Arts & Life
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This article was published 21/4/2009 (4203 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Controversial Indo-British novelist Salman Rushdie will speak in Winnipeg in the fall.
He will give a lecture Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Pantages Playhouse to mark the 25th anniversary of the Winnipeg Arts Council.
WAC executive director Carol Phillips confirmed the date Tuesday, saying that his appearance here is not part of any tour.
"I phoned up his agent and he said yes," Phillips said.
"He'll speak on the subject of politics and the arts, so it's perfect."
Rushdie, who has appeared in Canada on several occasions, has been a public figure since his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, was deemed blasphemous and resulted in a fatwa -- a judgment in Islamic law (in this case a death sentence) -- against him by Iran's spiritual leader at the time, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The fatwa is still technically in effect because Khomeini died without rescinding it.
Rushdie was quoted in India's national newspaper The Hindu in 2007 as saying he still receives a "sort of Valentine's card" from Iran each year on Feb. 14, the anniversary of the fatwa, letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him.
"It's reached the point where it's a piece of rhetoric rather than a real threat," he said.
WAC has yet to have discussions with anyone over security issues related to Rushdie's visit, Phillips says.
"He hasn't asked for anything," she said.
Winnipeg's McNally Robinson Booksellers was vandalized a short time after The Satanic Verses was released in 1989.
The glass door of the retailer's former location at Grant and Kenaston was shattered and gas-soaked rags were tossed on the floor.
The store's co-owner, Paul McNally, said at the time he wouldn't be intimidated into taking the book off his shelves, even though other Canadian book stores heeded anonymous, ominous warnings to do so.
"All I have to say is this is a free country," Shahina Siddiqui, a spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Islamic community, said yesterday. "If people want to listen to him, they have the right."
Rushdie, 61, is the author of nine novels, most recently The Enchantress of Florence, which was released last June. In July, his 1981 classic, Midnight's Children, an allegory of the birth of modern India, was voted the best of the Man Booker Prize winners in the prestigious award's 40-year history.
Rushdie, who spoke in Edmonton in November and in Ottawa the previous spring, is collaborating on a screenplay of Midnight's Children with Canadian movie director Deepa Mehta.
Born in Bombay to Shiite Muslim parents, Rushdie has long claimed to be non-religious. In much of his writing, and in many of his public statements, he has become associated with the so-called neo-atheist movement along with such outspoken figures as biologist Richard Dawkins and journalist Christopher Hitchens.
In 2007 Rushdie began a five-year term as writer-in-residence at Emory University in Atlanta.
The Satanic Verses is a skeptical reimagining of a group of apocryphal Qur'an verses that allowed for prayers of intercession to be made to three Pagan Meccan goddesses.
Phillips says that the details of ticket availability and price have yet to be determined.
But she confirmed that the third annual Mayor's Luncheon for the Arts is a go for June 12. Tickets for that event, which has sold out in its first two years, will go on sale in about a week, she says.
City council formed WAC's predecessor, the Winnipeg Arts Advisory Council, in 1982.
In 2003 it was reincorporated as an arm's-length agency. It oversees the distribution of more than $4 million a year to Winnipeg arts institutions and individuals. It also oversees a $500,000 pot for the commission of public art.
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