This week features a review of Salman RushdieÃ¢Â€Â™s new novel, Ã¢Â€ÂœThe Golden House.Ã¢Â€Â In 2005, Rushdie, then president of PEN America, wrote a powerful essay stressing the importance of Ã¢Â€Âœglobal dialogueÃ¢Â€Â when the world seemed the most isolated. Below is an excerpt:
In 1986 it still felt natural for writers to claim to be, as Shelley said, Ã¢Â€Âœthe unacknowledged legislators of the world,Ã¢Â€Â to believe in the literary art as the proper counterweight to power, and to see literature as a lofty, transnational, transcultural force that could, in BellowÃ¢Â€Â™s great formulation, Ã¢Â€Âœopen the universe a little more.Ã¢Â€Â Twenty years later, in our dumbed-down, homogenized, frightened culture, under the thumbs of leaders who seem to think of themselves as GodÃ¢Â€Â™s anointed and of power as their divine right, it is harder to make such exalted claims for mere wordsmiths. Harder, but no less necessary. It has perhaps never been more important for the worldÃ¢Â€Â™s voices to be heard in America, never more important for the worldÃ¢Â€Â™s ideas and dreams to be known and thought about and discussed, never more important for a global dialogue to be fostered. Yet one has the sense of things shutting down, of barriers being erected, of that dialogue being stifled precisely when we should be doing our best to amplify it. The cold war is over, but a stranger war has begun. Alienation has perhaps never been so widespread; all the more reason for getting together and seeing what bridges can be built.