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A lifetime in pursuit of free speech

March 23, 2007
When you want to learn whether or not you've made a difference to people who read literature, all you need to do is take a trip down Mumbai's busy crossroads. Wait a while as the traffic lights turn red, and look for young children weaving their way through the parked vehicles, balancing little piles of books in their hands as they rush to the faces in open car windows. If what you have written features among the photocopied, pirated titles they hawk, pat yourself on the back and walk away satisfied.

Ahmed Salman Rushdie could have, by that yardstick, patted himself a great many times over the past two decades. His novels continue to be part of those little piles. They continue to foster debate in and outside classrooms worldwide. They continue to hog large portions of bookshelves, at stores and libraries and homes. And, perhaps most importantly, they continue to encourage younger generations of writers to reach for their keyboards or writing pads in an attempt to up the ante.

For over a quarter of a century now, Salman Rushdie has continued to serve at what keepers of the canon refer to as the high altar of literature. Irrespective of the success he has enjoyed during that time, he deserves an award for that service alone.

Text: Lindsay Pereira
Rushdie at his hotel at the colonial seaside town of Parati, Rio de Janeiro, July 8, 2006

Photograph: Mauricio Lima/Getty Images
Also see: When Salman Rushdie came calling...

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