Wish Rushdie was in Jaipur fest: Lebanese writer

January 22nd, 2012 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, Jan 22 (IANS) The shadow of Salman Rushdie lingered over the self-styled “greatest literary show on earth” on day three Sunday, with Lebanese writer Hanan Al-Shaykh saying she wished the author attended the Jaipur Literature Festival.

“I wish Salman Rushdie was here. He was a friend,” Al-Shaykh told a rapt audience under a multi-coloured tent called Baithak.

“He introduced many of us writers who wrote in languages other than English. Salman, we are thinking of you at this moment,” said the London-based Beirut-born writer whose iconoclastic writings challenge the conservative ethos of Arab societies.

The sentiment was shared by the assembled motley crowd comprising students, star-struck bibliophiles, socialites sporting designer clothes and the plain curious.

William Dalrymple, one of the organisers of the festival and the author of the much-acclaimed “The Last Mughal”, quickly butted in, saying he was hopeful of having Rushdie speak via a videolink from New York on the last day of the show Tuesday.

It was fitting that Hanan Al-Shaykh spoke about Rushdie, among the most famous exiles from the Indian subcontinent, in a talk session on “The Writer as Exile”.

Unlike the opening day of the festival, when some writers defiantly tried to read out extracts from “The Satanic Verses”, the novel that got Rushdie into trouble with Muslim fundamentalists for allegedly blaspheming Islam, there were no headline-grabbing attempts at raking up his forced absence from the festival.

“It’s sad he is not coming, but the show goes on,” said a socialite nonchalantly.

In “The Satanic Verses”, Rushdie had written memorably: “Exile is a dream of a glorious return. Exile is a vision of revolution: Elba, not St Helena. It is an endless paradox: looking forward by always looking back. The exile is a ball hurled high into the air.”

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