Spielzeit 26.08. - 09.10.

Satanic Verses

A reading from the work of Salman Rushdie

Over twenty years ago (not only) the literary world was shaken by an event which has shaped the debate about freedom in art ever since and dominated our attitudes to the possibility or threat of censorship: a fatwa (an Islamic court judgement) was issued by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, author of the book The Satanic Verses.  The then Shiite leader demanded that the writer be killed for alleged blasphemy in his book and for apostasy from Islam.

A bounty was offered for Salman Rushdie’s death, he was forced to live in hiding for several years for fear of assassination and even today he rarely makes public appearances.  At the same time resistance was formed against this sentence and a number of courageous writers and publishers formed a consortium to keep the forbidden book in print through a specially-founded publishing house. 

More than twenty years after its first publication, this unprecedented text belongs among the epic masterpieces of world literature.  The novel, intertwining stories with history, describes the fall from the heavens of two Indian actors and their second lives between faith and loss of faith.  The world through which they have to travel is out of joint.  They have to negotiate a way for themselves through the tensions between their traditional religious and cultural ties and the dubious values of Western mass culture.

In a reading with the Burgtheater actors Caroline Peters and Martin Schwab we wish to trace the explosive potential, poetry, vitality and spirituality of this novel also in the context of other texts by the writer.

Bernhard Robben, Salman Rushdie’s long-time translator and friend, will provide an introduction to the writer’s work and the particular story of The Satanic Verses.