Rushdie on truth vs. memory, books vs. movies, and writing his memoir

Author says he's interested in how memory "rebuilds our life for us"

The missing years: Rushdie's autobiography will include an account of his time in hiding.
Ann Borden

Author Salman Rushdie returned to campus in February for his fifth consecutive year of teaching, seminars, and public talks. Rushdie, who wrote his latest novel, Luca and the Fire of Life, during his time at Emory as Distinguished Writer in Residence, is now at work on a memoir, drawing heavily from his archive in Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library; the archive includes “born digital” material that was retrieved from Rushdie’s computers.

“The truth is,” he said, “I could not have written the memoir at all if it weren’t for the work that was done here at MARBL.”

In a public conversation with Vice President and Secretary of the University Rosemary Magee on truth and memory, Rushdie said he is “interested in the filter of memory and how it sometimes reshapes the record. Memory rebuilds our life for us. We believe the ‘truth’ of the memory more than we believe the facts.”

His long-anticipated memoir, which is expected in 2012, will contain an account of the years Rushdie was in hiding after Iran’s then-supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death edict against him.

Writing a memoir is a bit easier than writing a novel, Rushdie said, since “you’ve already taken the precaution of leading the life.”

While at Emory, Rushdie also curated and introduced a public film series, “Great Works of Fiction Made into Great Films,” featuring Pather Panchali (1955), The Dead (1987), Contempt (1963), and Lolita (1962).

A panel discussion on music and literature in the technological age featured Rushdie with Robert Spano, music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Emory University Distinguished Artist in Residence; and Steve Everett, professor of music at Emory.

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