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Culture & Religion

Salman Rushdie: “We Should Drop Nintendos on Iran”

We should think about terrorism not as a battle between Islam and the West but as a battle within Islam, says author Salman Rushdie. And video games might just be the way to resolve this conflict. “I often think that the best way to liberate Iran is just to drop Nintendo consoles from the air. And Big Macs,” he tells us.

In his Big Think interview, the literary giant tells us about how video games influenced his newest novel “Luka and the Fire of Life.” As he proves in this and previous novels, fantasy can be a vehicle for writing about truth. That is after all the whole premise of fiction. “We don’t need to know that Anna Karenina really existed; we need to know who she is and what moves her and what her story tells us about our own lives,” he says. “Once you accept that stories are not true, then you understand that a flying carpet and Madam Bovary are untrue in the same way, and as a result both of them are ways of arriving at the truth by the road of untruth and so then they can both do it the same way.”

Rushdie says there is a double standard for immigrant writers. Western writers have always given themselves the freedom to write about any topic: “If John Updike wants to write a novel set in Africa he does. If Saul Bellow wants to write a novel set in Africa he feels free to do so, whereas sometimes if the reverse happens, if a third-world writer wishes to set a novel in Illinois, he might be asked what he thinks he is doing.” This, he believes, is a hangover of a kind of cultural colonialism.

Looking back on his career, Rushdie says his first successful novel, “Midnight’s Children,” was one of the high points. Many of his friends, like Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, had already found success, but he struggled for a decade as an advertising copywriter, working on novels on the side. “There is nothing like the first moment when you realize that you’re going to be able to have the life that you want to have,” he says. Three decades later, Rushdie no longer has to fret about finding success, but one of the problems of growing older is that you start losing people, he says. And when a loved one dies, you also lose a version of yourself. “You lose yourself as that person saw you and responded to you.” One friend, Christopher Hitchens, is currently battling cancer but has done so in the public eye. Rushdie says his friend’s insistence on being himself in the face of death is “heroic.”  

Finally, Rushdie, known to be quite the ladies man, offers some dating tips. The fact that he survived a death fatwa is not his key to success, he tells us. Women like men who do interesting things, he says. “We’re lucky as men that women are able to look beyond the physical towards something else.”


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