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Good evening, good evening, good evening we are here, we are ready, I am Bob Sain, Director of Montalvo Art Center, I want to thank you for coming. This is a special time for us to inaugurate this season in the Garden Theater and I am glad you are here this evening in the Garden Theater, we are especially looking forward to the whole roster of events that we have coming up that will be here in the Garden Theater this summer, ranging from Mavis Staples that may you have just seen, just a big one who is all of a sudden and literally in the last ten days been in the New York Times, The Wall Street journal, The Los Angles Times and around Mercury News which will be here in the in the Garden Theater. We are also bringing our good friend Chris Botti who returned for multiple years to be in performance here and from the Chris Botti to Patti LaBelle to Herbie Hancock to one of the seminal influences in Reggae of Steel Pulse. So I do invite you to come but we are here this evening, I am actually here just to introduce the introducer for Salman Rushdie and as you have been hearing this notion of can Montalvo actually bring creative talent from around the globe to address concerns of our time that engages you, engages this community, there is no better way to start this, then with the phenomenal genius of Salman Rushdie, but I want to thank our literary partners and our literary sponsors of Jodi Buckley and Mark Horowitz and Daniel Harriman and but I also need to thank our members because I have to tell you Montalvo does not happen, nothing here happens without our members, so you are of outmost importance to us and we encourage you to join, we encourage you to support Montalvo, we appreciate your being here as a member, but I am going to introduce the introducer and this will be a particularly special evening because Richard Wolinsky, you may know Richard, he is on the PB of the I have to check my notes ere because I am just figuring all this out, KPFA out of Berkley at 3 pm once a week here in Berkley, Northern California, it's one thing to have a history and particular skill and knowledge about interviewing, but it's another to have a 30 year history of interviewing writers and Richard Wolinsky has a 30 year history interviewing writers. This is an, a repeat performance in the sense of interviewing Salman Rushdie and so there will be a book signing after the event that Salman Rushdie would be there signing away, so please join us for that but I am going to bring out Richard Wolinsky who will be interviewing Salman and as you can see a conversational setting followed by questions from you guys, we will have 15 minutes of conversation, open it to up to questions from you and again thank you for being here and here is Richard Wolinsky, Richard. Thank you. Well I think I have this thing so don't I really need that thing. Salman Rushdie for those of you who don't know, was born in 1947 in a Muslim family in Mumbai in India attended Kings College in Cambridge, had a brief carrier in advertising before becoming a writer. His first novel was Grimus (1975) kind of science fiction. It was with his second novel Midnight's Children in 1981 he won the Booker Prize and 1993 the same book won the Booker of Bookers meaning that people voted it the best novel of the first 25 years of the Booker Prize in England. Shame in 1983 was the runner up to the Booker price. He was known mostly for magic realism and then in 1988 he came out with a book called the Satanic Verses which did not please the Ayatollah Khomeini too much and we we will talk about that. That's the first thing we are going to talk about because I know a lot of people are interested in his reaction and what happened there and what that was about and a death sentence was laid upon Salman Rushdie. Went into hiding for a decade and a half and eventually it was pulled off when Britain and Iran resumed diplomatic relations. Since that time he set several novels The Moor's Last Sigh in 1995, The Ground Beneath Her Feet in '99, Fury 2001, he wrote a wonderful collection of essays about what happened and I recommend it to every body, you know go out and get it, it's called step across the line. Last year, two years ago, Shalimar the Clown which takes place in Kashmir and is about a terrorist. The education of a terrorist but not quite, which we will go in to a little bit later. He is an incredible writer, great conversationalist just, you know one of those people who you sat and do an interview with and you know, you just go, oh this is cool and you just keep going and realize the clock has just run and on and on because he is really a great guy. He is fun to talk to and you are going to great a time, anyway Salman Rushdie. All right Salman lets start first of all the fatwa - - because a lot of people want to know. Obviously I don't see any snipers out there. Okay, so what was it about? In an earlier conversation you had said that you are kind of the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now you come out with Satanic Verses, a nice literary novel in England, how did you find out that somebody wanted to kill you, how did that happen? I got called by the BBC. That's how I found out. The phone rang and I got this journalist on the phone, a woman whose name I have forgotten actually. She said how does it feel that you been sentenced to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini. I said not good. And I went downstairs and locked the door. Okay so that was my pathetic defense system. Well, look, first of all I should say that the only thing worse than having your book disliked by Ayatollah Khomeini would be to have to your book liked by Ayatollah Khomeini. So in that sense its one of the few bad reviews that I don't mind. And also as I keep telling people one of us is dead. Who knows because he never saw it you know -- No, I mean, he was, I mean Ayatollah Khomeini was already very sick. In February '89, I mean, he died a couple of months later. He was already on his death bed essentially, not seeing anybody, not going anywhere and it's quite clear that he did not read a six hundred page literary novel in English. There is no evidence that he ever saw copy of it. That Khomeini was a brilliant opportunist, you know, and it was a time when the Iranian revolution was in quite a lot of trouble because they just had this dreadful - they had a dreadful war with Iraq. You know, now we know how they feel. Khomeini had described that the war had just ended in a peace that was not particularly a victory and Khomeini had said that, he said something like that he felt like drinking poison, to make that peace and you know, a whole generation of young Iranian people had been wiped out in that war for nothing, literally for you know, without gaining a single foot of territory and the revolution was pretty unpopular and he was casting around for a grand stand play and my bad luck to be Khomeini's last stand you know, and had he died three months earlier none of this would have happened, I mean, it just wouldn't have happened. So at that point you had to go into hiding? Well, you know, people call it hiding and I have always thought that's a bad word because one of the things that, if anybody has ever seen a maximum security operation. One of the things that strikes you, is it is the opposite of hiding. You know, it's spectacularly visible. So I always thought hiding was the wrong word. I mean its true that for a long time there was an enormous amount of security around me which had its comic aspects. I can talk about them now because it's funny now. You learn a lot of things about please have a very, very black sense of humor. I mean, for instance police drivers are known by Special Branch Officers. They are called OFDs and I said what does that mean? And they said it means only fucking drivers. This is the kind of, you get into this frame of mind. This very kind of black comic frame of mind and for instance the British Special Branch were always very contemptuous of the American secret service. They said that the Americans, all they do is they throw people at it. They've got like 5000 people. You know, standing around the person they are trying to protect. And they said we could take the queen past to your nose you wouldn't know she had been past. You know, and as they said well we have never lost anybody. Whereas the Americans will all those people they get Presidents shot you know. So you get into that great, you discover this, it's like any other civil service department, you know, only with guns. And you learn a lot and I got into all kinds of extraordinary roles. You know, I mean I got into you know, then the James Bond movie, that secret service Headquarters the thing comes out the wall. Well I have been in that building. And and yes actually, the Head of the British Secret Service, I am sorry to tell you, is not called M. The official name actually is C. And that's that's what he or she is called. So yes I have met more than one C. C One, C Flat, C Major No, no fifteen years is exaggerating, it wasn't 15 years it was more like nine. Fiction writers get these right, you know, journalists - You see well I was probably drunk. No it was about it was about nine years and actually it wasn't, you know, people think nine years that's a very long time but in fact it wasn't like nine years or being exactly the same because it got better gradually. Got on, got on. Right here, somebody sent me a letter, here it is. See I am Salman Rushdie and as it happens. I am Salman Rushdie. I should wear this. All right there we are there So were you able during that period, you were able to write you weren't able to write? Yeah you know, I did write. And I think it kind of saved my life actually. You know, I think there was there was a period of several months after the excrement hit the ventilation system. When I when I wasn't really able to write and that was very disorienting and very I mean, that was kind of kind of crazy making. And then I had promised my my son who was then, I told how long ago it is, I mean, he was then coming up for 10 and he is now coming up for 28. And I promised him that I would write a book for children's book. And I remember thinking, given that what happened to me, of course, that also affected my whole family. I remember thinking I have got to keep this promise. And that's what got me back to writing and just to try and keep that promise. And a result its you know, people always asked you what's your favorite book that you ever wrote which was a question that really there isn't an answer to. But the book that I feel closest to is Haroun and the Sea of Stories which I wrote in that worst moment of my life. In order to keep promise to my child and bizarrely it's the most cheerful book I ever wrote. You know, I mean, it's kind of the funniest book I ever wrote I think and it's got a happy ending. You know, I was very interested in happy endings at the time. When you look at your whole carrier, do you see like a single line of evolution or do you see a kind of chopped in the middle and chained somehow, twisted around in some shape by what happened? No, I don't actually I mean, yes, I mean, clearly it had a you know, how can such an event not have an impact on your life, obviously. Anything big that happens to a writer, affects that. Anything little that happens to a writer affects their writing. But so yes, of course, it had an impact but one of the things that I told myself from the beginning was that I wanted to go on being the kind of writer I would be. I want to just to go on with my work. It would have been very easy to write, you know, revenge fictions about what arseholes they were, you know. And believe me I have some views along those lines. And it would have been also very easy to write frightened books which didn't take any risks about anything. And and I thought both of those would have been terrible defeats. Well but that terrorist is really sweet. I thought this was my final revenge as to, you know, love your enemy. You know, no, I mean, truthfully the thing about that is that, if you want to if you want to write a book which really tries to get into the head of why somebody goes down such a path, you know, it would be very easy to make them horrible. It would be very easy to say here is a horrible person doing a horrible thing, you should think he is horrible. And it wouldn't be interesting to write, and I suspect it wouldn't be interesting to read. Because I think the first job of the writer is to make his reader's care about the people he is writing about. If you don't care about the people, you don't care about their choices. You don't care about their moral choices. You don't, you know, if you if you are not interested in them or if you have already dismissed them as being bad. You know, you don't care about the choices they make. Because obviously a bad person would do a bad thing because he is wearing the black hat, you know. So its I thought more novelistic if you will, to first make the reader deeply care about not just this person but about the world that he inhabits and then show people in that world under the pressure of events, making moral choices which are indefensible. And if you care about somebody who does a bad thing, it affects you more deeply than if it's somebody that you don't care about. You know, your friend of yours does something that you cannot stand, it's more upsetting than if Dick Cheney does it. Because some things you expect. Right. So when you when you talk about well characters doing stuff, at a certain point, I mean, I know you are sitting there writing or typing it whatever you do. You know, how much control do you have because - I think some writers think they have all all the control in their world, and the other writers say the character talked to me. The character talks to you. That's my my position is that mostly. But some times you have to tell the character to shut up. I mean, that's to say yes, when a book is properly alive. You do begin to find the characters moving in directions that you hadn't expected and wanting to do things and be things that you hadn't fully anticipated you know, and to me, for my mind, that's one the signs that the book really is alive. If that doesn't happen, it means that the book in some way is still inert and you haven't fully imagined it enough. So that's true, but on the other hand you do have to have another "You" standing up here thinking is that a good idea or a bad idea. You know, does that serve what I am trying to do or not serve what I am trying to do. So you have to, you know, Hemmingway who was so good at Hemmingway is so good at stuff about writing, you know. Hemmingway said really essentially the only skill that a writer has to have is really good shit detector, you know. And it's absolutely right. You have to know when its shit. You know, it doesn't matter how appealing the shit is, you know, how fragrant it is. You have to think that's shit. And it has to go you know, and so you do have to have that ability to say, however, much I was seduced down that road, that is not the road down which the story needs to go, you know. But on the other hand, if your if your characters aren't pushing and pulling like that then they are not alive. What happens if you have particular political idea or do you just have to throw those out the window and You know, what I don't think book should preach. I don't think novels should preach. I mean, one of the reasons I have written certain amount of non-fiction is because my feeling is that if you want to take on, what's actually happening in the world now. You need to take that on head on, you know. You first of all novelists novel is really slow. I mean, it takes me years to write a novel. It's taken me any where from two to five years to write a novel. And and we all know that the world we live in now, the subject changes at astonishing speed. So if you want to say something about what is happening this week, you got to say at this week, you know, and that's what journalism is for. And so I have written, you know, a certain amount of probably more than I should have of that kind of polemical interventionist journalism because I felt like having my say about something that was happening and but I don't think a novel is for that. I don't think I don't think people read novels to be preached at. But, and I don't think they like it. What what a novel does is to take you into a world and make that world believable and interesting and tell you a story about it. And then you decide what you think of the people, you know, you decide whose side you are on, if anyone's et cetera that's the that's the very important - that's the space for the reader. But but isn't the novel also can it also be a metaphor, I mean ? Yeah, all the time but you have to, if you are going to preach you have to really hide it, that's the thing. You can't look like the - moment the novel starts doing this, you know, and another thing, you know, then then you become like a bar room bore, you know, and people walk away from you, saying I always thought he was like that. Yeah, I never liked him anyway. Such and you can't do that sort of novel. People don't want it because people love stories. That's what people love and the reason for the durability of this form in spite of all these new forms is just that is the enduring love of the story and if you can tell people a good story they will read it. And they will find that, that's what you want them to do, you don't want to over explain. I mean, there is a thing that happens at the end of Shalimar The Clown, which I can't really say because it's the end which a lot of readers were puzzled about and they said well what actually what happens actually there. And I said, well I don't know because it wasn't there or wasn't there, you know, I have read the book it is not there. And that desire to have the book explained by the author is very great but actually if the author deliberately chooses not to explain things, its its actually in order that you the reader can find the explanation that you think is most truthful. You know, and there is a wonderful story that a great friend of mine English play write Harold Pinter and recently there was a revival of one of his great plays No Man's Land in London and Harold is such a really good actor. Took one of the lead roles in the play, and the play had been first performed long time ago in the late 70s, I guess, that the lead roles had been played by John Gilbert and Ralph Richardson and in this version Harold played the part that had been played by Ralph Richardson and somebody else, other actor very good actor Paul Eddington played the Gilbert role and the play was directed by English theater Director who I know called David Leveaux, David said to me afterwards that there had been this wonderful moment when Eddington had said to Harold, during rehearsal he said Harold yeah this speech here, he said I kind if don't get it. How is it supposed to go? I don't quite see what I am doing, where am I going in this speech, can you just tell me and so Harold had a look at it and handed it back and he said, he said the author's intentions are not clear from the text. In other words you work it out and I said - after the Director had told me the story I saw Harold, I said Harold did you really say that because it's kind of not friendly, you know, why didn't you just tell him. And Harold said well, you see you know, I wrote that play 25 fucking years ago. He said how the hell do I know? You always and he is also Pinter, I mean, you know, - Yeah but I mean, I think I respect that not explaining your work, you know, and I think in a way one of the worst things that happened to the Satanic Verses was it because there was this huge storm around it. People kept asking me to explain, you know, what did you mean, did you mean to do this, did you mean to do that. Did you know you were doing this, did you not know you were doing that et cetera and I found myself having to do the thing which every writer detests which is to to explain the book. You know, in a way what happens is because in the kind of world we live in the authority of the writer saying this is what my book's about, is very considerable. Because you get to say that the newspapers and the television and radio et cetera, and what when you do that, you destroy other readings. You know, and really don't want to do that but I always got to force to do it. Because what it does is it over determines the book, it says you could only read the book like this, it's a book about this, you know and that's exactly what you don't want to do with a novel. So and I mean, saying what's Madame Bovary about? Is it a novel about infidelity or a novel about suicide which No, well I mean, you know, the thing is a novel also starts with certain ideas. I mean, you knew for instance Shalimar The Clown, a lot of it about Kashmir, you grew up going to Kashmir that's where your grandparents where. I did meet them, you know the novel has a, yeah of course if novels have roots in personal experience and and in my case, yes you are right but that because my family was in origin Kashmiri, although some generations since they actually lived there, I felt very attached to the subject of Kashmir and I knew that it was sitting there waiting for me. You know, I mean actually the big explosion in Kashmir happened in 1989 and at that time there was another kind of explosion in my personal life which distracted me and so it took me a while to get around to it, but I always knew it was sitting there as something that I would, at some point, want to write about it and then there was this in 1987. It was just before the insurgency began in Kashmir. I had been there for quite a long time because I had been making a TV documentary and as part of that documentary I had met this group of traveling players and the novel, at the heart of the novel there is this group of traveling. There is in Kashmir a tradition of of folk theater, the groups of village based traveling players who go around performing plays about Kashmiri history and so on. It's almost extinct now this tradition and that was also a reason that I wanted to write about it because and it's extinct partly because of the troubles in Kashmir but also just because of, you know, Television and so on. The world changes and the audience for village based folk theater is smaller but I met these people and they were kind of extraordinary people and I I went to their village and saw how they were training their children in all kinds of skills of dance and clowning and you know, 17 ways to fall down, you know, and tightrope walking and theater and all these difference performance arts. That they were passing down through generations and I thought, how what a wonderful little world it was. At the same time they were very poor, you know, and and aware of the fact that they were engaged in a kind of activity for which there was almost no demand and yet with sort of going on with it and the reason, they never made they never made it into the documentary because they wouldn't tell the truth on camera. You know, I mean, if although as I say it was just before the insurgency. People were already very scared both about reprisals from the Indian military and on the other hand reprisals from extremist Islamist radicals coming across the border from Pakistan. So they are caught between, you know, the classic rock and hard place and they were very scared of saying anything publicly because of this and so privately they tell you all kinds of stories about what was happening and what their lives were like and what their problems were and then you'd get the camera running and you would say tell me that story you just told me and they would say, no, no nothing. And you would say well, yes there is because you just told me this whole story about the Indian army and this. No, no we, you know, we love the India army. And I tried for two or three days to try and get them to say on camera what they were saying off camera and they wouldn't do it. So in the end I thought we can't do this, we can't use this stuff because its not, you know, about documentary film making its got to come out of their mouths. You know, it's no good that it comes out of mine. You know, for me to stand there with the microphone and saying this is what these people think, you know, when when they won't say it themselves it doesn't work on television. So in the end we left it out but I always remembered these people, you know and I was - I had been very touched by my time with them and all these years later found a way of telling the story. Well the - one of the interesting things there is that the Indian occupation of Kashmir does have resonance with the American occupation of Iraq - And as you are writing the book, I mean, obviously on some level its there, must have been there in your mind. Yeah and the great thing then is not to underline it, you know, not to do arrows you know, saying, you know, contemporary reference. Because that's exactly what I am saying is that is space for the reader. Let the reader see that and I mean, that - actually in the novel there are two insurgencies because one of the main characters in novel is somebody who is of European origin but becomes an American Ambassador, goes to India as an American Ambassador and in his youth in occupied Europe he is involved in the French resistance and one of the things I tried to do in the novel is to say, he are two models of insurgency one of them we call heroic and the other one we don't, you know, even though if you look at the things that they are doing, they are doing exactly the same things. You know, I mean no suicide bombings in the resistance, if you remove suicide bombings, murders, sabotage activities et cetera exactly the same things are being done as the physical acts that are being performed but because in one case we think of the resistance against Hitler as being admirable we see those people as being heroic. In this other case where it's much, moral certainties are much more dubious, assurgency is a much more dubious, you don't see people as being heroic and clearly there is off stage from the novel a third insurgency that isn't mentioned in the novel and, you know, the novel just invites you to consider how the moral weight we give to actions is affected by their historical context, you know, that's a that the same deed at one movement and one place and one time can be seen as heroic, at an another place as evil, the same deed. And for me its not a question of saying what I think about that, you know, its just a question of inviting you to think about it and saying what you think what do you think about that? Well what do you learn when you are writing this thing. I learn everything, I mean, writing is the - it isn't -writing educates the writer all the time but mainly, and yes, you do, I mean, learnt a lot of stuff about you know, about the place I was writing about. I mean, I had to learn about the French resistance. I had to learn about Kashmiri politics, I had to learn about, you know, a lot of stuff. Actually quite a lot of the novel happens in California, you know, I mean, the novel begins and ends in California. I was very pleased actually when the novel came out, it's when I would up and down, novel begins in LA, there is a bit in San Quentin. - and so on and I would deliberately read the Californian bits in California. Just I thought, you know, if its dreadful, I better find out you know, but actually I got a very good ride and actually the Californian critics, all liked the book. The critics in San Francisco and LA all liked the books. The only place I got trashed from my version of LA was in New York where the New York critics said, what does he know about LA. Meanwhile the LA critics were saying this is really good. So I thought that's you know, these are just the ironies of the literary life. But I did, because the other thing the book is trying to do which we haven't mentioned is to bring together a western story with an eastern story. Try and show how they, I mean, I think what I found to become more and more my subject, is to show how the world adds up. You know, the fact that we don't that the world is not any longer little boxes, which are separate from each other. The world is no longer like India over there and America over here, the Arab world over there and China over there. You know, it's just not like that anymore. Everything connects and its quite hard to write about that because there is something in the novel form which wants to be parochial, you know, the novel wants to be about this woman in a tedious French village who decides to have an affair. You know, it wants to be about that. It doesn't want to be about like how does the whole world add up. You know there is something in the form which resists that. But I think the specific is sometimes better than universe. Absolutely absolutely, the question is how can you be specific about a world in which many different things connect? You know, how you can tell the truth of that and you, I mean, catch a cab in New York and you see how the world connects. You know, you don't have to reach for it. You know, this is the life we now live. Walk down the street of your hometown and you'll see how many other stories there are walking down that street, from elsewhere in the world. You know, we bump into these stories in the subway now. You know, et cetera so it's the idea that we that our stories are so separate from each other. It's a fiction, to use that term. And and my view is that we've got to find or I have felt, the need to find ways of recognizing the kind of world we now live in, in which these many different kinds of stories collide with each other. Well, speaking of two stories colliding Jerry Falwell died last week. I was telling you about what Christopher Hitchens said about him Hitchen Hitchens said that what was it if if Falwell had had an enema they could have buried him in a match box. Well, - well Christopher, - But it doesn't mean that I agree with that anything he said. On that particular point actually however in that and I think that's why I am with him. Well, on on a more serious note, we have American fundamentalism here, and we see the horrors of Islamic fundamentalism there. What can we say about them with their similarities and where can we look at and maybe see one is less harmful than the other. They both are equally harmful or what do you what do you say that? You know I I am always worried I mean, it's too easy to say this is like this and therefore it's the same thing and just as bad. You know I I detest American Religious fanaticism, just like I detest religious fanaticism anywhere else. But the truth is that there is one form of religious fanaticism, there is right now, that is most dangerous. And that is not Christian fanaticism, that's Islamic fanaticism. That's right now. You know that that doesn't mean there is anything intrinsic about Islamic fanaticism that makes it worse than Christian but if you have to look at the world as it is, you know, of some Egyptian journalist, who recently courageously wrote that while obviously it's true that not all Muslims are terrorists, it just also appears to be the case right now, that almost all terrorists are Muslims. You know so, you have to look at that you know, you can't say its not so, because it is so. Well, it's a dumb that's the thing is you can't, there isn't a general reason. It's different in different parts of the world. And sometimes, for example, in Iran, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is a direct consequence of the Regime of the Shah. And the Regime of the Shah which was supported by the United States and the British and the French was brutal and and violent towards it's own people, but also eliminated almost all other normal political opposition and drove people who wished to oppose the regime towards the Mosque, which was the one place that the Shah didn't feel able to go in and grab and kill people. And so the the priests, the priest class became the opposition class and that created Khomeini, so, that's what happened there. And what happened in Algeria is that you have a one of the great post colonial revolutions. You know, the great Left Wing Revolution of Algeria against French Colonialism. And if any of you have seen Pontecorvo's famous film, "The Battle of Algiers" but if haven't see it, you should see it once because it's an amazing thing. And then you get that Party the Party of the Revolution becoming this kind of corrupt fat cat, lazy organization. And what happens is it dissolutions people very profoundly, I mean it's a failure of secularism if you like. That the secularist left party becomes greedy, corrupt, bullying, oppressive et cetera. And people rebound from that into the arms of the Islamists. You know so, you have to look at you have to look at it within the histories of individual places, you know. In Afghanistan, you can blame the Russians if you like. You know, say the Russian invasion of Afghanistan created the Mujahideen and the Mujahideen which were backed by the United States spawned the Taliban. And and so as I say, there isn't a general theory, that this phenomenon has happened around the world in response to local conditions. And the only thing you can say about it is that people quite rapidly get disillusioned in it. Now to say, even in those countries where it is briefly popular as it was in Iran, as it was in Algeria, people very rapidly losing the theme? Well, okay. Christopher Hitchens talked about Islamic fundamentalism as a single thing, he calls it Islamic fascism, is he wrong, are the people wrong in trying to pin a word on it then? No, they are not. Because it because there are groups in all these different countries which exploit the kind of situations that I've been talking about in order to create, you know, a kind of Islamic fascist politics and that's true. What there isn't, is, that much consistency between them. And and to talk about some kind of unified radical Islamic assault on the West, they they will hate each other. And they are used to this movie. Are you know, in the days when Left Wing Socialism was fashionable? They all hated each other too. There was a there there was a there was this movie in England I remember in America, actually in the early 70s called Praise Marx and Pass the Ammunition. If you saw that and it was all about how these little left groups hated each other much more than they hated the Capitalists, you know. So if you at the SWP - the Socialist Workers Party, you hated the Workers Revolutionary Party and if you were the Worker's Revolutionary you know, in India this happened in the most comical way. Bengal, which is very, you know, and people say about Bengal, if there is two Bengalis you got two political parties. You know, if you got three Bengalis, you've got three political parties all of them on the left. And they all, you know, you have got the you've got the Communist Party of India, you've got the Communist Party of India (M) that's the Marxist, you've got the Communist Party of India (ML), stands for Marxist Leninist, and and various, and they all hate each other like death, you know. And so the same is true if you look inside the world of Islam. It's very simple. The Afghans hate the Iranians, you know, the the Iranians hate the Saudi's, everybody hates the Syrians. It's that so so there the idea that there is some kind of United Front here is it's not sustainable if you look at it. But then what is quite true is that there is such a thing as an extremely fascist illiberal politicized Islam which has a great deal of momentum right now and whose routine rhetoric is not just anti-Western, but anti-female and anti-minority and anti-homosexual, and anti-Jewish and anti-freedom, I mean, anti anything that any of us would call freedom. This gathering couldn't exist because I noticed that there are women here and that those women are not wearing are not properly dressed. In fact, one might say they are naked. And, I think, it's really disgusting, that they should come here and arouse the men present in this shameless way. There are probably homosexuals present. This is disgusting. This is why the West must be destroyed. Now that does exist, that does exist, and it's powerful. Well, you said - you said a minute ago that that people get bored by even that pretty quickly. Is it possible that maybe it should be allowed to run its course well, you know, and that some day just like the Soviet Union, it will disappear in the blink of an eye. Or like what's happening with fundamentalists in the Republican Party now? Will they disappear at the blink of an eye? The Republic the fundamentalists hold on the Republican Party at least with people like Giuliani at least finally speaking up to it. I mean it's like it's suddenly receding. I mean, I do think there is a thing in America that people are sick of what's been happening in this country for the last six or seven years and people are just sick of the divisiveness. You know, and it doesn't actually matter which side of the political divide you are on. It's been so bitter and so ugly, the division in this country that I think people wanted to stop and I think whoever gets elected is not going to get elected unless people feel that about him, you know, and that's a good thing, to see that shift - Or Her. That's why I mentioned the Islamic fascist because if they disappear or recede just as quickly, the question does come up, I mean, maybe if, I mean, for all the other reasons if America had left Iraq alone maybe the Islamic fascist would have faded on their own or maybe not. Well I - look I think you wouldn't get much of an argument from me about the fact that it could have been better to leave Iraq alone or rather to have, if you are going to deal with the unbelievably ugly and oppressive, dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, you needed to get a much broader agreement that that was something to do and not just to do it as an aspect of American imperialism which is what it looked like. I mean, I despise Saddam Hussein and I cannot feel sorry that he is gone. But everything that has happened since has been hideous, hideous and yeah, I mean, I do think that in the eye of history Islamic fundamentalism is a short-lived phenomenon. I would put it like this, you are saying Soviet Communism. Soviet Communism start to finish, you know, soup to nuts is what 70 years. Now in the eye of history that is nothing, nothing hardly happened. You know, in a human life it's a lot. It's far too long and I think that's the kind of scale of event we are talking about, we are talking about, I mean, if we are talking about the birth of the real political energy in the Islamic radicalism, we talk about the beginning of Iranian revolution in '79 so we are talking about something that's already happened. I think it's already had a quarter of a century. Maybe it's got another 50 years, you know, which, as I say, if you are looking at historically speaking that's nothing, if you are looking at it in terms of all our lives, it's too long for me, you know, but I think it maybe that kind of an event, yes. Salman, its now been about two years since year and a half since Shalimar has been published you are working on a historical novel now? Yeah. It's about not living in the 21st century. It is an enormous improvement I have studies, with the single exception of dentistry. The only thing that's bad about the past is that you don't want to get sick because otherwise you are dead. But now, I have been writing this novel, I have wanted for a long time, I have been very interested in, I mean, I was a historian you know, at university I had history, not literature and I have always had quite a strong historical interest in general terms and in India I have always been very fascinated by the Mughal Empire and particularly by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar And I had wanted to write something about him, but I didn't know what and in another part of the forest I was very interested in the high renaissance, and particularly Florence in that extraordinary moment of Machiavelli, Botticelli, and Savonarola and Medici and then it occurred to me they happened at the same time. You know, that give or take a little, it's actually at the same time and so I thought, Oh! maybe I can join them up and so I just basically tried to come up with a story. There is, you know, there is a journey in each direction in my book and I have just tried to find a story that, it connects those two worlds. Your earlier works had lot of magic realism, do you intend to go back to that at all? You know I just think is I think of it as one of the instruments of the orchestra. You know, sometimes you use it, sometimes you don't. In the last couple of novels there has been relatively little of it. You know, in the Shalimar the Clown there is like one moment, you know, in Fury it's even less really, you know. The interesting thing about the 16th century using a term like magic realism, is in the 16th century whether in the east or the west, what people really believed in was magic. They believed in magic more than they believed in religion, you know, more than they believed in Christianity or Islam they believed in witches and sorcery and the casting spells and what was good luck and what was bad luck and what plant would make women fall in love with you and, that's what people, that was the culture it was it was a culture of magic in which people thought of it in the way that we think of medicine, you know, that it was stuff that really worked. You would go to a sorcerer, an enchanter, a spell caster, a soothsayer or an astrologer et cetera, in order to help you achieve your goals in life. You know, and you believed in that much more than you believed in, you know, Jesus Christ or Vishnu. Who are they, you know. So if you want to write about the reality of the 16th century you have to write about a world totally permeated by magic in which people believed that's part of reality. You know and so in that novel this novel that I am doing there is certain amount of magic but its but its realistic magic. It's magic that people believes, believe in you know, and and so it becomes real because what's real is what everybody believes. If that, you know, if I go like this and everybody in the room believes that's why something happens then it becomes why something happened. You know, if people are given the power by society of affecting events then their actions in fact are the explanation for those events. It's a it's a really bizarre thing and one of the most interesting things about writing the book is when I started writing this book I thought that I am writing about two worlds which are completely unlike each other and I am going to try and find a way of connecting them up. At a time in history when really they had very little connection between each other and the more I have learned about it, I have discovered that this is the exact opposite of the truth. I am writing about two worlds that are exactly the same. Whose ideas and concepts are astonishingly similar And that, you know, this maybe actually the real curse of the human race. It may not be that we are so unlike each other, it maybe that we are all exactly the same and that's why we are in such bad shape. A couple of quick questions then I have questions from the audience. Haroun and the Sea of Stories, that become a play right, played in Berkeley I think? Yeah, yeah it was played originally done at the National Theater in London and then it was restaged here at the Berkeley right yeah, couple of years ago. No, no. There was a point where I was - actually Hitchens was approached by Milan Kundera, not Milan Kundera, Milos Forman who said that he should tell me that he was interested to make a film of my life. He just made his film Larry Flint and he saw this as a companion piece. I don't know why, I didn't think that was a good idea. You know, but truthfully I don't, I think there has been too much interest in my life. I think, now I understand why but, you know, it's not very often that a writer's life becomes a new story but actually my life is not very interesting because like most writer's lives I spend most of my life sitting alone in a room going like this, you know, like this making things happen. But that's and I am just happy now that, because its now been whatever it is, you know, eight or nine years since since there was any trouble around me, but slowly people are beginning to respond to this work as as writing, you know, and not just some kind of political hot potato, you know, who is he trying to insult now. It was just just reading books and even the Satanic Verses, you know, the people are were deprived in a way of the opportunity of reading it as a novel because there is so much of the other kind of discourse around it. There was a long time when the only the only conversations nobody had was what - you like it? What do you think of it? That was the conversation nobody had and now finally that novel also is being allowed to be a novel, you know, and as a result some people like it, some people don't like it, some people kind of like it and that's all right. I mean, that's the ordinary life of a book. You know and its just that the book was denied that for a long time, so I am actually just enjoying getting back to that. You know, I mean, Martin Amis said this wonderful phrase when the whole trouble began, Martin said to somebody that he felt that I vanished into the front page. And you know I felt like that and I have been trying very hard to get back on to the book pages, you know, not that there are any. There is that. That's true. Well no, I mean, you know actually, I don't think, if you look at my appearances on Bill Marr and then look at the Amazon number there is no effect. Yeah, I am very fond of him and I liked him on the show. You know, he is, you know, he is a bad he is a bad man, in a good way. And he is funny, you know, I mean, the thing is if you are going to be irreverent and iconoclastic and so on and that's one thing but if you are not funny it doesn't work. You know I, yeah, I like his show. Bill Maher, Bill O'Reilly, I don't know. It's close.