Transcript: Salman Rushdie | Feb 28, 1989

(violin music plays)

In animation, a marble entrance with two columns floating on misty mountains opens up to reveal a small bookshelf. Book covers from the collection flash by, including Cat’s eye by Margaret Atwood and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.
The title of the show appears as a book cover with a picture of the marble entrance: “Authors at Harbourfront.”

The Narrator says THE FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS AT
TORONTO'S HARBOURFRONT IS ONE
OF THE WORLD'S FOREMOST
LITERARY EVENTS.
NOW ENTERING ITS TENTH YEAR,
THE FESTIVAL ANNUALLY ATTRACTS
50 OF THE WORLD'S BEST AUTHORS
TO THE STAGE, TO READ FROM
THEIR WORKS AND PARTICIPATE
IN INTERVIEWS AND DISCUSSIONS
WITH THEIR PEERS.

The screen turns as if it were a book page and a male narrator speaks as clips of different authors speaking at Harbourfront flash by.

The Narrator continues SALMAN RUSHDIE PUBLISHED
HIS FIRST NOVEL
“GRIMUS” IN 1975.
HIS NEXT NOVEL,
“MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN,”
CHRONICLED THE HISTORY
OF MODERN INDIA THROUGH
THE LIVES OF A THOUSAND
AND ONE CHILDREN BORN
WITHIN THE COUNTRY'S FIRST
HOUR OF INDEPENDENCE.
IT WON THE 1981 BOOKER
PRIZE AND HIS NEXT NOVEL,
“SHAME,” WON A NOMINATION
FOR THE BOOKER.
RUSHDIE'S LATEST NOVEL,
“THE SATANIC VERSES,”
HAS BEEN BANNED IN INDIA,
TAKEN OFF SHELVES
IN LONDON, AND PUBLISHERS
HAVE RECEIVED BOMB THREATS
IN THE UNITED STATES.
IN THIS PROGRAM,
RUSHDIE READS
FROM “THE SATANIC VERSES.”
AND DISCUSSES HIS VIEWS
ON CENSORSHIP AND POLITICS.

The author’s three books appear one next to the other. A caption reads “Salman Rushdie. UK.” On the top right corner of the screen, a paused clip featuring Salman zooms out.

Salman Rushdie sits on a chair. He’s in his early forties, with a beard and receding dark hair. He’s wearing glasses, a red sweater and a light jacket.

Salman says FREEDOM IN A CIVILIZED
SOCIETY WAS LIMITED BY DECENCY.
NOW, THIS SOUNDS AS
IF IT MEANS SOMETHING.
[laughter]
NOW, IT SEEMS TO BE VERY
IMPORTANT TO SAY THAT
IT'S NOT TRUE; THAT, IN FACT,
THE RIGHT TO BE INDECENT
IS AN EXTREMELY - I MEAN, IT
IS WHERE ART COMES FROM.
IF WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO IS
ALWAYS BE LIMITED BY WHAT
MOST RIGHT-THINKING PEOPLE
WILL REASONABLY ACCEPT,
THEN YOU'RE DEAD
BEFORE YOU START.
SO IN THAT SENSE, I
ABSOLUTELY ACCEPT THAT
“THE SATANIC VERSES” IS A
DEEPLY INDECENT NOVEL.

[applause]

Salman comes to the stage and says THE PROBLEM WITH A BOOK THIS
LONG IS THAT HALF AN HOUR
ONLY LETS YOU HAVE A
COUPLE OF TINY PIECES OF IT,
SO THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE
GOING TO GET BASICALLY.
THIS WATCH DOESN'T WORK,
SO I'LL PUT IT BACK ON.
[laughter]
I THOUGHT THAT IF YOU'RE
GOING TO PRESENT A NOVEL
IN A NEW COUNTRY, I
SUPPOSE WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO
IS READ THE BEGINNING,
PARTLY BECAUSE IT REQUIRES
THE LEAST EXPLANATION.
SO THE SATANIC VERSES
BEGINS LIKE THIS...
AND THEN I'LL READ YOU
ANOTHER BIT FROM LATER ON.
He reads “TO BE BORN AGAIN,” SANG
GIBREEL FARISHTA TUMBLING
FROM THE HEAVENS,
“FIRST YOU HAVE TO DIE.
HOJI!
HOJI!
TO LAND UPON THE
BOSOMY EARTH,
FIRST ONE
NEEDS TO FLY.
TAT-TAA!
TAKA-THUN!
HOW TO EVER SMILE AGAIN,
IF FIRST YOU WON'T CRY?
HOW TO WIN THE
DARLING'S LOVE, MISTER,
WITHOUT A SIGH?
BABA, IF YOU WANT
TO GET BORN AGAIN...”
JUST BEFORE DAWN ONE
WINTER'S MORNING,
NEW YEAR'S DAY OR
THEREABOUTS, TWO REAL,
FULL-GROWN, LIVING MEN
FELL FROM A GREAT HEIGHT,
29,002 FEET TOWARDS
THE ENGLISH CHANNEL,
WITHOUT BENEFIT OF
PARACHUTES OR WINGS,
OUT OF A CLEAR SKY.
“I TELL YOU, YOU MUST DIE,
I TELL YOU, I TELL YOU,”
AND THUSLY AND SO BENEATH
A MOON OF ALABASTER
UNTIL A LOUD CRY
CROSSED THE NIGHT,
“TO THE DEVIL
WITH YOUR TUNES,”
THE WORDS HANGING
CRYSTALLINE IN THE
ICED WHITE NIGHT; “IN THE
MOVIES YOU ONLY MIMED
TO PLAYBACK SINGERS, SO SPARE
ME THESE INFERNAL NOISES NOW.”
GIBREEL, THE
TUNELESS SOLOIST,
HAD BEEN CAVORTING IN
MOONLIGHT AS HE SANG HIS
IMPROMPTU GAZAL, SWIMMING
IN AIR, BUTTERFLY-STROKE,
BREAST-STROKE, BUNCHING
HIMSELF INTO A BALL,
SPREADEAGLING
HIMSELF AGAINST
THE ALMOST-INFINITY
OF THE ALMOST-DAWN,
ADOPTING HERALDIC
POSTURES, RAMPANT,
COUCHANT, PITTING
LEVITY AGAINST GRAVITY.
NOW HE ROLLED HAPPILY
TOWARDS THE SARDONIC VOICE.
“OHE, SALAD BABA,
IT'S YOU, TOO GOOD.
WHAT-HO, OLD CHUMCH.”
[laughter]
AT WHICH THE OTHER, A
FASTIDIOUS SHADOW
FALLING HEADFIRST
IN A GREY SUIT
WITH ALL THE JACKET
BUTTONS DONE UP,
ARMS BY HIS SIDES,
TAKING FOR GRANTED
THE IMPROBABILITY OF THE
BOWLER HAT ON HIS HEAD,
PULLED A
NICKNAME-HATER'S FACE.
“HEY, SPOONO,”
GIBREEL YELLED,
ELICITING A SECOND
INVERTED WINCE,
“PROPER LONDON, BHAI!
HERE WE COME!
THOSE BASTARDS DOWN THERE
WON'T KNOW WHAT HIT THEM.
METEOR OR LIGHTNING
OR VENGEANCE OF GOD.
OUT OF THIN AIR, BABY.
DHARAM!
WHAM, NA?
WHAT AN
ENTRANCE, YAAR.
I SWEAR: SPLAT.”

(classical music plays)

Back in the interview, Salman says I THINK THAT THE SAD
THING ABOUT INDIA,
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT
CONSERVATISM AS A STATE
IN WHICH NOTHING CHANGES.
I THINK THE CONSERVATISM
OF INDIA IS REALLY NOT
THAT AT PRESENT, BUT THAT
IT'S A STATE IN WHICH
THINGS ARE SLIPPING
BACKWARDS.
TO GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE,
JAWAHARLAL NEHRU,
WHEN HE WAS PRIME
MINISTER OF INDIA,
WOULD SAY THAT HE
RECOGNIZED THAT THERE
WERE IN INDIA SECTARIAN
COMMUNAL TENDENCIES,
THAT THAT WAS ALWAYS
GOING TO BE THERE.
IT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE
AN ASPECT OF INDIAN LIFE.
BUT YOU COULD DECIDE,
AS A STATESMAN AND AS
A POLITICIAN, AS A LEADER
OF THE COMMUNITY THAT
YOU WERE SIMPLY NOT
GOING TO NEGOTIATE
WITH THOSE TENDENCIES.
YOU WERE GOING TO RUN
YOUR COUNTRY AND YOU
WERE NOT GOING TO GIVE THOSE
PEOPLE OR THOSE ELEMENTS
OF THE SOCIETY THE
POWER TO DICTATE.
AND BROADLY
SPEAKING, I MEAN,
TO MAKE A GREAT
SIMPLIFICATION,
DURING NEHRU'S
PRIME MINISTERSHIP,
SECTARIAN COMMUNAL
TENDENCIES
WERE DIMINISHED
IN POWER.
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW IS
THAT THE RAJIV GANDHI'S
GOVERNMENT IS NEGOTIATING
WITH THOSE TENDENCIES,
IS GIVING INTO THEM AT
EVERY POINT, AND SADLY,
ALTHOUGH THE REASON GIVEN
FOR THE BANNING OF MY BOOK
IS THAT IT WAS LIKELY TO
CREATE INCREASED COMMUNAL
TENSION, IN FACT, I
DON'T THINK THAT'S SO.
I THINK IN FACT IF THE
BOOK HAD - THE BANNING IS
WHAT'S LIKELY TO CREATE
INCREASED COMMUNAL TENSION
BECAUSE IT GIVES POWER.
IT DELIVERS THE ENERGY
IN THE SOCIETY
TO THE MOST RETROGRADE
ELEMENTS IN THE SOCIETY.
AND IT IS ABSOLUTELY
THE CASE, I BELIEVE,
IN INDIA TODAY THAT
WHERE THE ENERGY IS IN
THE COUNTRY IS IN THOSE, NOT
JUST MUSLIM SECTARIANISM,
BUT HINDU SECTARIANISM,
SIKH SECTARIANISM.
THOSE ARE THE GROUPINGS
THAT ARE ACTUALLY
DOMINATING AND CONTROLLING
THE POLITICAL AGENDA.

On the stage, Salman reads KNOCKED A LITTLE
SILLY BY THE BLAST,
GIBREEL AND SALADIN
PLUMMETED LIKE BUNDLES
DROPPED BY SOME CARELESSLY
OPEN-BEAKED STORK,
AND BECAUSE CHAMCHA WAS
GOING DOWN HEAD FIRST,
IN THE RECOMMENDED
POSITION FOR BABIES
ENTERING THE BIRTH CANAL,
HE COMMENCED TO FEEL
A LOW IRRITATION AT
THE OTHER'S REFUSAL
TO FALL IN PLAIN FASHION.
SALADIN NOSE-DIVED WHILE
FARISHTA EMBRACED AIR,
HUGGING IT WITH HIS ARMS
AND LEGS, A FLAILING,
OVERWROUGHT ACTOR WITHOUT
TECHNIQUES OF RESTRAINT.
BELOW, CLOUD-COVERED,
AWAITING THEIR ENTRANCE,
THE SLOW CONGEALED CURRENTS
OF THE ENGLISH SLEEVE,
THE APPOINTED ZONE OF THEIR
WATERY REINCARNATION.
“O, MY SHOES ARE
JAPANESE,” GIBREEL SANG,
TRANSLATING THE OLD
SONG INTO ENGLISH IN
SEMI-CONSCIOUS DEFERENCE
TO THE UPRUSHING HOST-NATION,
[laughing]
“THESE TROUSERS ENGLISH,
IF YOU PLEASE.
ON MY HEAD, RED
RUSSIAN HAT;
MY HEART'S INDIAN
FOR ALL THAT.”
THE CLOUDS WERE BUBBLING
UP TOWARDS THEM,
AND PERHAPS IT WAS
ON ACCOUNT OF THAT
GREAT MYSTIFICATION OF
CUMULUS AND CUMULONIMBUS,
THE MIGHTY ROLLING
THUNDERHEADS STANDING
LIKE HAMMERS
IN THE DAWN.
OR PERHAPS IT WAS THE
SINGING - THE ONE BUSY
PERFORMING, THE OTHER
BOOING THE PERFORMANCE -
OR THEIR BLAST-DELIRIUM
THAT SPARED THEM
FULL FOREKNOWLEDGE
OF THE IMMINENT.
BUT FOR WHATEVER
REASON, THE TWO MEN,
GIBREELSALADIN
FARISHTACHAMCHA,
CONDEMNED TO THIS ENDLESS
BUT ALSO ENDING ANGELIC
DEVILISH FALL, DID NOT
BECOME AWARE OF THE MOMENT
AT WHICH THE PROCESSES OF
THEIR TRANSMUTATION BEGAN.
MUTATION?
YES SIR, BUT NOT RANDOM.
UP THERE IN AIR-SPACE,
IN THAT SOFT,
IMPERCEPTIBLE FIELD WHICH
HAD BEEN MADE POSSIBLE
BY THE CENTURY AND
WHICH, THEREAFTER,
MADE THE CENTURY POSSIBLE,
BECOMING ONE OF ITS DEFINING
LOCATIONS, THE PLACE OF
MOVEMENT AND OF WAR,
THE PLANET-SHRINKER
AND POWER-VACUUM,
MOST INSECURE AND
TRANSITORY OF ZONES,
ILLUSORY, DISCONTINUOUS,
METAMORPHIC - BECAUSE
WHEN YOU THROW
EVERYTHING UP IN THE AIR
ANYTHING BECOMES POSSIBLE;
WAY UP THERE, AT ANY RATE,
CHANGES TOOK PLACE IN
DELIRIOUS ACTORS THAT
WOULD HAVE GLADDENED
THE HEART OF OLD
Mr. LAMARCK: UNDER EXTREME
ENVIRONMENTAL PRESSURE,
CHARACTERISTICS
WERE ACQUIRED.
WHAT CHARACTERISTICS
WHICH?
SLOW DOWN; YOU THINK
CREATION HAPPENS IN A RUSH?
SO THEN, NEITHER
DOES REVELATION.
TAKE A LOOK AT
THE PAIR OF THEM.
NOTICE ANYTHING UNUSUAL?
JUST TWO BROWN
MEN, FALLING HARD,
NOTHING SO NEW ABOUT
THAT, YOU MAY THINK;
CLIMBED TOO HIGH, GOT
ABOVE THEMSELVES,
FLEW TOO CLOSE TO
THE SUN, IS THAT IT?
THAT'S NOT IT.
LISTEN:
DOWN, DOWN
THEY HURTLED,
AND THE WINTER COLD
FROSTING THEIR EYELASHES
AND THREATENING TO FREEZE
THEIR HEARTS WAS ON
THE POINT OF WAKING THEM FROM
THEIR DELIRIOUS DAYDREAM,
WHEN THEY HIT, WERE
DRENCHED AND INSTANTLY
ICED BY, THE DEGREE-ZERO
BOILING OF THE CLOUDS.
THEY WERE IN WHAT
APPEARED TO BE A LONG,
VERTICAL TUNNEL.
CHAMCHA, PRIM, RIGID,
AND STILL UPSIDE-DOWN,
SAW GIBREEL FARISHTA IN
HIS PURPLE BUSH-SHIRT
COME SWIMMING TOWARDS HIM
ACROSS THAT CLOUD-WALLED
FUNNEL, AND WOULD HAVE
SHOUTED, “KEEP AWAY,
GET AWAY FROM ME,” EXCEPT
THAT SOMETHING PREVENTED HIM,
THE BEGINNING OF A LITTLE
FLUTTERY SCREAMY THING
IN HIS INTESTINES,
SO INSTEAD OF UTTERING
WORDS OF REJECTION HE
OPENED HIS ARMS AND
FARISHTA SWAM INTO THEM
UNTIL THEY WERE EMBRACING
HEAD-TO-TAIL, AND THE
FORCE OF THEIR COLLISION
SENT THEM TUMBLING
END OVER END,
PERFORMING THEIR GEMINATE
CARTWHEELS ALL THE WAY DOWN
AND ALONG THE HOLE
THAT WENT TO WONDERLAND;
WHILE PUSHING THEIR WAY
OUT OF THE WHITE
CAME A SUCCESSION OF
CLOUD FORMS, CEASELESSLY
METAMORPHOSING, GODS INTO
BULLS, WOMEN INTO SPIDERS,
MEN INTO WOLVES.
HYBRID CLOUD-CREATURES
PRESSED IN UPON THEM,
GIGANTIC FLOWERS WITH
HUMAN BREASTS DANGLING
FROM FLESHY STALKS,
WINGED CATS, CENTAURS,
AND CHAMCHA IN HIS
SEMI-CONSCIOUSNESS
WAS SEIZED BY THE
NOTION THAT HE, TOO,
HAD ACQUIRED THE
QUALITY OF CLOUDINESS,
BECOMING
METAMORPHIC, HYBRID,
AS IF HE WERE GROWING INTO
THE PERSON WHOSE HEAD
NESTLED NOW BETWEEN HIS
LEGS AND WHOSE LEGS
WERE WRAPPED AROUND HIS
LONG, PATRICIAN NECK.

(music plays)

Sitting, Salman says IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THERE
IS NO WAY IN WHICH THIS
COULD HAVE HAPPENED UNDER
INDIRA GANDHI ACTUALLY,
AND I SAY THAT AS A
POLITICAL OPPONENT OF HERS.
THE IDEA THAT TWO OR THREE
CONSERVATIVE RELIGIOUS MPs
COULD APPROACH THE
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
ABOUT A BOOK WHICH THEY
HAD PUBLICLY STATED
THEY HAD NOT READ.

A male interviewer says THEY DIDN'T WANT TO
BE INFLUENCED BY IT.

Salman says NO, AND YES, EXACTLY.
WELL, AS ONE OF THEM SAID,
IF I AM TOLD - IF I KNOW
ABOUT A FILTHY DRAIN, I DO
NOT NEED TO STEP IN IT
TO KNOW THAT IT
IS FILTHY.
SO THAT WAS
ALL RIGHT.
BUT THE FACT THAT TWO OR
THREE PEOPLE COULD GO
TO THE GOVERNMENT OF
INDIA AND SAY, YOU KNOW,
BAN THIS BOOK WHICH WE
HAVE NOT READ BECAUSE WE
DON'T WANT TO READ IT AND
NOBODY ELSE SHOULD EITHER.
AND THAT THE GOVERNMENT
OF INDIA SHOULD SAY,
ALL RIGHT, WE'LL DO
THAT, IS SOMETHING
HORRIFYINGLY
NEW IN INDIA.
IT COULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED
FOUR OR FIVE YEARS AGO,
I BELIEVE, AND THE THING THAT
UNITES ALL THE OPPONENTS
OF THIS BOOK, I MEAN
ABSOLUTELY EVERY SINGLE
ONE OF THEM IS THEIR
REFUSAL TO READ THE BOOK.
[laughter]
SYED SHAHABUDDIN, WHO WAS
THE MUSLIM MP I QUOTED
ABOUT THE FILTHY DRAIN,
HAS SAID PUBLICLY SEVERAL
TIMES THAT HE DOESN'T
INTEND TO READ IT,
AND YET HAS BEEN ABLE
TO MAKE A SERIES
OF VERY CONCRETE REMARKS
ABOUT THE BOOK.
HE SAYS, FOR EXAMPLE,
THAT IT IS NOT
A WORK OF LITERATURE.
HE SAYS, FOR EXAMPLE,
IT IS FILTHILY ABUSIVE.
HE SAYS THAT IT IS THE
PRODUCT OF DISEASED MIND.
Smiling, he concludes MINE.

Standing on the stage, Salman reads SPEED, THE SENSATION
OF SPEED, RETURNED,
WHISTLING ITS
FEARFUL NOTE.
THE ROOF OF CLOUD
FLED UPWARDS,
THE WATER-FLOOR ZOOMED
CLOSER, THEIR EYES OPENED.
A SCREAM, THAT SAME SCREAM
THAT HAD FLUTTERED
IN HIS GUTS WHEN GIBREEL
SWAM ACROSS THE SKY,
BURST FROM CHAMCHA'S
LIPS; A SHAFT OF SUNLIGHT
PIERCED HIS OPEN
MOUTH AND SET IT FREE.
BUT THEY HAD
FALLEN THROUGH
THE TRANSFORMATIONS
OF THE CLOUDS,
CHAMCHA AND FARISHTA, AND
THERE WAS A FLUIDITY,
AN INDISTINCTNESS,
AT THE EDGES OF THEM,
AND AS THE SUNLIGHT HIT
CHAMCHA IT RELEASED
MORE THAN NOISE: “FLY!”
CHAMCHA SHRIEKED AT GIBREEL.
“START FLYING, NOW!”
AND ADDED, WITHOUT
KNOWING ITS SOURCE,
THE SECOND COMMAND:
“AND SING.”
HOW DOES NEWNESS
COME INTO THE WORLD?
HOW IS IT BORN?
OF WHAT FUSIONS,
TRANSLATIONS,
CONJOININGS IS IT MADE?
HOW DOES IT
SURVIVE, EXTREME
AND DANGEROUS AS IT IS?
WHAT COMPROMISES,
WHAT DEALS,
WHAT BETRAYALS OF ITS
SECRET NATURE MUST IT
MAKE TO STAVE OFF THE
WRECKING CREW,
THE EXTERMINATING
ANGEL, THE GUILLOTINE?
IS BIRTH ALWAYS A FALL?
DO ANGELS HAVE WINGS?
CAN MEN FLY?
CHAMCHA HELD ON TO GIBREEL
WHILE THE OTHER BEGAN,
SLOWLY AT FIRST, AND THEN
WITH INCREASING RAPIDITY
AND FORCE, TO
FLAP HIS ARMS.
HARDER AND HARDER
HE FLAPPED,
AND AS HE FLAPPED A
SONG BURST OUT OF HIM,
THEY BEGAN TO
SLOW DOWN.
THE MORE EMPHATICALLY
GIBREEL FLAPPED AND SANG,
SANG AND FLAPPED, THE
MORE PRONOUNCED
THE DECELERATION, UNTIL
FINALLY THE TWO OF THEM
WERE FLOATING DOWN TO THE
CHANNEL LIKE SCRAPS
OF PAPER IN A BREEZE.
THEY WERE THE ONLY
SURVIVORS OF THE WRECK,
THE ONLY ONES WHO FELL
FROM BOSTAN AND LIVED.
THEY WERE FOUND
WASHED UP ON A BEACH.
THE MORE VOLUBLE
OF THE TWO,
THE ONE IN THE
PURPLE SHIRT,
SWORE IN HIS WILD RAMBLINGS
THAT THEY HAD WALKED
UPON THE WATER, THAT
THE WAVES HAD BORNE
THEM GENTLY IN TO
SHORE; BUT THE OTHER,
TO WHOSE HEAD A SOGGY
BOWLER HAT CLUNG
AS IF BY MAGIC,
DENIED THIS.
“GOD, WE WERE
LUCKY,” HE SAID.
“HOW LUCKY CAN
YOU GET?”
I KNOW THE TRUTH,
OBVIOUSLY.
I WATCHED THE
WHOLE THING.
AS TO OMNIPRESENCE
AND POTENCE,
I'M MAKING NO
CLAIMS AT PRESENT,
BUT I CAN MANAGE
THIS MUCH, I HOPE.
CHAMCHA WILLED IT AND
FARISHTA DID WHAT WAS WILLED.
WHICH WAS THE
MIRACLE WORKER?
OF WHAT TYPE - ANGELIC,
SATANIC - WAS FARISHTA'S SONG?
WHO AM I?
LET'S PUT IT THIS WAY:
WHO HAS THE BEST TUNES?
WELL, THEY SURVIVE.

[applause]

Salman says IN THE SENSE IN WHICH
THE LONDON IN THE NOVEL
IS AN INVISIBLE CITY IS
NOT THE SENSE IN WHICH
CALVINO COINED THE TERM.
THAT'S TO SAY, IT'S NOT A
CITY OF THE IMAGINATION
PRIMARILY BECAUSE I
BELIEVE THAT THE CITY
IS ACTUALLY THERE, THAT I
COULD TAKE YOU TO IT.
I COULD SHOW YOU WHERE
IT IS AND TAKE YOU DOWN
ITS STREETS.
IT'S JUST THAT IT IS
THAT CITY, THAT LONDON,
IS VERY LARGELY, AND
CERTAINLY IN LITERATURE,
UNSEEN, UNKNOWN.
NOBODY'S WRITTEN ABOUT IT
MUCH AND IT'S IGNORED,
AND I THINK ONE OF THE
PROBLEMS OF THAT KIND
OF INVISIBLE CITY, A
REAL CITY THAT BECOMES
INVISIBLE, A REAL BODY OF
EXPERIENCE THAT VANISHES
FROM VIEW, IS THAT IF YOU
DON'T START WRITING ABOUT IT
AND MAKING IT VISIBLE,
IN THE END THE PEOPLE
WHO LIVE IN THAT CITY ARE
GOING TO START MAKING
A VERY LOUD NOISE IN
ORDER TO BECOME HEARD,
AND THEY'RE GOING TO START
MAKING LOUD EXPLOSIONS
IN ORDER TO GET SEEN.
SO I CERTAINLY HAD THAT
INTENTION TO MAKE VISIBLE
WHAT CERTAINLY IN
ENGLISH LITERATURE,
CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE
IS NOT VERY VISIBLE.

Before continuing reading, Salman says FOR THE BENEFIT OF PEOPLE
HERE WITH NO KNOWLEDGE
OF HINDI-URDU, YOU SHOULD
KNOW THAT GIBREEL FARISHTA
IS A STAGE NAME WHICH
THOSE PEOPLE WHO DO KNOW
HINDI-URDU WILL KNOW
MEANS THE ANGEL GABRIEL.
HE'S A MOVIE STAR
AND HE SURVIVES,
BUT HE BEGINS TO HAVE - AFTER
THIS UNFORTUNATE ACCIDENT,
HE BEGINS TO HAVE
SOME VERY STRANGE DREAMS.
THESE DREAMS HAVE
TWO CHARACTERISTICS,
ONE IS THAT IN THE DREAMS
HE FINDS HIMSELF
GOING THROUGH A SERIES OF
STORIES IN EACH OF WHICH
HE IN FACT IS IN THE ROLE
OF THE ANGEL GABRIEL.
I MEAN, THE REAL ONE - OR
THE ALLEGEDLY REAL ONE.
[laughter]
AND THE OTHER
CHARACTERISTIC OF THESE DREAMS
IS THAT THEY
HAPPEN IN SERIAL FORM,
SO THAT EVERY TIME
HE GOES TO SLEEP,
THEY CONTINUE FROM
WHERE HE LEFT OFF.
[laughter]
THIS IS FRIGHTENING
FOR HIM,
MAKES LIFE EASIER
FOR HIS AUTHOR.
[laughter]
He drinks a glass of water and continues SOME OF THESE DREAMS
HAVE RECENTLY GOT ME,
AS YOU MAY HAVE
HEARD, INTO TROUBLE.
I THOUGHT I'D READ
YOU ONE OF THEM.
BY THIS STAGE HE'S IN
ENGLAND AND OBVIOUSLY ASLEEP.
He reads THE DREAM-WORLDS OF HIS
ARCHANGELIC OTHER SELF
BEGIN TO SEEM AS TANGIBLE
AS THE SHIFTING REALITIES
HE INHABITS
WHILE HE'S AWAKE.
THIS, FOR INSTANCE, HAS
STARTED COMING: A MANSION
BLOCK BUILT IN THE DUTCH
STYLE IN A PART OF LONDON
WHICH HE WILL SUBSEQUENTLY
IDENTIFY AS KENSINGTON,
TO WHICH THE DREAM FLIES
HIM AT HIGH SPEED PAST
BARKERS DEPARTMENT STORE
AND THE SMALL GREY HOUSE
WITH DOUBLE BAY WINDOWS
WHERE THACKERAY WROTE
VANITY FAIR
AND THE SQUARE
WITH THE CONVENT WHERE
THE LITTLE GIRLS IN UNIFORM
ARE ALWAYS GOING IN,
BUT NEVER COME OUT, AND
THE HOUSE WHERE TALLEYRAND
LIVED IN HIS OLD AGE WHEN
AFTER A THOUSAND AND ONE
CHAMELEON CHANGES OF
ALLEGIANCE AND PRINCIPLE
HE TOOK ON THE OUTWARD
FORM OF THE FRENCH
AMBASSADOR TO LONDON, AND
ARRIVES AT A SEVEN-STOREY
CORNER BLOCK WITH GREEN
WROUGHT-IRON BALCONIES
UP TO THE FOURTH, AND NOW
THE DREAM RUSHES HIM UP
THE OUTER WALL OF THE HOUSE
AND ON THE FOURTH FLOOR
IT PUSHES ASIDE THE
HEAVY CURTAINS AT
THE LIVING-ROOM WINDOW
AND FINALLY THERE
IS THE SEATED MAN,
UNSLEEPING AS USUAL,
EYES WIDE IN THE
DIM YELLOW LIGHT,
STARING INTO THE FUTURE,
THE BEARDED AND TURBANED IMAM.
WHO IS HE?
AN EXILE.
WHICH MUST NOT BE CONFUSED
WITH, ALLOWED TO RUN INTO,
ALL THE OTHER WORDS THAT
PEOPLE THROW AROUND:
EMIGRE, EXPATRIATE,
REFUGEE, IMMIGRANT,
SILENCE, CUNNING.
EXILE IS A DREAM OF
GLORIOUS RETURN.
EXILE IS A VISION OF
REVOLUTION: ELBA,
NOT ST HELENA.
IT IS AN ENDLESS PARADOX:
LOOKING FORWARD BY ALWAYS
LOOKING BACK.
THE EXILE IS A BALL
HURLED HIGH INTO THE AIR.
HE HANGS THERE,
FROZEN IN TIME,
TRANSLATED INTO A
PHOTOGRAPH; DENIED MOTION,
SUSPENDED IMPOSSIBLY
ABOVE HIS NATIVE EARTH,
HE AWAITS THE INEVITABLE
MOMENT AT WHICH
THE PHOTOGRAPH MUST
BEGIN TO MOVE,
AND THE EARTH
RECLAIM ITS OWN.
THESE ARE THE THINGS
THE IMAM THINKS.
HIS HOME IS A
RENTED FLAT.
IT IS A WAITING-ROOM,
A PHOTOGRAPH, AIR.
THE THICK WALLPAPER, OLIVE
STRIPES ON A CREAM GROUND,
HAS FADED A LITTLE, ENOUGH
TO EMPHASIZE THE BRIGHTER
RECTANGLES AND OVALS
THAT INDICATE
WHERE PICTURES
USED TO HANG.
THE IMAM IS THE
ENEMY OF IMAGES.
WHEN HE MOVED IN THE
PICTURES SLID NOISELESSLY
FROM THE WALLS AND
SLUNK FROM THE ROOM,
REMOVING THEMSELVES
FROM THE RAGE OF
HIS UNSPOKEN DISAPPROVAL.
SOME REPRESENTATIONS,
HOWEVER,
ARE PERMITTED TO REMAIN.
ON THE MANTELPIECE HE
KEEPS A SMALL GROUP
OF POSTCARDS BEARING
CONVENTIONAL IMAGES OF
HIS HOMELAND, WHICH HE CALLS
SIMPLY DESH: A MOUNTAIN
LOOMING OVER A CITY; A
PICTURESQUE VILLAGE SCENE
BENEATH A MIGHTY
TREE; A MOSQUE.
BUT IN HIS BEDROOM, ON THE
WALL FACING THE HARD COT
WHERE HE LIES, THERE
HANGS A MORE POTENT ICON,
THE PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN
OF EXCEPTIONAL FORCE,
FAMOUS FOR HER PROFILE OF
A GRECIAN STATUE
AND THE BLACK HAIR THAT IS
AS LONG AS SHE IS HIGH.
A POWERFUL
WOMAN, HIS ENEMY,
HIS OTHER: HE
KEEPS HER CLOSE.
JUST AS, FAR AWAY IN THE
PALACES OF HER OMNIPOTENCE
SHE WILL BE CLUTCHING HIS
PORTRAIT BENEATH HER
ROYAL CLOAK OR HIDING IT
IN A LOCKET AT HER THROAT.
SHE IS THE EMPRESS,
AND HER NAME IS -
WHAT ELSE? - AYESHA.
ON THIS ISLAND,
THE EXILED IMAM,
AND AT HOME
IN DESH, SHE.
THEY PLOT EACH
OTHER'S DEATHS.
THE CURTAINS, THICK
GOLDEN VELVET,
ARE KEPT SHUT ALL DAY,
BECAUSE OTHERWISE
THE EVIL THING MIGHT
CREEP INTO THE APARTMENT:
FOREIGNNESS, ABROAD,
THE ALIEN NATION.
THE HARSH FACT THAT HE
IS HERE AND NOT THERE,
UPON WHICH ALL HIS
THOUGHTS ARE FIXED.
ON THOSE RARE OCCASIONS
WHEN THE IMAM GOES OUT
TO TAKE THE KENSINGTON AIR,
AT THE CENTRE OF A SQUARE
FORMED BY EIGHT YOUNG MEN IN
SUNGLASSES AND BULGING SUITS,
HE FOLDS HIS HANDS BEFORE
HIM AND FIXES HIS GAZE
UPON THEM, SO THAT NO ELEMENT
OR PARTICLE OF THIS
HATED CITY, - THIS
SINK OF INIQUITIES WHICH
HUMILIATES HIM BY
GIVING HIM SANCTUARY,
SO THAT HE MUST BE
BEHOLDEN TO IT IN SPITE
OF THE LUSTFULNESS, GREED
AND VANITY OF ITS WAYS,

CAN LODGE ITSELF, LIKE
A DUST-SPECK, IN HIS EYES.
WHEN HE LEAVES THIS
LOATHED EXILE TO RETURN
IN TRIUMPH TO THAT
OTHER CITY BENEATH
THE POSTCARD-MOUNTAIN, IT
WILL BE A POINT OF PRIDE
TO BE ABLE TO SAY THAT
HE REMAINED IN COMPLETE
IGNORANCE OF THE SODOM IN
WHICH HE HAD BEEN OBLIGED
TO WAIT; IGNORANT, AND
THEREFORE UNSULLIED,
UNALTERED, PURE.
AND ANOTHER REASON FOR THE
DRAWN CURTAINS IS THAT
OF COURSE THERE ARE EYES
AND EARS AROUND HIM,
NOT ALL OF THEM
FRIENDLY.
THE ORANGE BUILDINGS
ARE NOT NEUTRAL.
SOMEWHERE ACROSS THE
STREET THERE WILL BE
ZOOM LENSES, VIDEO
EQUIPMENT, JUMBO MICS;
AND ALWAYS THE
RISK OF SNIPERS.
ABOVE AND BELOW AND BESIDE
THE IMAM ARE THE SAFE
APARTMENTS OCCUPIED
BY HIS GUARDS,
WHO STROLL THE KENSINGTON
STREETS DISGUISED
AS WOMEN IN SHROUDS
AND SILVERY BEAKS;
BUT IT IS AS WELL
TO BE TOO CAREFUL.
PARANOIA, FOR THE EXILE, IS
A PREREQUISITE OF SURVIVAL.
A FABLE, WHICH HE
HEARD FROM ONE OF
HIS FAVOURITES, THE
AMERICAN CONVERT,
FORMERLY A
SUCCESSFUL SINGER,
NOW KNOWN AS BILAL X.
IN A CERTAIN NIGHTCLUB TO
WHICH THE IMAM IS IN
THE HABIT OF SENDING HIS
LIEUTENANTS TO LISTEN IN
TO CERTAIN OTHER PERSONS
BELONGING TO CERTAIN
OPPOSED FACTIONS, BILAL
MET A YOUNG MAN FROM DESH,
ALSO A SINGER OF SORTS,
AND THEY FELL TO TALKING.
IT TURNED OUT
THAT THIS MAHMOOD
WAS A BADLY SCARED
INDIVIDUAL.
HE HAD RECENTLY
SHACKED UP WITH A GORI,
A LONG RED WOMAN
WITH A BIG FIGURE,
AND THEN IT TURNED OUT
THAT THE PREVIOUS LOVER
OF HIS BELOVED RENATA WAS
THE EXILED BOSS OF THE SAVAK
TORTURE ORGANIZATION
OF THE SHAH OF IRAN.
THE NUMBER ONE GRAND
PANJANDRUM HIMSELF,
NOT SOME MINOR SADIST WITH
A TALENT FOR EXTRACTING
TOENAILS OR SETTING
FIRE TO EYELIDS,
BUT THE GREAT
HARAMZADA IN PERSON.
THE DAY AFTER MAHMOOD AND
RENATA MOVED IN TO THEIR
NEW APARTMENT A LETTER
ARRIVED FOR MAHMOOD.
“OKAY, SHIT-EATER,
YOU'RE FUCKING MY WOMAN,
I JUST WANTED
TO SAY HELLO.”
[laughter]
THE NEXT DAY A SECOND
LETTER ARRIVED.
“BY THE WAY, PRICK,
I FORGOT TO MENTION,
HERE IS YOUR NEW
TELEPHONE NUMBER.”
AT THAT POINT MAHMOOD AND
RENATA HAD ASKED FOR
AN EX-DIRECTORY LISTING BUT
HAD NOT AS YET BEEN GIVEN
THEIR NEW NUMBER BY
THE TELEPHONE COMPANY.
WHEN IT CAME THROUGH TWO
DAYS LATER AND WAS EXACTLY
THE SAME AS THE
ONE ON THE LETTER,
MAHMOOD'S HAIR FELL
OUT ALL AT ONCE.
THEN, SEEING IT
LYING ON THE PILLOW,
HE JOINED HIS HANDS
TOGETHER IN FRONT
OF RENATA AND BEGGED,
“BABY, I LOVE YOU,
BUT YOU'RE TOO HOT FOR ME,
PLEASE GO SOMEWHERE, FAR.”

(violin music plays)

In the interview, Salman says IN “MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN” IN
INDIA HAD AN ASTONISHING
RESPONSE FROM
ORDINARY READERS.
OF COURSE, FROM
MISTRESS GANDHI IT HAD
A RATHER DIFFERENT
RESPONSE AND WE ENDED UP
IN A LAW COURT,
AND THEN SHE DIED.
I HAVE TO SAY THAT I HAVE
WRITTEN IN MY TIME ABOUT
A SMALL BUT SELECT GROUP
OF POLITICAL LEADERS,
ALL OF WHOM HAVE COME TO
REALLY VERY VIOLENT ENDS.
[laughter]
Mrs. GANDHI, SANJAY
GANDHI, MUJIBUR RAHMAN,
ZIA UL-HAQ, AND
ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO,
NOT ONE OF THEM
CAME TO CALM ENDS.
SOME OF THEM EVEN
FELL OUT OF AIRPLANES.
SEVERAL GOT SHOT.
I'VE BEGUN TO FEEL THAT
MAYBE THIS IS THE SERVICE
I COULD PERFORM.

[laughter]

He continues reading “SHE LOOKS IN HER
MIRROR EVERY DAY AND
IS TERRORIZED BY THE IDEA
OF AGE, OF TIME PASSING.
THUS SHE IS THE PRISONER
OF HER OWN NATURE;
SHE, TOO, IS IN THE
CHAINS OF TIME.
AFTER THE REVOLUTION
THERE WILL BE NO CLOCKS;
WE'LL SMASH THE LOT.
THE WORD CLOCK WILL BE EXPUNGED
FROM OUR DICTIONARIES.
AFTER THE REVOLUTION THERE
WILL BE NO BIRTHDAYS.
WE SHALL ALL
BE BORN AGAIN,
ALL OF US THE SAME
UNCHANGING AGE
IN THE EYE OF
ALMIGHTY GOD.”
HE FALLS SILENT, NOW,
BECAUSE BELOW US
THE GREAT
MOMENT HAS COME:
THE PEOPLE HAVE
REACHED THE GUNS.
WHICH ARE SILENCED
IN THEIR TURN,
AS THE ENDLESS
SERPENT OF THE PEOPLE,
THE GIGANTIC PYTHON
OF THE RISEN MASSES,
EMBRACES THE GUARDS,
SUFFOCATING THEM,
AND SILENCES THE LETHAL
CHUCKLING OF THEIR WEAPONS.
THE IMAM SIGHS HEAVILY.
“DONE.”
THE LIGHTS OF THE
PALACE ARE EXTINGUISHED
AS THE PEOPLE
WALK TOWARDS IT,
AT THE SAME MEASURED
PACE AS BEFORE.
THEN, FROM WITHIN
THE DARKENED PALACE,
THERE RISES A
HIDEOUS SOUND,
BEGINNING AS A HIGH,
THIN, PIERCING WAIL,
THEN DEEPENING
INTO A HOWL,
AN ULULATION LOUD ENOUGH
TO FILL EVERY CRANNY
OF THE CITY
WITH ITS RAGE.
THEN THE GOLDEN DOME OF
THE PALACE BURSTS OPEN
LIKE AN EGG, AND
RISING FROM IT,
GLOWING WITH BLACKNESS, IS
A MYTHOLOGICAL APPARITION
WITH VAST BLACK WINGS,
HER HAIR STREAMING LOOSE,
AS LONG AND BLACK AS THE
IMAM'S IS LONG AND WHITE:
THE GODDESS AL-LAT,
GIBREEL UNDERSTANDS,
BURSTING OUT OF THE
EMPRESS AYESHA'S SHELL.
“KILL HER,” THE
IMAM COMMANDS.
GIBREEL SETS HIM DOWN ON THE
PALACE'S CEREMONIAL BALCONY,
HIS ARMS OUTSTRETCHED
TO ENCOMPASS THE JOY
OF THE PEOPLE, A
SOUND THAT DROWNS EVEN
THE HOWLS OF THE GODDESS
AND RISES UP LIKE A SONG.
AND THEN HE IS BEING
PROPELLED INTO THE AIR,
HAVING NO OPTION, HE IS A
MARIONETTE GOING TO WAR;
AND SHE, SEEING
HIM COMING, TURNS,
CROUCHES IN AIR, AND,
MOANING DREADFULLY,
COMES AT HIM WITH
ALL HER MIGHT.
GIBREEL UNDERSTANDS
THAT THE IMAM,
FIGHTING BY
PROXY AS USUAL,
WILL SACRIFICE HIM AS
READILY AS HE DID
THE HILL OF CORPSES
AT THE PALACE GATE,
THAT HE IS A SUICIDE
SOLDIER IN THE CLERIC'S CAUSE.
I AM WEAK, HE THINKS,
I AM NO MATCH FOR HER.
BUT SHE, TOO, HAS BEEN
WEAKENED BY HER DEFEAT.
THE IMAM'S STRENGTH
MOVES GIBREEL,
PLACES THUNDERBOLTS
IN HIS HANDS,
AND THE BATTLE IS JOINED;
HE HURLS LIGHTNING SPEARS
INTO HER FEET AND SHE
PLUNGES COMETS INTO HIS GROIN.
LIKE EXHAUSTED WARRIORS ON
A CORPSE-LITTERED FIELD,
THEY TOTTER AND SLASH.
BOTH ARE FAILING FAST.
SHE FALLS.
DOWN SHE TUMBLES, AL-LAT
QUEEN OF THE NIGHT;
CRASHES UPSIDE-DOWN
TO EARTH,
CRUSHING HER HEAD
TO BITS; AND LIES,
A HEADLESS BLACK ANGEL,
WITH HER WINGS RIPPED OFF,
BY A LITTLE WICKET GATE
IN THE PALACE GARDENS,
ALL IN A CRUMPLED HEAP.
AND GIBREEL, LOOKING
AWAY FROM HER IN HORROR,
SEES THE IMAM
GROWN MONSTROUS,
LYING IN THE PALACE
FORECOURT WITH HIS MOUTH
YAWNING OPEN AT THE GATES;
AS THE PEOPLE MARCH
THROUGH THE GATES, HE
SWALLOWS THEM WHOLE.
THE BODY OF AL-LAT HAS
SHRIVELLED ON THE GRASS,
LEAVING BEHIND
ONLY A DARK STAIN;
AND NOW EVERY CLOCK IN
THE CAPITAL CITY OF DESH
BEGINS TO CHIME, AND
GOES ON UNCEASINGLY,
BEYOND TWELVE,
BEYOND TWENTY-FOUR,
BEYOND ONE
THOUSAND AND ONE,
ANNOUNCING THE
END OF TIME,
THE HOUR THAT IS
BEYOND MEASURING,
THE HOUR OF THE
EXILE'S RETURN,
OF THE VICTORY OF
WATER OVER WINE,
OF THE COMMENCEMENT OF
THE UNTIME OF THE IMAM.
He concludes THANK YOU.

[applause]

(classical music plays)

The end credits roll.

Produced and Directed by Tracey Fisher.

Executive Producer, Michael Vaughan.

A Production of TV Ontario.

Copyright The Ontario Educational Communications Authority 1988.

Watch: Salman Rushdie