cover image Languages of Truth: Essays 2003-2020

Languages of Truth: Essays 2003-2020

Salman Rushdie. Random House, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-59313-317-0

“Before there were books, there were stories,” writes Rushdie (Quichotte) in this mesmerizing collection. In the first of four sections, Rushdie explores how the “stories we fall in love with make us who we are”: “Wonder Tales” sees him praising fiction for containing “profound truths.” The second section focuses on writers: both Cervantes and Shakespeare, Rushdie writes, showed that fiction could be “many things at the same time.” A piece about playwright Harold Pinter, a staunch friend of Rushdie’s who stood up for him during the furor over his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, highlights Pinter’s notorious disdain for explaining his work. The third recounts Rushdie’s work as president of PEN America: in “Courage,” he challenges the notion that “writers, scholars, and artists who stand against orthodoxy or bigotry are to blame for upsetting people.” The final section assembles Rushdie’s writing on the visual arts, as in an essay on painter Amrita Sher-Gil’s “ferocity of mind.” (Rushdie’s answers to the famous Proust questionnaire caps things off.) Rushdie’s writing is erudite and full of sympathy, brimming with insight and wit: “Literature has never lost sight of what our quarrelsome world is trying to force us to forget. Literature rejoices in contradiction.” Rushdie’s fans will be delighted. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (May)