Ask me (almost) anything: questions from Nick Potts
Dear Mr. Rushdie. Here are a few questions. I would love to know what you think.
It is 2021, and a young Salman Rushdie has just put the finishing touches to his first novel ‘Grimus’. How would you try to get this published today? Would you do anything differently? What, if anything, has changed since 1975? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
It wasn’t easy to get published. I lacked a good agent, I knew almost nobody in the world of books, and I was very uncertain. In the end I entered a science fiction competition and though I didn’t win it made the publishers involved with the competition (Victor Gollancz Ltd) want to publish my book. This is a very bad way to begin. I would say: try to get your work into a literary magazine or two. Try to find an agent. There really isn’t any new, better way. Some people become famous on the internet and get a book deal as a result. I have no idea what sort of life in books such people will have.
Given ‘Grimus’ has elements of science fiction, have you considered writing more sci-fi? (I see that Truffaut made ‘Fahrenheit 451’). How about a drama script for live theatre or a film screenplay?
There are sci-fi elements in several of my books: Quichotte, and The Ground beneath her Feet, for example. As for your other questions, I have written a play and I hope it will be produced next year; I wrote the screenplay for the film of Midnight’s Children; and I’m in the early days of discussions about a possible TV series.
Which writer (dead or alive) would you like most like to meet? What would you ask them?
I guess, very obviously, Shakespeare, and I would have nothing to ask. I would only wish to thank him for his genius.
Have you met Olga Tokarczuk or Samanta Schweblin? What do you think of their work?
I have met neither of them and I have not read Schweblin. I am however a great admirer of Olga Tokarczuk’s work.
Given your piece on Umberto Eco, do you think you would have got on with Charles Dickens? Mr. Dickens: a fourth musketeer or more of a Cardinal Richelieu?
I yield to nobody in my admiration for Charles Dickens. I very much hope we would have found each other congenial. I love his gift of naming (Wackford Squeers, Ebenezer Scrooge, Magwitch, Oliver Twist) and the breadth and depth of his engagement with his society. He could write about people across the social scale, from murderers to archbishops, and set his books in every stratum of English society. It’s something I have tried to learn from. (The naming, as well.)
What is the future of fiction? What is the future of the novel as an art form?
The future of fiction is assured. The novel will survive and thrive.
What is your next project after ‘The Seventh Wave’?
I’m writing a new novel; as I said above, I have a play going into production; and about the YV series, it;’s too early to say.
It is 2021. Which aspect of the human condition is the most interesting, most challenging, or most relevant to explore? Why?
What I find fascinating is that while the human condition - the way we live in the world - changes constantly, human nature remains unchanged. It is in the tension between our unchanging natures and our metamorphic times that my interest lies.
Thank you for your questions. I hope you find the answers interesting.