Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Aimless Reading: The R's, Part 27 (Salman Rushdie)

Midnight's Children
Rushdie, Salman
Midnight's Children

Sent to me by the publisher. Inscribed:

To Michael
with many thanks

Salman Rushdie

We brought Rushdie to Buffalo in 2010. It was by far the best attended of the event of the Babel series, selling out the entire lower level of Kleinhans Music Hall to the seat. That is, the lower level seats 1594, which, completely unintentionally, was the exact number of tickets we sold.

When Rushdie comes to town, everyone pretty much freaks out about security. Except him. He insists that the fatwa is in the past and that no special security measures need be taken on his behalf. Nonetheless, all of the various organizers get nervous and hire extra security. In addition to the single, armed, off-duty police officer we hire for each event, the entire security staff of the music hall was on hand at the behest of their legal dept.

Of course, nothing happened, and this was more or less the topic of Rushdie's talk. Intellectual freedom in the face of various kinds of repression.  Anyhow, I liked him. After the event I drove him back to the hotel. We sat out front in my car for a little while chatting about PEN International and the PEN World Voices festival. And that was that.

from Midnight's Children

I was born in the city of Bombay… once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it’s important to be more… On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world. There were gasps. And, outside the window, fireworks and crowds. A few seconds later, my father broke his big toe; but his accident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, because thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blindly saluting clocks I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my country. For the next three decades, there was to be no escape. Soothsayers had prophesied me, newspapers celebrated my arrival, politicos ratified my authenticity. I was left entirely without a say in the matter. I, Saleem Sinai, later variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Budha and even Piece-of-the-Moon, had become heavily embroiled in Fate – at the best of times a dangerous sort of involvement. And I couldn’t even wipe my own nose at the time.

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