literature

I am a novelist, not an activist... But I think that no one who reads what I write or who listens to my lectures can doubt that I am enlisted in the freedom movement. As an individual, I am primarily responsible for the health of American literature and culture. When I write, I am trying to make sense out of chaos. To think that a writer must think about his Negroness is to fall into a trap.

Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it's the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself. ...Science fiction is central to everything we've ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don't know what they're talking about.

An age which is incapable of poetry is incapable of any kind of literature except the cleverness of a decadence.

It's an absurd error to put modern English literature in the curriculum. You should read contemporary literature for pleasure or not at all. You shouldn't be taught to monkey with it.

Theories are more common than achievements in the history of education.

I doubt that religion can survive deep understanding. The shallows are its natural habitat. Cranks and fundamentalists are too often victimized as scapegoats for religion in general. It is only quite recently that Christianity reinvented itself in non-fundamentalist guise, and Islam has yet to do so (see Ibn Warraq's excellent book, Why I am not a Muslim). Moonies and scientologists get a bad press, but they just haven't been around as long as the accepted religions. Theology is a respectable discipline when it studies such subjects as moral philosophy, the psychology of religious belief and, above all, biblical history and literature. Like Bertie Wooster, my knowledge of the Bible is above average. I seem to know Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon almost by heart. I think that the Bible as literature should be a compulsory part of the national curriculum - you can't understand English literature and culture without it. But insofar as theology studies the nature of the divine, it will earn the right to be taken seriously when it provides the slightest, smallest smidgen of a reason for believing in the existence of the divine. Meanwhile, we should devote as much time to studying serious theology as we devote to studying serious fairies and serious unicorns.

Don't ask to live in tranquil times. Literature doesn't grow there.

Never measure literature by accounting statistics. A quarter of working authors earn less than $1,000.

Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author's soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted.

The naturalistic literature of this country has reached such a state that no family of characters is considered true to life which does not include at least two hypochondriacs, one sadist, and one old man who spills food down the front of his vest.

God created one human being, who was male and female. That means ultimately all of us are interconnected. That there is one God means we are all connected. Individual well-being depends on the greater well-being of everyone. There is no separation. This is a call for inclusion. Jews see it as including the weaker, the marginal, the orphans, the stranger. We were slaves in Egypt. Our task is not to replicate Egyptian power. We are free so we can operate differently, and not replicate slavery. Judaism is a complex, ongoing civilization, in which there is more than one view. Judaism is a religion of interpretation. We believe interpretation is part of the unfolding of creation and Divine creativity. Our interpretive tradition draws a connection between spirituality and social justice.

In the age of television, image becomes more important than substance.

I determined to make my peace with Islam, even at the cost of my pride. Those who were surprised and displeased by what I did perhaps failed to see that… I wanted to make peace between the warring halves of the world, which were also the warring halves of my soul… .The really important conversations I had in this period were with myself. I said: Salman, you must send a message loud enough to… make ordinary Muslims see that you aren't their enemy, and you must make the West understand a little more of the complexity of Muslim culture … and start thinking a little less stereotypically… . And I said to myself: Admit it, Salman, the Story of Islam has a deeper meaning for you than any of the other grand narratives. Of course you're no mystic, mister… No supernaturalism, no literalist orthodoxies… for you. But Islam doesn't have to mean blind faith. It can mean what it always meant in your family, a culture, a civilization, as open-minded as your grandfather was, as delightedly disputatious as your father was. … Don't let the zealots make Muslim a terrifying word, I urged myself; remember when it meant family… reminded myself that I had always argued that it was necessary to develop the nascent concept of the secular Muslim, who, like the secular Jew, affirmed his membership of the culture while being separate from the theology… But, Salman, I told myself, you can't argue from outside the debating chamber. You've got to cross the threshold, go inside the room, and then fight for your humanized, historicized, secularized way of being a Muslim.

The novel does not seek to establish a privileged language but it insists upon the freedom to portray and analyze the struggle between the different contestants for such privileges.

The other thing that prevents people standing up, ... is a kind of cultural defensiveness. The kind of not-washing-your-dirty-linen-in-public argument. That we in the Muslim world are under attack. And, as a result, we put up defenses. And we don't criticize even the worst people in the family. Because if it's your family, and you happen to have an idiot child, you don't tell the world it's an idiot child.

Writers and politicians are natural rivals. Both groups try to make the world in their own images; they fight for the same territory.

Our Sages say G-d imposed three vows when he sent Israel into the wilderness: (1) that the children of Israel shall never seek to reestablish their nation by themselves; (2) that they never be disloyal to the nations which have given them shelter; (3) that these nations shall not oppress them excessively (Kesubos 111a). The purpose of our exile, in addition to that of punishment, is to test us. Nachmanides (1194-1278) writes that the ultimate redemption depends on the Jewish people remaining faithful and preserving their identity in all the lands of their exile. This is a difficult task. The forces of persecution and the enticements of assimilation have often proved all too powerful. Yet, despite all, a remnant of Jewry has always remained faithful and continues so, praise be to G-d, until this very day. Thus, Jews are enjoined to perform a most precarious balancing act. On the one hand there is the obligation to act in an honest, empathetic, loyal and patriotic manner towards the nation in which they dwell. This obligation extends to Jewish relations with all peoples living within the nation. On the other hand, there is a need for spiritual and to some extent social isolation in order to practice the Torah and preserve Jewish survival. Inclining too far to either side of this dichotomy can result in much evil and confusion. In the proper balance, though, lies the fulfillment of Jewish destiny. And, combined with the yearning for the Messiah, it is the only recipe for the world's salvation.

Everyone is a genius, more or less. No one is so physically sound that no part of him will be even a little unsound, and no one is so diseased but that some part of him will be healthy -- so no man is so mentally and morally sound, but that he will be in part both mad and wicked; and no man is so mad and wicked but he will be sensible and honourable in part. In like manner there is no genius who is not also a fool, and no fool who is not also a genius.

He that resigns his peace to little casualties, and suffers the course of his life to be interrupted for fortuitous inadvertencies or offences, delivers up himself to the direction of the wind, and loses all the constancy and equanimity which constitutes the chief praise of a wise man.