Rushdie on censorship and the air we breathe

I just read Salman Rushdie’s brilliant take on censorship, from his PEN lecture, and reprinted in The New Yorker online. He writes about the view that writers should just “offer us beauty” and avoid rocking the boat–an argument I hear so often, even from apparently liberal types who claim they defend the right to free expression but just wish writers would avoid giving offence.

Rushdie’s response: “Great art, or, let’s just say, more modestly, original art is never created in the safe middle ground, but always at the edge. Originality is dangerous. It challenges, questions, overturns assumptions, unsettles moral codes, disrespects sacred cows or other such entities. It can be shocking, or ugly, or, to use the catch-all term so beloved of the tabloid press, controversial. And if we believe in liberty, if we want the air we breathe to remain plentiful and breathable, this is the art whose right to exist we must not only defend, but celebrate. Art is not entertainment. At its very best, it’s a revolution.”

Coming this September, and eagerly anticipated: Rushdie’s memoir, titled Joseph Anton.

On a related note, take a look at Nilanjana Roy’s tongue-in-cheek look at subjects “Indians shouldn’t write about if they want to avoid giving offence (and going to jail.”


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