Sir Salman Rushdie Visits Campus For The Newhouse Center for the Humanities’ Newly Launched Distinguished Thinkers Program

November 12, 2015
Sir Salman Rushdie

Few authors have received as much acclaim—or generated as much controversy—as Sir Salman Rushdie. One of the most celebrated writers of our time, Rushdie has penned several classic novels and influenced a generation of writers. Tonight, November 12, he visits Wellesley as part of the Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities’ newly launched Distinguished Thinkers program. Newhouse Center programs, including this talk, provide opportunities to celebrate the study and representations of human accomplishment.

"It's important to celebrate diverse representations of human accomplishment not just to feel good about ourselves but also to know more about ourselves: how we think, what our notion of collectivity is, what sorts of places call for recognition of plurality or stark difference, and when differences can fall away," said Anjali Prabhu, Director of the Newhouse Center for the Humanities. Prabhu is also a Professor of French and teaches in the areas of her expertise: Francophone studies and theoretical issues in literature, cinema, culture, and postcolonial studies.

"This is crucial for a place like Wellesley," explained Prabhu, "where students and faculty in all disciplines are looking for meaningfulness in their work that will go beyond the specific question, problem, or subject they are spending months and years studying. Our liberal arts curriculum and the philosophy behind it emphasize our place in the world as individuals and as parts of collective gestures."

Rushdie’s works forgo the specificity of a single genre, in both the writings themselves and in the interpretations they have inspired. He is the author of 12 novels, including two children’s books, as well as a book of stories and four works of nonfiction. He is also an essayist and co-editor of two anthologies. "Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart," Rushdie said, speaking to The Observer, London in 1989.

Although he is widely recognized for his novel The Satanic Verses, which sparked international debate on free speech and made the author a target of an Iranian fatwa, literati may be more likely to reference his masterwork Midnight’s Children, which not only won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, but was selected by public vote to receive the only Best of the Booker, awarded in honor of the 40th anniversary of the prize.

Midnight’s Children was adapted to film by the Academy Award-nominated director Deepa Mehta and for stage by Rushdie himself. The Royal Shakespeare Company performed the play in both London and New York. His children’s tale Hauroun and the Sea of Stories inspired an opera that was premiered by the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center. The Ground Beneath Her Feet, a story set in the world of rock music, was turned into a song by U2 with lyrics by Rushdie.

Among his other many accomplishments—too numerous to list in their entirety—Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2007 for “services to literature,” he is a French Commandeur in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is also a leader in the PEN American Center and is one of the most respected advocates of free speech of our time.

His new novel Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights was published in September. "My novel is about an ordinary world—most of the characters in it are ordinary people—faced with an extraordinary challenge. They find it within themselves to rise to the occasion and resist. They find resources within themselves which they didn’t know they possessed," Rushdie told The Charlotte Observer earlier this month.

Rushdie will read from his latest book and engage in conversation with Prabhu. The 6:30pm event is free and open to the public and will take place in the Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall Auditorium. Doors open at 5:45pm. Seating is first come, first served.