The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Salman Rushdie on The Daily Show: “My Life Was Like a Spy Novel” [VIDEO]

Despite having a typically serious demeanour, Salman Rushdie had no trouble keeping up with Jon Stewart's satirical brand of humor during his appearance on The Daily Show last week. (A recap of the appearance is shown above.) The Booker Prize-winning author, critic, and speaker discussed his new memoir, Joseph Anton, the fatwa against him, and the current Middle Eastern turmoil on the show.

Following the release of his book The Satanic Verses, a fatwa was issued against Rushdie by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini and he was forced into hiding for nearly a decade—a harrowing time that is now the subject of his new book. Unsure of how to react to the news that his life was in jeopardy, Rushdie laughingly says that he “ran downstairs and, kind of ridiculously, locked the front door.” Since the fatwa, the author tells Stewart that his “life turned into a sort of spy novel.” He also admits to feeling somewhat detached from those memories, as if they had been “happening to someone else.” A feeling, he says, that contributed to formatting Joseph Anton in a third-person narrative, rather than the first-person style traditionally used in memoirs. In his writing, and his enrapturing public speeches, Rushdie champions the unique way that literature can inspire and spark intellectual debate, while illustrating the perils of free speech and the price we sometimes have to pay for speaking our mind.

Salman Rushdie: Writers Are More Vulnerable Than Ideas [VIDEO]

Joseph Anton, the highly anticipated memoir by Salman Rushdie, hits the shelves today. It is the first time Rushdie has directly addressed in print the years he spent underground, forced into hiding by an infamous fatwa following the release of his novel The Satanic Verses. In this exclusive Lavin video from a few years ago, Rushdie describes the plight of authors throughout history—authors whose provocative works and ideas were subjected to intense scrutiny and state censure.

“The question here is not whether literature can survive tyranny but whether writers can,” Rushdie says. “Writers are much more vulnerable than ideas.”

This vulnerability of the writer is something that Rushdie knows about firsthand. In Joseph Anton, Rushdie paints a picture of the harsh opposition he was forced to endure after The Satanic Verses was labeled by some as blasphemous.

“It wasn’t a war of my choosing,” Rushdie told The National Post recently. “Somebody declared war on me.”

It was a “war” that the author waged for years—a war on the written word and freedom of speech that Rushdie continues to fight. Read an excerpt of Joseph Anton at The New Yorker's site.