By Chet Yarbrough
Languages of Truth (Essays 2003-2020)
By Salman Rushdie
Narrated by Raj Ghatak, Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie (Author, essayist)
Salman Rushdie is an irreverent atheist who makes a strong case for science, cultural acceptance, and freedom of choice.
This memoir is somewhat diminished by Raj Ghatak’s narration of the last essays of the book. Ghatak’s presentation recounts the meaning of Rushdie’s essays, but they seem less personal without Rushdie’s narration. “Languages of Truth” is a compilation of highly personal opinions. First chapters of “Languages of Truth” are more perfectly presented by Rushdie’s unique and mellifluous voice.
Rushdie expresses strong negative opinions of America’s two most recent Republican Presidents. He ends his last essay with the hope for Donald Trump’s defeat in the coming 2021 re-election.
Rushdie argues Modi is bad for India. Contrary to the opinion of many citizens of India, Rushdie abjures Modi’s leadership. Rushdie believes Modi promotes unfair treatment of minorities, demands public fealty to Hindu nationalism, and limits freedom of choice. Rushdie is no less repelled by religious fundamentalism in the United States and its divisive influence on equal rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of choice.
In continuation of his political opinions, Rushdie suggests Britain’s Prime Minister fails the UK as badly as Trump fails America in the fight against Covid19.
There is a good deal of name dropping in Rushdie’s essays. He writes of his love for Christopher Hitchens, Harold Pinter, and Carrie Fisher. Rushdie admires Hitchens’ irreverent sense of humor and consistent atheism. Both Hitchens and Pinter support Rushdie in the writing and publication of “The Satanic Verses”.
Rushdie recounts his first meeting with Carrie Fisher with whom he becomes a close friend. He notes how friends are particularly protective of Fisher because of her personal trials. Rushdie notes his friendship with Fisher is intimate, caring, and asexual.
Parenthetically, Rushdie notes–contrary to the notion of men not being able to be friends with women, his friendship with Fisher denies the sexual-tension myth reinforced by movies.
Rushdie notes he is also an admirer and friends of well-known contemporary writers like Phillip Roth. There are other lesser-known artists of other media who become Rushdie’s friends. He speaks of Bhupen Khakhar, Grancesco Clemente, Taryn Simon, and Kara Walker. In each of these friend recollections, Rushdie emphasizes what he perceives are “Languages of Truth” expressed in movies, painting, photographs, and other artistic media.
To this reviewer, the more interesting reveal in Rushdie’s essays are his opinions about books and plays that a listener has read. He offers reviews of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five”, Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” and Shakespeare’s oeuvre. He reaches back to ancient history with Heraclitus and his sparsely remaining written notes. Rushdie identifies the difference between American and India folk tales where one has a moral while the other simply recounts events without judgement.
Ayatollah Khomieni (1902-1989, the first Supreme Leader of Iran.)
Rushdie’s intellect and wit led to the infamous Islamic fatwa from Khomeini that authorized his killing for blaspheming Allah.
Rushdie’s appeal is to liberals of the world. Many conservatives will cringe at Rushdie’s rejection of religion and acceptance of social and sexual difference. However, Rushdie shows himself to be an unrepentant intellectual with a warm heart and wicked wit.