Salman Rushdie: LibraryThing Author Interview
It's been widely written that you wrote this book for your younger son, Milan, who wanted his own book after you wrote Haroun and the Sea of Stories for your older son, almost 20 years ago. Does someone picking up Luka and the Fire of Life need to have read Haroun?
No. Luka was conceived as a stand-alone fiction. But the two books are companions, of course.
You've said that the book celebrates the electronic world but also cherishes power of narrative and stories; what impact do you think the electronic world has on storytelling? How will storytelling change?
There will be new ways of creating fictions, undoubtedly, but that's a question for someone half my age or even younger. It isn't going to be me who discovers the potential of the electronic world.
The story contains numerous, numerous references to mythologies from all over the world, and many references to popular culture icons like Doctor Who, The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars and more. Is popular culture the mythology of today, as gods and goddesses were the popular culture of the ancient world? I noticed that one of the only time travellers mentioned by name is Hank Morgan from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Why?
I think popular culture is a sort of modern mythology, though perhaps a somewhat impoverished one. Don't know why only Hank Morgan gets named. It just came out that way.
Ostensibly a story for children, the book's extensive wordplay, allusions, punning and verbal games present some tantalizing puzzles for adults as well. What audience did you have in mind as you wrote the book?
Everyone I could get.
You've been quoted as saying "Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts." The story of Captain Aag and the circus at the very beginning of the book is like the whole story in summary, but it's also a version of the story that happens in the real as opposed to magical world. Are the events in the magical world real, or are they like Dorothy's adventures in Oz- vivid, important and life-changing, but essentially illusory?
I think they are 100% real. And so are Dorothy's, by the way. I don't buy the whole it-was-just-a-dream thing.
An important theme in the book is the growth of the father-son relationship- how it evolves over time and how eventually the son replaces the father. Luka comes to believe that he must save his father to save the magical world, which his father created from his stories. But stories don't just stay with one person; they're passed down, and now that Luka knows the stories, does he really need his father anymore?
He needs his father because he loves him!
Why did you decide to use video games as a device for Luka's adventures? What about the medium interests you?
It was a way of using a new language to reinvigorate an ancient story, the story of the quest for fire. Also, I hadn't seen it done before, and that made it irresistible.
The book is a coming-of-age story as much as anything else, and in the end Luka must not so much fight the gods and goddesses of the magical world as convince them to help him; it's words that must ultimately determine his fate (and his father's). Is Luka going to be a storyteller like his father? What do you think his own imaginary world will look like?
I genuinely have no idea. Unlike Charles Dickens, I don't know what happens to my characters after the last page.
What are the myths and stories from your own childhood that resonate most with you? What kind of kid were you? Were you like Luka?
There are lots of wonderful animal fables in India, and it was fun to get to write a book full of fabulous animals.
You've been quoted as saying "Books choose their authors; the act of creation is not entirely a rational and conscious one." What was irrational about the creation of this story?
What does your son Milan think of the book?
He likes it. What a relief!
Have you ever considered putting Luka and Haroun together in a story?
Yes. Maybe that will be a story I write somewhere down the line.
This is a family book in many ways; are there any "secrets" hidden in the book, like characters based on real people or family jokes in the text?
My son Milan has a dog called Bear. And he's left-handed, like Luka. And once on vacation he found a toy that was a hybrid creature - a bird with an elephant's head, like the Memory Birds in the book. He made me put it in.
What would you want a reader coming to your work for the first time through Luka to know about how this book reflects your values as a writer?
I would want them to enjoy it, that's all. If they do that it might tempt them to pick up another of my books.
What's on your bookshelf right now?
—interview by bostonbibliophile
Books by Salman Rushdie
Midnight's Children (11326 copies)
The Satanic Verses (9607 copies)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories (3933 copies)
The Moor's Last Sigh (3112 copies)
The Enchantress of Florence (2876 copies)
The Ground Beneath Her Feet (2766 copies)
Shalimar the Clown (2518 copies)
Fury (2369 copies)
Shame (2048 copies)
East, West (1333 copies)
Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories (1013 copies)
Joseph Anton (955 copies)
Luka and the Fire of Life (893 copies)
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (851 copies)
Grimus (767 copies)
Imaginary homelands : Essays and criticism 1981-1991 (615 copies)
The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey (569 copies)
The Best American Short Stories 2008 (479 copies)
The Golden House: A Novel (436 copies)
The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories (334 copies)
Telling Tales (289 copies)
Baburnama (277 copies)
The Best American Travel Writing 2001 (206 copies)
The Wizard of Oz (BFI Film Classics) (193 copies)
Mirrorwork: 50 Years of Indian Writing 1947-1997 (184 copies)
Quichotte: A Novel (158 copies)
Novels II of Samuel Beckett: Volume II of The Grove Centenary Editions (Works of Samuel Beckett the Grove Centenary Editions) (150 copies)
XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits (136 copies)
Granta 28: Birthday: The Anniversary Issue (121 copies)
Granta 20: In Trouble Again (109 copies)
The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature (106 copies)
An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (95 copies)
The Nehrus and the Gandhis: An Indian Dynasty (90 copies)
Granta 7: Best of Young British Novelists (74 copies)
Is Nothing Sacred (40 copies)
Conversations With Salman Rushdie (33 copies)
Granta 3: The End of the English Novel (31 copies)
In Good Faith (23 copies)
Then She Found Me [2007 film] (21 copies)
Midnight's Children: The Screenplay (17 copies)
Home: Vintage Minis (16 copies)
Francesco Clemente: Self Portraits (6 copies)
Midnight's Children [2012 film] (5 copies)
The Bedside Guardian (Book 35) (5 copies)
The Prophet's Hair (4 copies)
Engelen stuifmeel uit de hemel (3 copies)
Indochine: Stories, Shaken and Stirred (3 copies)
The Firebird's Nest (3 copies)
The Duniazát (3 copies)
The Courter. Defender of the Faith (2 copies)
Birds of Prey (2 copies)
Global Lab (2 copies)
Chekov and Zulu [short fiction] (2 copies)
The New Yorker, June 1 2015 (2 copies)
The Safety Net (The Essential Heinrich Boll) (1 copies)
Railroaded!: Battle for Woodhead Pass (1 copies)
Quichotte (1 copies)
Quichot roman (1 copies)
Els versos satànics (1 copies)
Zlatý dům (1 copies)
"Imaginary Homelands", "The New Empire within Britain", "On Palestinian Identity: A conversation with Edward Said". In: Imaginary Homelands - Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 (1 copies)
Podcast Allan Gregg: The Fatwa and Islamism (1 copies)
Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship (Santa Fe, AD 1492) [short fiction] (1 copies)
The Courter [short fiction] (1 copies)
The Free Radio [short fiction] (1 copies)
Midnight's Fiction (1 copies)
Salman Rushdie at the 92nd Street Y (1 copies)
Suitcase (1 copies)
The Harmony of the Spheres [short fiction] (1 copies)
Yorick [short fiction] (1 copies)
From Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1 copies)
Two Stories (1 copies)
In the South for Francesco Clemente (1 copies)
What Rushdie Says About the British (1 copies)
Notes on Sloth (in Granta 109 - FREEMAN) (1 copies)
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