Monday, April 14, 2008

Salman Rushdie

From Mukund Padmanabhan's interview with Salman Rushdie in The Hindu:

Like many of your other novels, The Enchantress of Florence has a clear historical context and works in fantasy, fable and magic. But this one has a long, six-page bibliography at the end of it. Has this got something to do with the nature of the novel — do you regard it as more ‘historical’ or ‘factual’ than the others? Or is it simply because more research went into it?

Both, I think. Without any question, this is the most researched book I have ever done. A surprising amount of the material arises out of historical fact. So I thought it was fair to acknowledge all the books from which I learnt and which I drew on. And then if people want to explore it further, the bibliography gives them an opportunity to do so.

It’s not unusual for historical novels to have a bibliography. I’ve already noticed that people seem very surprised by it, but I don’t think I’ve done anything abnormal.

Absolutely not. Perhaps, it’s just because you’ve written so many novels that have a historical context. But this one also has a long bibliography.

The others deal with a more contemporary history. This time it goes much further back than I’ve ever gone. And it required years and years of reading, in a way that nothing else I have written has. So, the bibliography was just a way of acknowledging all the people from whom I have learnt.

You characterise Emperor Akbar as a man plagued with doubt, a man who is constantly debating issues in his head. Is this something that came through from the history texts you read? Or is this is a fictional characterisation?

Well, it’s a development of the character of the historical Akbar. He was very philosophically interested, very interested in inter-faith debate. He was somebody who believed in trying to create a synthesis of different belief systems.

As for the internal agony, this is something that is really very largely my invention. I wanted to show him as a person in whom ideas of the modern were being born. At one point, he is described as someone who is not content with being but is always trying to become. So there is a kind of internal moral dialogue, which may or may not have been there, although he was clearly a highly intelligent man. But entering into his internal world imaginatively was for me one of the great pleasures of the book.
Read the full interview.

--Marshal Zeringue