By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘One of the Great Joys of Literature Is That It’s Useless’When Publishing Perspectives asked Salman Rushdie today in his press conference (October 20) whether literature has a role in pushing back against the acceptance of “new normals” of authoritarianism and vulgarity seen in some book markets’ governments today he didn’t hesitate.
“I wish I could say yes to that,” he said,
“But I really resist the idea that literature has a role. I think one of the great joys of literature, one could say, is that it’s useless.
“What is the use of Alice in Wonderland? What is the use of The Lord of the Rings? Or Mrs. Dalloway?
“If it has a use, it’s to create beauty and to stimulate the mind. And maybe sometimes to challenge our assumptions, yes. “But don’t ask it to have a direct social function. That’s polemic. And I think polemics are very bad for literature.
“I don’t like books that tell me what to think. I like books that make me think.
“And that’s the difference. What literature can do is stimulate thought. And where that leads is up to the reader, not up to the writer to say.”
Rushdie is in Frankfurt for Sunday’s (October 22) ceremony in which he’ll be made the 2023 laureate of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the €25,000 (US$27,302) award that is the German market’s most influential and honored accolades in commercial book publishing. That event, in which Daniel Kehlmann will give the laudation, is set for 11 a.m. CEST that day, at Frankfurt’s Paulskirche and broadcast on German television by SDF.
Before that, on Saturday evening, Rushdie is the headliner at Frankfurter Buchmesse‘s annual Literature Gala in Messe Frankfurt’s vast Harmonie Hall, a first chance for much of the German public to see Rushdie since the stabbing attack at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York occurred on August 12, 2022.
We will have more from today’s news conference in the days to come.
But as we rush toward our deadline today, we want to convey to those in the world publishing industry who have been concerned about him after the assault left him with such severe injuries that he moves well, walks with impressive stability, speaks in a strong voice and is undoubtedly in command of his both his faculties and his famous gift for self-expression.
He praised the doctors in Erie, Pennsylvania, whose treatment—including an 8.5-hour initial surgery—”saved my life.”
And maybe most gratifying of all is that his canny, warm sense of humor seems to be fully intact.
His next book is scheduled to be released on April 16 by Penguin Random House. “I’ve only just finished it about 10 days ago,” he said.
It’s titled Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder.
A journalist asked, “Do you want to say something about the book?—why it was important for you to write this book?”
Rushdie looked calmly back at the reporter and answered, “Well, it just seemed like an important subject to me.”
Our 75th Frankfurt coverage from our Frankfurt Book Fair Magazine, which has been available throughout the trade show in print, is also available for your free download.
The magazine has more interviews with fellows and grant-program recipients from international publishing markets, as well as previews of programming from our Publishing Perspectives Forum at Frankfurt including our Executive Talks with Penguin Random House worldwide CEO Nihar Malaviya and Nanmeebooks’ Kim Chongsatitwana; highlights of key events at the 75th Frankfurter Buchmesse; and coverage of Frankfurt’s upcoming guest of honor programs (Italy, the Philippines, the Czech Republic) and this year’s Guest of Honor Slovenia.
There’s also news of literary agents and agencies; award-winning books from guest of honor markets; focus articles on artificial intelligence, sustainability; and a forthcoming effort to get more Korean literature into world markets; as well as 75th-anniversary “Frankfurt Moments.”