Acclaimed Novelist Salman Rushdie to Speak Feb. 18 at UNC Asheville’s Kimmel Arena


UPDATED Jan. 27, 2016 - New companion event added on Feb. 18 - see list below.

Sir Salman Rushdie, one of the most celebrated writers of our time, will give a free public talk at UNC Asheville’s Kimmel Arena, beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18. His lecture is titled Public Events, Private Lives: Literature + Politics in the Modern World. UNC Asheville will also present four companion events the week of Rushdie’s talk.

The author of 12 novels, a book of stories and four works of non-fiction, Rushdie’s works have been translated into more than 40 languages. He has received numerous awards, including the U.K.’s Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel, Midnight’s Children (Jonathan Cape, 1981). In 1993, it won the “Booker of the Bookers,” and in 2008, it was voted the “Best of Booker.” He received knighthood status in England in 2007 for services to literature.

“Rushdie is one of the world’s foremost writers and a brave champion of freedom of expression,” said UNC Asheville Provost Joe Urgo. “He is an important advocate for writers and has helped bring new authors from around the globe to the world’s attention. We are excited to host him on our campus, to include his works in classroom discussions and to give our community in Western North Carolina a chance to hear him speak in person.”

In December, Rushdie was awarded the 2015 Mailer Prize, the highest award given by The Norman Mailer Center, named for the influential and controversial writer. Rushdie has also served as president of the PEN American Center, the membership association of prominent writers, and helped create the PEN World Voices International Literary Festival, held annually in New York City. In addition, Rushdie received the Edgerton Prize of the American Civil Liberties Union.

 “Some 27 years have passed since the Iranian fatwa against Mr. Rushdie,” said Samer Traboulsi, associate professor of history at UNC Asheville, referring to the call for Rushdie’s death in response to his novel The Satanic Verses. “The 12 books he published since are a testimony that intimidation and violence will not silence our basic human right of free speech.”

To accompany Rushdie’s visit to campus, UNC Asheville also presents these special events:

  • Marathon Reading: Haroun and the Sea of Stories – Rushdie’s 1990 children’s book, which originated as stories he told aloud to his son, will be read aloud by UNC Asheville students and faculty. Monday, Feb. 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in Ramsey Library lobby. Free.
  • The Cleric and The Storyteller: Khomeini’s Fatwa and Rushdie’s Satanic Verses – This lecture by Samer Traboulsi will cover the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses and the fatwa issued by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini calling for Rushdie’s death. Tuesday, Feb. 16, noon-1 p.m. in Karpen Hall room 139. Free.
  • Film Screening: Midnight’s Children – Director Deepa Mehta’s 2012 film adaptation of Rushdie’s acclaimed novel, which follows the lives of children born at the stroke of midnight as British rule ended and India and Pakistan were partitioned. Wednesday, Feb. 17, 7 p.m. in Highsmith Union Grotto. Free.
  • Post-Colonialism, Hybridity, and Rushdie - Lecture by Vanessa Guignery, professor of English literature at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, and the author of seven books on recent British and Commonwealth fiction. Thursday, Feb. 18, noon in Karpen Hall, Laurel Forum. Free.

Rushdie graduated from the University of Cambridge and lived in England for much of his career. Born in India in 1947 (then a British colony), Rushdie has influenced many younger Indian writers and is co-editor of Mirrorwork, an anthology of contemporary Indian writing.

Since moving to the U.S. in 2000, Rushdie has seen his works adapted by the New York City Opera, and staged in New York and London by the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also collaborated with U2 on the song which shares the title of Rushdie’s book, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, a remaking of the myth of Orpheus. Rushdie’s most recent book is the novel Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (Random House, 2015).

Currently, Rushdie is Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He was formerly a University Distinguished Professor at Emory University, which houses an archive of his writings and manuscripts, and an Honorary Visiting Professor of the Humanities at M.I.T. Rushdie holds honorary doctorates and fellowships at six European and six American universities.

Doors for Rushdie’s lecture, Public Events, Private Lives: Literature + Politics in the Modern World, will open at 6 p.m. and Kimmel Arena seating is first-come, first-served for this free event. Floor seating is reserved for a limited number of UNC Asheville students, faculty, staff and other university partners. Backpacks and outside food and drink are not permitted. American Sign Language interpretation will be provided, and shuttle service will be available from UNC Asheville parking lots. For more information, visit or call 828.251.6674.