Salman Rushdie on Writing and the Nation

The nations requires anthems, flags. The poet offers discord, rags.

Beware the writer who sets himself or herself up as the voice of the nation. This includes nations of race, gender, sexual orientation, elective affinity. This is the new Behalfism…. The New Behalfism demands uplift, accentuates the positive, offers stirring moral instruction. It abhors the tragic sense of life. Seeing literature as inescapably political, it replaces literary values with political ones.

It is the murder of thought. Beware.

Nationalism corrupts writers, too…. In a time of ever more narrowly defined nationalisms, of walled in tribalisms, writers will be found uttering the war cries of their tribes.

“Notes on Writing and the Nation”, Harper’s Magazine, September 1997


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