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Manuscripts in an archive: Unpublished Rushdie novels and a TV script

Mishra, V.ORCID: 0000-0002-0193-9736 (2013) Manuscripts in an archive: Unpublished Rushdie novels and a TV script. In: Salman Rushdie in the 21st Century: Swallowing the World Conference, 6 - 9 November 2013, Faculty of Letters. University of Lisbon


THE SALMAN RUSHDIE PAPERS and digital material were bought by Emory University for an undisclosed sum in 2006. At Emory all three aspects of an archive – that an archive should be deposited somewhere, that it should be classified according to established generic and/or historical principles, that there should be a unity, system or synchrony governing an archive – come together as a normative principle of what Derrida (in Archive Fever) has referred to as archive ‘consignation’. There are, however, parts of the archive which are not open: Rushdie’s diaries, his financial details, accounts of his journey to India upon the publication of Midnight’s Children, and other ‘sensitive’ material, especially those relating to the fatwa. These had to be kept secret because soon after the installation of the archive (perhaps because of it since the labour of Emory archivists made the material accessible even to the author himself) Rushdie began the task of writing Joseph Anton (2012). But what of the unpublished novels and other works in manuscript? Shouldn’t these also be kept secret? Why expose apprentice work that show writer’s painful attempts to master the craft of fiction? Is it that they are useful only in so far as they may provide editorial notes to a writer’s published works? These questions imply that the unpublished works do not have any value in evaluative criticism and nor can they be adequately theorized because unless published the texts are accessible only to those few scholars who may be willing to make the journey to Emory or wait for the day when the entire archive is electronically available. This essay proposes a theory of the ‘unpublished work’ of a major writer and is offered as a narrative about an author’s search for both the right content and style. It took Rushdie some dozen years of quiet persistence before he found his voice.

Almost thirteen years pass between June 1968, when Rushdie graduates, and April 1981, when Midnight’s Children is published. In between, as we read in Joseph Anton, ‘he wrote unbearable amounts of garbage’( 49). This paper looks at three unpublished novels and a TV script – the ‘unbearable … garbage’ of Rushdie – in the archive: ‘The Book of the Peer’ (1969?–), ‘Crosstalk’ (1974?), ‘The Antagonist’ (May 1975), and ‘Madame Rama’ (1st version August 1975; 2nd version February 1976).

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
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