Why is famed author Salman Rushdie coming to Lexington?

Author Salman Rushdie will speak at Transylvania University in March.
Author Salman Rushdie will speak at Transylvania University in March.

When faculty at Transylvania University were considering a theme for their Creative Intelligence lecture series this year, they kept coming back to the idea of civility.

“It’s so important because there has been so much interpretation about what democracy is,” and where civility fits within it, said Zoe Strecker, an art professor in charge of the series. “It’s probably the most important theme of our society right now.”

So Strecker was thrilled when the series’ keynote lecture landed someone who knows a lot about civility or a lack thereof: Salman Rushdie, the award-winning writer who catapulted to international fame after his book, “The Satantic Verses,” prompted the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, to put a fatwa, or death sentence, on him in 1989.

“I thought he would be fantastic because he’s an artist with an official death threat against him, someone who has experienced the opposite of civility and is unafraid to be critical within the realm of fiction,” she said. “He’s also a wonderful speaker, fantastic on stage, charming and funny and human.”

Rushdie, who was born in India and educated in England, is the author of 11 novels and 12 non-fiction books, including “Joseph Anton,” a memoir of his many years in hiding. His work has won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize, the Whitbread Prize and the Norman Mailer Prize. In 2007, Queen Elizabeth knighted him.

He is currently the writer in residence at New York University. (He is also sometimes known as the former husband of another recent Kentucky visitor, Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi.)

Rushdie will give the William R. Kenan Jr. Lecture on Wednesday, March 27 in Haggin Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. It will be free and open to the public, although tickets may be required.

Other events in the series — all of them free and open to the public — include a new choral drama, “Considering Matthew Shepard,” featuring the choral group Conspirare on Oct. 9 and a conversation with James Mustich, the author of “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List.”

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