Friday, August 19, 2022

Stand with Salman Rushdie: "Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself." - Salman Rushdie

Writers around the globe stood in solidarity with Salman Rushdie today and celebrated his tireless advocacy for the freedom of expression and the plight of imperiled writers around the globe. It is important to hear Salman's bold defense of free expression.

PEN America, The New York Public Library, and Penguin Random House gathered in front of the New York Public Library in Manhattan at 11:00am with friends, supporters, readers, and members of the literary community read from selected texts from Rushdie’s body of work. Readers included: Paul Auster, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Tina Brown, Kiran Desai, Andrea Elliott, Amanda Foreman, Roya Hakakian, A.M. Homes, Siri Hustvedt, Hari Kunzru, Aasif Mandvi, Colum McCann, Andrew Solomon, and Gay Talese.

I was unable to be present in New York City, but followed live coverage, and posted a home video reading an excerpt from a speech Salman Rushdie gave at Columbia University on December 11, 1991 titled "One Thousand Days in a Balloon" used the hashtag #StandWithSalman and tagged @penamerica.

Below is the text excerpt that I read

"Our lives teach us who we are." I have learned the hard way that when you permit anyone else's description of reality to supplant your own -- and such descriptions have been raining down on me, from security advisers, governments, journalists, Archbishops, friends, enemies, mullahs -- then you might as well be dead. Obviously, a rigid, blinkered, absolutist world view is the easiest to keep hold of, whereas the fluid, uncertain, metamorphic picture I've always carried about is rather more vulnerable. Yet I must cling with all my might to . . . my own soul; must hold on to its mischievous, iconoclastic, out-of-step clown-instincts, no matter how great the storm. And if that plunges me into contradiction and paradox, so be it; I've lived in that messy ocean all my life. I've fished in it for my art. This turbulent sea was the sea outside my bedroom window in Bombay. It is the sea by which I was born, and which I carry within me wherever I go." ... "Free speech is a non-starter," says one of my Islamic extremist opponents. No, sir, it is not. Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.

 Here is the full event today in New York City.

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