In an address to the press conference opening the Frankfurt Book Fair, author Salman Rushdie extolled freedom of speech and expression as a basic human right, common to all and not limited to a few. He also cast the book world as under siege and worried that the enemy may have an edge.
“Publishing is a peaceful business,” said Rushdie, though he sees it as approaching a state of war. “Yet publishers and writers are not warriors,” he lamented.
Among those listening to the author of Satanic Verses in the ironically named “Illusion” Hall at the Frankfurter Messe fairgrounds, was Andrew Albanese, senior writer at Publishers Weekly. He tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally the short speech was a stirring message defending writers and publishers as agents of free expression. It was also a contemporary message — with allusions to the Charlie Hebdo press massacre and censure for excessive political correctness on American campuses — that could not help raising memories of events from 25 years ago.
“The author’s appearance has apparently reopened some old wounds for the Iranian government, which in 1989 had issued a fatwa against Rushdie for publishing The Satanic Verses,” Albanese explains. “Frankfurt Book Fair officials confirmed last week that the Iranian Ministry of Culture officially cancelled the national stand planned for this year’s fair, citing Rushdie’s presence. Fair director Juergen Boos said the decision saddened him, but that freedom of speech was ‘not negotiable.'”
Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.