by Joaquin Contreras
Salman Rushdie, author and current Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University, will be at Purchase in mid October for a collaborative event with the American String Quartet.
The event, which will be held on Oct. 13, will be a performance by the Quartet of film composer Paul Cantelon’s work, which was inspired by Rushdie’s 2008 novel, “The Enchantress of Florence." In between movements, Rushdie will be reading excerpts from the novel.
“In ["The Enchantress of Florence"] Rushdie continues to use the methods of magical realism to tell a story of global connection and interdependence,” said Associate Literature Professor Gaura Narayan, who will be interviewing Rushdie after the performance. “It is a widely and heavily researched novel with a great deal of historical detail from at least three continents mingled with fantasy.”
Rushdie, 71, has been a prominent and controversial figure in literature, well known for his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” and the ensuing fatwa calling for his assassination. Rushdie’s other major works include “Midnight’s Children," -which won the 1981 Booker Prize- “Fury” and most recently, 2017’s “The Golden House.”
“Rushdie has had a profound influence on world literature because he was the first novelist from South Asia to write India,” said Narayan.
Rushdie’s rendezvous at Purchase will mark the third time in two years that distinguished writers have come to Purchase. In October 2017, Michael Chabon was named the Durst Distinguished lecturer, bringing along his friend and fellow acclaimed novelist Neil Gaiman in the spring of 2018. However, this will be the first time that an author participates in a musical performance on campus.
“We saw this project as a perfect opportunity to [provide] the opportunity to hear great music from one of the top chamber orchestras while simultaneously experiencing Mr. Rushdie’s own artistic work,” PAC director Seth Solloway told the Phoenix.
Formed when the original members were undergraduates at Juilliard, the American String Quartet is highly influential and regarded as the premier classical music orchestra, and will be celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2019. Consisting primarily of four musicians Peter Winograd, Laurie Carney, Daniel Avshalomov and Wolfram Koessel comprise the two violins, viola and cello respectively. Hailed in their respective instruments and lauded since their collegiate days, The Quartet has toured extensively throughout the Americas and Europe, being named the “best foreign chamber ensemble” by the Asociacion de Criticos Musicales de la Argentina.
Collaborations between writers and musicians aren’t at all uncommon- wordsmiths such as Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Neil Gaiman, and Rushdie have created a stellar fusion of mediums with the likes of The Clash, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Amanda Palmer (his now wife) and Bono of U2 respectively. The Quartet have also parlayed into the literary territory, performing with authors Phil Klay, Frank Bidart, Matthea Harvey and others.
“I think it’s really cool that Purchase is bringing in such high profile artists,” said freshman Communications major and Rushdie reader Allan Kaufman. “Rushdie’s work is interesting on its own, so with music involved it’ll be a whole new experience.”
Although most of these collaborations are not as well known as one would imagine, they are prominent examples of transcendent ideas, although explored through different expressions. Narayan’s discussion with Rushdie post performance will further explore this idea, as well as divulging his process, ideas and overall oeuvre of his writing. This will likely be a collaboration which the worlds of music and literature won’t soon forget.