On Friday night, Salman Rushdie was talking about Dorothy—that is, the Dorothy portrayed by Judy Garland in the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz.
Her mantra—“There’s noplace like home!”—is apparently not shared by the literary superstar whose 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, was banned in his native India and resulted in a fatwa against him.
“Rubbish!” he called Glinda’s prescription for Dorothy.
The excursion into popular culture—in fact, it’s a favorite pastime of Mr. Rushdie to plumb the philosophical depths of Munchkinland—was occasioned at one of those “conversations” presently being sponsored by The New Yorker as a part of its annual festival.
His foil this evening was also an old friend, the Nobel Prize-winning Orhan Pamuk, who has written extensively on his hometown of Istanbul and was brought to trial for “insulting Turkishness” after making a casual reference to the Armenian genocide in a Swiss newspaper interview.
“Both of them have complicated relationships with their homes,” said Deborah Treisman, fiction editor of The New Yorker and moderator of the evening’s event, by way of explaining the self-explanatory pairing.
The roughly 300 guests who sipped red wine in the glow of pale blue lighting—a mixture of swank intellectuals, grad-school groupies and Turkish and Indian glitterati—strove to look at home at the swanky High Line ballroom on 16th street off Tenth Avenue, even though the sold-out show had driven many of them to pay five or six times the face value of the ticket over the Internet.
The two kindred spirits mused for roughly an hour on the topic of “Home,” but their mutual sympathy did not prevent them from contriving some conflict—whether or not it was strictly for the benefit of Ms. Treisman’s guests— when Mr. Rushdie referred to people who never left their hometowns (or homelands) as “kind of sad.”
The audience, well-versed in the two men’s biographies, girded for Mr. Pamuk’s response: he has spent nearly his whole life in Istanbul, though he also recently purchased a $1.8 million apartment on Riverside Drive, a few blocks from Columbia University’s Morningside campus.
“I highly disagree!” Mr. Pamuk shot back.
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