August 12th, 2002
Salman Rushdie was stabbed today. Until now, we know little about his health condition. The authorities have not yet determined the criminal's motive. Still, it is not difficult to assume that it relates to the fatwa issued three decades ago. Rushdie's crime: writing a captivating novel in which the characters blaspheme and alludes, in the title, to verses in the Koran.
Rushdie's name resonates in these times when both conservatives and progressives censor books. The firsts, because they always have to do it. The seconds, because they consider politically incorrect the works written a long time ago that do not agree with the progressive ideals of today.
Salman Rushdie is part of a brilliant generation of British writers, yet not characterized by a uniform style. Ishiguro is the best author of fantastic literature after Borges. McEwan is a clear storyteller. Rushdie is a bit like what we call Magical Realism in Latin America. The deepest of all is Julian Barnes. At least, he is the one I enjoy the most.
These authors were essential to me while mainly reading 19th-century literature. They allowed me to appreciate the novels of the 20th century—and the 21st. Once, I was asked about how my interest in history was born. I replied that it was thanks to literature, especially novels—most of them from the 19th century, as I said.
I like reading. Due to my job, I must be aware of historiographical production, as do my colleagues. Unlike some, I read things that have nothing to do with my research. I read romance, poetry, essays, and non-fiction. They make me understand things that the best history books cannot.
To be a good historian, you have to read. It's the first thing I say to my students.
I have outstanding colleagues who read many academic works but not literature. Inevitably, it shows in their books—and not only because of the prose but because it seems that when explaining processes, it forgets that they are making history of persons.
For now, I have already ordered Rushdie's Midnight's Children from the public library to re-read.