, Salman Rushdie. At 8 pm, the auditorium was full, and at the stoke of 8, the introduction began. After which Rushdie began reading few lines from his book, Luka and Fire of Life. Rushdie smiles and acknowledges that ‘Nobodaddy’ is not his own invention but had been stolen from a poem..and gives credit to the Poet…
|Uma with Reza Aslan|
As the discussion began, Reza kept his questions and dialogue in such a passionate way that Rushdie kept answering them with ease and the audience roared in laughter at the humor, the wit and the spontaneity of two great writers on the stage. Rushdie went on to explain… and also as part of the Q&A session from the audience….
Quotes from Salman Rushdie:
The best of Quotes from last evening with Salman Rushdie, I could not stop admiring the wit, the humor and the intelligence of a man who is the centre of controversies as a writer…..”Don’t mess up with Novelists” he smiled. ”Pen is mightier than Sword”., “Double standards is diplomacy, for you act one way in public and other in private”…..he smiled answering a question on wikileaks. He repeated twice that the ‘Man is born to burn the books’.
His current Project- His Memoir:
Taking about his current project, writing his Memoir, he said Memoir is tough like any other fiction, for they have to have these life characters woven in the story… Spicy and juicy events make it more reader interesting, but there are private lives involved and the boundaries of exposure have to be maintained respecting their privacy while writing autobiographies. He says that he is vary about talking more on his work in progress. Asked if he is finding it embarrassing to write about his own life, its most troubled incidents and moments, he said at least while writing it, he knows the story unlike in real fiction where creativity gives scope for newness. And he would answer to on the embarrassing part after 2 years when the work is completed. He said that it involves all the people involved in his life, including him and hence he had to exercise caution of to what extent he can reveal things of other’s lives. He called Mark Twain a smart guy, for he arranged to release his autobiography after several years of his passing away, so that he don’t need to take the controversies involved while telling the truth and hurt the sentiments of religions, governments, people etc and he is not there any longer to see the consequences of his writings and thoughts. But am sure, Salman Rushdie can never be a man of running away from controversies…
He kept telling, ‘Man is born to be burning with books’ and Intelligence of storytelling differentiates man and animals. Asked if Luka and Fire for life is a Children’s book, he responded staying that there is nothing called Adult books and Children’s books. Most adults read children’s books. Children read adult books but interpret differently. Books have to represent literature, naturalism in fiction, fundamental intelligence and creativity with giving more emphasis on literature. Technically correct and grammatically strong books have larger reach, unlike the Twilight- teen love fictions which just don’t follow any of these rules…He made fun of the Twilight author stating that she doesn’t know to write …his pun intended…. Same time he appreciated so much of J.K.Rowling and other authors that the books give a chance for getting it within the system and injecting the essence into readers as they absorb the content of the good books. He mentioned that it is very difficult to please children., so children books are lot more challenging to write, for kids will not complete the books they don’t like…so writing a book that they would finish reading is important as a writer.
He went to say, that Life was difficult for his son, between 9-19, as his enemies threatened his life, but the strange thing is that they have a point and he hate to acknowledge it. He dismisses the claims that Luka and Fire of Life is a children’s book…He clarifies that when children read, they read that as a fiction filled with video games that they play every day….delighted, but when the same child reads the book as an adult, identifies the fact that life is filled with difficulties to overcome and not hurdles in the game…
Rushdie recommends that we read this book both as a child and an adult, for there is a child in each one of us that would have to unwind the imaginative and enjoy the creativity of a writer par excellence. He describes how the ‘NoBoDaddy’ looks divine, serene and beautiful …the reality that most of the people while dead look pleasant and peaceful than in life…worth a while to ponder. The fear of a child that his father may never return, is there is every child having an aged parent….No child can imagine the parents gone and they believe that they are there forever. He giggled and said that he too wished the same.
They way, he describes what happens you take two steps to your left and find yourself in a completely different world….Everything looks the same and real, but it is not the same and real….including Luka’s daddy…to me it represented a tactful way of letting us know that if we take even a step …there could be a different world altogether, may be for good or bad…may be for right or wrong…it emphasis the fact how important is a decision making to take that one step
Magical Fiction and Reality
Talking about magical fiction, he states that, Magic Realism was never interpreted correctly…people understand magic and forget Realism. Talking about death and Luka, the combination of reality and magical illusion of a world different from reality, Luka surrounds around the death as the central character. Yama is the god of death in Hindu mythology and Nobodaddy in the book is a reflection of the similar thing…death in its beauty and as the ultimate truth… The book gives a way to tell the reality of death to a child in the most easiest way possible for it is the reality. Luka and the Fire of Life has all the magical characters that a human mind can imagine, dragons, beasts, bears and dogs.. creativity running at its freedom best.
Children should understand that the video games have multiple lives, multiple replays, multiple points for saving a life etc.. but a reality is lot different. There are no multiple savings or multiple lives, so distinguishing reality from virtual world the children of today are living should be identified .
Story telling is an art and it needs to have a targeting audience. Huron was written for his first son Zafar and Luka was written for his second son Milan…so when something targeted at particular person, the passion of doing it is more and when it is done rightly becomes universal.
Magical journey into a enchanted world of Luka’s father..Rashid’s imagination…you see a reflection of Rushdie and his excellent skills of story weaving. The various cameos represented from different cultures show his ability to not only have great knowledge on the subject but also to use it at the right time and literary references that make us smile. He tells that though in his book, the video games are exclaimed as excellent and delighting ..in reality he tells that it limits one’s imagination. Reality gives more scope for creativity and imagination than the virtual world that the children of today are thinking as real.. Battle against time in the book, takes us to a different reminiscent wonderland where we find mythological creatures and surreal characters.
Referencing diety stories and the fact that the God not worshipped loses their power and disappears is a certain reality, especially where there thousands of gods in this world interwoven with the faiths….Rushdie sounds like a rational to whom every faith is a equal and it is the ultimate human intelligence that will win over the world and not the difference amongst
He talks about mention of the time travelers in his book… and he says that having Peter Pan, Mark Twain, Terminator and others was to the fact that they were great time travelers…So Luka had to travel along with the rest of the great time travelers….Children’s books amass audiences and interest readers with these great stories filled with time travelling. Dog, called the Bear, and the Bear called the Dog are Luka’s friends in the book.
On Wikileaks and Freedom of Expression:
On Wikileaks…he stated that he is excited that hypocrisy getting exposed and is a good thing….same time the life of the witnesses and sources are at danger…for the sources will not be just punished, or slapped on the face, they would be killed. Freedom of expression is important provided it has its own set rules… Hate books don’t go great with people for they speak the truth….Freedom of expression and open journalism is appreciated as long as the perceptions and interpretations are clear and concrete.
On Fire of Life
Fire is represented as life, a passion, an energy and survival factor. Fire is represented in every culture of the world, be in Greeks, Native American, Russian, Turkish or any culture… Same is with the sky-god, there is a sky god in every culture of this world from Persian, Greeks, Romans and so on..for that matter any culture. The fire in actual life is the fire for survival, fire of passion, enthusiasm, fire for knowledge and wisdom, fire of intelligence and human excellence
The contemporary style of Novel writing filled with humorous puns and wonderful language makes it a package of Rushdie’s product and nothing less.
Dedication of Luka and Fire of Life to Milan, his second son:
As a poet myself, I cannot stop from being a great admirer of the words Rushdie writes as part of his dedication of the book to his second son Milan (Luka is his middle name)... See the First letters of each sentence that forms MILAN..
Magic lands lie all around
Inside, outside, underground.
Looking-glass worlds still abound
All their tales this truth reveal
Naught but love makes magic real.
There is a depth of love, for he mentioned in his discussion, that Milan was born when he was almost nearing 50’s and its an elder dad’s anxieties towards his little son, to whom he planned to write a book for from the time he was born. He cleared the speculation that the book was possibly written to tell his son that his dad is in 60’s and expect the unexpected….and preparing one to the only reality of any human being- death. Death is inevitable and will happen to everyone and it can never be predicted…but planning emotionally to handle such a torment in life is natural for elderly parents..There was a sincerity of a father in those words..
He wished all of us there, that we enjoy the book, more than the way he enjoyed writing it… for to him writing it was a passionate experience. I have read so many books, and also attended many poetry reading and book reading functions, but the reason why this stands out is simply because it was read by the greatest Author of our times…and that’s the difference.
It was a great pleasure to watch the great scholar and writer, sitting in the first row watching him and Reza with awe and delighted to have got his book signed after the conversation and met him in person…It was wonderful, beautiful and most enthralling experience…. With the air filled with knowledge, truth, freedom , language at its best, humor at its radiance and a great respect to a great scholar.
Long live Rushdie…for you are the icon of freedom of expression and reinstated the fact the pen is mightier than sword… The controversial writer definitely have a human side and there could be less intentional controversies he created. Probably it all depends on how you interpret a writer’s mind. If you read something with a predetermined notions, I am sure you will find hundred reasons to raise a controversy…. If you can look into the truth with a sense of humor and practical reality, I guess it makes things better. As a Indian-British writer, Rushdie proclaimed that he supports the law that punishes any kind of racial discrimination. We are living in a world, a world of global outreach and yet, the levels of tolerance are limited, given the wide geographical and historical divide of the borders of various continents. And hence open journalism and open artists still struggle to survive..
I was amazed to the kind of applause he received from the western audience…and as expectedly, there were less than 1% of Indians…which was evident that we are more careful that we don’t end up appreciating or participating in anything that have a bit of controversy…and especially Salman Rushdie being not just a bit but with a whole lot of controversial cases around him… Yet, how can one stop from admiring the intelligence, creativity, boundless imagination, love for language and literature, knack of words and prose and poetry mixing up in his every line. Same time, I could not stop from thinking that the fact, that his controversies are his popularity…and had it not been for them, I guess there wouldn’t have been so much a wider fan following…..especially an Indian brain being admired, received, applauded, followed and closely watched by the western world.