authors | February 13, 2013

Salman Rushdie: Literature Breaks Down Boundaries

Literature's role in society is far greater than simply being a form of entertainment. As acclaimed author Salman Rushdie told the audience at a recent keynote, great literature erodes boundaries to understanding. And, it connects us to one another. "One of the things literature can do is to encourage a world view," he told the capacity crowd of over 1,000, "which in turn encourages tolerance and civilization, and sets us up against this other view, an identity defined by hostility, which leads to extremism and bigotry." That's why, he says at the 10th annual Coe College Contemporary Issues Forum, it is crucial that we don't allow our literary voices to be silenced by censorship.

Rushdie has had his own experience with censorship when he experienced a hostile backlash after the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses, 25 years ago. After battling for the right to have his voice heard—and the right to live!—Rushdie has become an advocate for free speech in the arts. Despite spending a portion of his life in hiding, Rushdie has come back stronger than ever. He has to, he explains, because "art goes to the boundaries and pushes outward, even when forces push back." The stories we tell not only define who we are, but they help us understand the rest of the world around us. Something that art does every day, and something that Rushdie says we must always value.

Rushdie's talks, like his writing, are always sweeping and powerful. They address important themes such as freedom of expression and the role that the artist plays in helping us better understand the world. His work has earned him critical and popular acclaim—and even knighthood for his services to literature. His voice is equally as powerful as his pen, and he possesses an innate ability to capture the attention of his audiences in every presentation he gives.

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innovation | February 12, 2013