Yesterday’s (print) New York Times Book Review, the Inside the List commentary, discussing Salman Rushdie’s new novel. (Paul Di Filippo’s review, posted last Friday, was seen by Rushdie himself, who tweeted it to his 1M+ followers — you can see it on his twitter feed. Paul is chuffed.) The commentary quotes an interview with Rushdie:
The book is, in part, an epic fantasy about a war between faith and reason, themes close to Rushdie’s heart. “There’s all this science fiction about people inventing computers that then become hostile to the people who created them,” he told The National Post in Canada recently. “I think of God as an idea that was developed at a time where human beings understood much less about the world we’re in. And then God became a useful way of putting together a moral code, the commandments and so on, and now, speaking for myself, I don’t need God to explain the question of origin. And I don’t want God to determine what my commandments should be. I find God to be an irrelevant idea. But on the other hand, there he is in the middle of the room, completely out of control.”
When listing that new book a couple weeks ago, I scanned his Wikipedia page, and noticed this paragraph that speaks to the issue of the value of narrative:
We need all of us, whatever our background, to constantly examine the stories inside which and with which we live. We all live in stories, so called grand narratives. Nation is a story. Family is a story. Religion is a story. Community is a story. We all live within and with these narratives. And it seems to me that a definition of any living vibrant society is that you constantly question those stories. That you constantly argue about the stories. In fact the arguing never stops. The argument itself is freedom. It’s not that you come to a conclusion about it. And through that argument you change your mind sometimes. … And that’s how societies grow. When you can’t retell for yourself the stories of your life then you live in a prison. … Somebody else controls the story. … Now it seems to me that we have to say that a problem in contemporary Islam is the inability to re-examine the ground narrative of the religion. … The fact that in Islam it is very difficult to do this, makes it difficult to think new thoughts.