From published writer, film producer and 26 member, Elise Valmorbida:
There is something very comforting about an evening with Salman Rushdie without bag searches or metal detectors. The International PEN festival celebrated writers and the freedom to write. Last time I glimpsed Rushdie in real life, there were body guards and bullet-proof jackets aplenty.
The freedom to write? This is a concept which, in my dusty mind, used to attach to those dreadful places where Amnesty International has to work hardest. But the concept starts to feel vulnerable here in our apparently enlightened liberal democracy... Our Government has passed a blasphemy law, no? Is this true? I must have invented it. I am a fiction writer and sometimes I imagine stuff so vividly I think I’ve lived it. But I think it’s true to say that I cannot write abusively about ideas that happen to be religious -- unless I want to break the law. Can this really be true?
Back to Rushdie. His latest novel features a dictator protagonist, Akbar, whose royal “we” embraces all the beings, and all the things, that comprise his realm. Rushdie read out beautiful passages that riffed like verbal jazz on the notion of perspective. He spoke eloquently about his own multiple selves: the famous name that lends itself to the PEN cause and helps to free oppressed writers, Salman the private person, the novelist, the cultural commentator, the migrant, the others. There must also be a persona who faced death at the hands of a misguided militant. As a man who hid from ubiquitous and infinite assassins, it’s no wonder that Salman Rushdie’s identity went forth and multiplied.
PS: Does every fiction writer have a trace of this condition? We wear the shoes of our characters and speak with their voices, desire as they do, fear as they do, change gender. Anything less would be poor impersonation.