I don’t like books that wag their finger at me & tell me what to think: Salman Rushdie

At the Times Literary Festival 2021, organised by TOI,Salman Rushdiespoke about growing up in India and the innate human need for stories. Excerpts

On his unique writing style

As human beings we are all people who tell each other stories to try and understand the kind of people that we are. It can be at a personal level. It can be at the family level, at the community level, and at the national level.

If you grow up in India the first most obvious fact about it is multitude. Our stories are never just one story. There is a story amongst a huge crowd of stories. And I thought, how do you represent that? How do you represent a world that is crowded with stories through which the story you want to tell must make its way.

As a reader, I don’t like books that wag their finger at me and tell me what to think. I don’t like being lectured in a novel. What I like is to create a space which the reader likes to be in. The reader is taken on a journey that they enjoy being taken on and then during that process, you can challenge them. If you have engaged the reader with a story, they will follow you. The great desire to find out what happens next is the greatest driving force in literature.

On his childhood

I had a female family, with three sisters and no brothers. Even in the extended family of cousins and aunts, there were more girls than boys. So, I grew up in a world in which I became very comfortable in the company of women. To this day, I find that I have more women friends than men. And I’m not talking about romantic liaisons.

On forgiveness

Sometimes we can forgive people even if they don’t say they’re sorry. And sometimes we cannot forgive people, even if they do say sorry. So strangely, the apology is a question for the person doing the apology, and the forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving, and they’re not necessarily connected.

On the institution of marriage

I’ve done it a lot. So, I must at some level believe in it. I think never say never.


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