March 30, 2016
With the recent acts of violence against Charlie Hebdo, writers' and artists' freedom of expression, pertaining to political correctness, is once again being called into question. This controversy can result in a set of questions: Does an offensive or disrespectful portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed in a satirical cartoon realize or betray American and European values of pluralism and multiculturalism? How do we defend the freedom of secular-artistic expression against other peoples’ religiously-motivated fundamental rejection of such satire? How do we show respect towards those individuals who do not necessarily take part in or support the secular culture of their own country? How can we successfully integrate two fundamental pillars of transatlantic societies - respect for religious belief/practice and free expression of ideas - to create the open and pluralistic communities towards which we as Europeans and Americans have been striving for centuries?
NYU Washington, DC and the European Union National Institutes of Culture welcomed acclaimed writer, and Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU, Salman Rushdie for a reading of an except of his most current book, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, followed by a discussion on the role of satire in the public sphere, moderated by Lisa Page, Director of Creative Writing at the George Washington University.
Salman Rushdie is the author of twelve novels: Grimus, Midnight’s Children (which was awarded the Booker Prize in 1981), Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence, and Luka and the Fire of Life. His most recent novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, was published simultaneously around the world in the English language in September 2015.
He is also the author of a book of stories, East, West, and four works of non-fiction – Joseph Anton – A Memoir, Imaginary Homelands, The Jaguar Smile, and Step Across This Line. He is the co-editor of Mirrorwork, an anthology of contemporary Indian writing, and of the 2008 Best American Short Stories anthology.
He has adapted Midnight’s Children for the stage. It was performed in London and New York by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2004, an opera based upon Haroun and the Sea of Stories was premiered by the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center.
A Fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature, Salman Rushdie has received, among other honours, the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel (twice), the Writers’ Guild Award, the James Tait Black Prize, the European Union’s Aristeion Prize for Literature, Author of the Year Prizes in both Britain and Germany, the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, the Budapest Grand Prize for Literature, the Premio Grinzane Cavour in Italy, the Crossword Book Award in India, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, the London International Writers’ Award, the James Joyce award of University College Dublin, the St Louis Literary Prize, the Carl Sandburg Prize of the Chicago Public Library, and a U.S. National Arts Award. He holds honorary doctorates and fellowships at six European and six American universities, is an Honorary Professor in the Humanities at M.I.T, and University Distinguished Professor at Emory University.
He has received the Freedom of the City in Mexico City, Strasbourg and El Paso, and the Edgerton Prize of the American Civil Liberties Union. He holds the rank of Commandeur in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres – France’s highest artistic honour. Between 2004 and 2006 he served as President of PEN American Center and for ten years served as the Chairman of the PEN World Voices International Literary Festival, which he helped to create. In June 2007 he received a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. In 2008 he became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was named a Library Lion of the New York Public Library. In addition, Midnight’s Children was named the Best of the Booker – the best winner in the award’s 40 year history – by a public vote.
His books have been translated into over forty languages.
A film of Midnight’s Children, directed by Deepa Mehta, was released in 2012.
The Ground Beneath Her Feet, in which the Orpheus myth winds through a story set in the world of rock music, was turned into a song by U2 with lyrics by Salman Rushdie.
Lisa Page is the Director of Creative Writing at the George Washington University. Her areas of expertise are contemporary literature and cultural identity. Professor Page's work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, The Crisis, Playboy, The Washington Post Book World, The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Scene, Phoebe, Society and Space and other publications. Her essays have appeared in the anthologies, Skin Deep: Black Women and White Women write about Race and Dream Me Home Safely: Writers on Growing up in America. Her short fiction has appeared in Gravity Dancers: More Writing by Washington Women.
She has been a regular on NPR's Readers Review with Diane Rehm. Prof. Page was a finalist for Professor of the Year, an accolade bestowed by the GWU Athletic Association. She is the former president of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and remains a member of their Board of Directors. She has also been a resident faculty member of the Yale Writers Conference.