With Salman Rushdie, behind the scenes of “La Grande Librairie”, on France 5

Usually a hive of activity, the France Télévisions building is surprisingly empty on Saturday May 4

With Salman Rushdie, behind the scenes of “La Grande Librairie”, on France 5

Usually a hive of activity, the France Télévisions building is surprisingly empty on Saturday May 4. Only Augustin Trapenard is there, with the team from “La Grande Librairie”, around forty people, aware of living a special moment since the show (recorded today and not, as usual, on Wednesday live) is dedicated to Salman Rushdie.

But precisely – and it’s as if it was enough to write the name of the writer who believes so much in the power of language for him to appear – here he is. Appearing at the bend of a corridor, he advances, at a rapid pace and surrounded by bodyguards whom he had hoped to no longer need until this knife attack, on August 12, 2022, which almost cost him his life. life, thirty-three years after the fatwa pronounced against him by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989.

After a few voice tests and lights to adjust (he lost an eye in the attack), Salman Rushdie is joined on set by Kamel Daoud and Leïla Slimani. Two writers who, as Augustin Trapenard points out, “share [his] struggles and know the price”.

Invited for the publication of his latest work (The Knife. Reflections following an assassination attempt, translated from English by Gérard Meudal, Gallimard, 272 pages, 23 euros), Salman Rushdie will simply say: “I would have preferred that this book did not exist. » When Augustin Trapenard questions him about the meaning of freedom, he responds straight away: “It’s what we can’t write without. Freedom is a true necessity for all artists. »

While a tribute is paid to Paul Auster, who died on April 30, Salman Rushdie evokes "the friend", "the brother", the public support he provided, alongside Colum McCann in particular, after the attack with a knife. However, and even if many of them brandished a

The observation is shared by Kamel Daoud: “Guilt is on the rise, and certain political groups have understood this very well. » And Salman Rushdie drives home the point: “We are going through a very dark moment where we are required to define ourselves in a very narrow way (…), when each of us is several things at the same time. »

“My wife’s husband.”

His speech echoes the one he gave on October 22, 2023, when he was awarded the Peace Prize at the Frankfurt Book Fair, in which he regretted that “freedom, in particular freedom of expression (…), finds itself attacked from all sides by reactionary, authoritarian, populist, demagogic, uneducated, narcissistic, superficial voices (…), as much by the left as by the right, by the young as well as the old. »

To the question “Who are you?” ", with the honesty but also the humor that characterizes him, Salman Rushdie gives this wonderful answer: "I am the author of my works, I am the husband of my wife, the friend of my friends, the father of my children and… that’s already not bad. » Kamel Daoud will then allow himself to say how Le Couteau is, also, “a love novel, an ode to a woman”.

This woman is the writer and photographer Rachel Eliza Griffiths, whom Salman Rushdie rushes to find, once the recording is finished, in her well-guarded dressing room, but from which there are bursts of light, a sign that life has returned to normal. rights, laughter and champagne bubbles. There, with his press officer, Pascale Richard, the editor Tiffany Gassouk, and Karina Hocine, general secretary of the Gallimard house, he will not hesitate to describe this program as “exceptional”.

Without hearing the praise – probably in the process of swapping his suit for his leather – Augustin Trapenard said he was deeply happy. For this Anglicist who read, studied and even taught Salman Rushdie before interviewing him on numerous occasions, "this program embodies the importance given by public service to literature, the defense of profoundly French values, inspired by the Enlightenment , and the possibility for novelists to dialogue and recall the importance of their words”.

At the end of his speech in Frankfurt, Salman Rushdie said nothing else: "We must continue to do, with renewed vigor, what has always been necessary: ​​to respond to malicious words with better words, to oppose the false stories of best stories, responding to hatred with love, and believing that freedom can always triumph, even in the age of lies. »