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Christopher Hitchens and Salman Rushdie in Conversation

One afternoon after a botched bombing attempt in Times Square, Christopher Hitchens and Salman Rushdie–two writers who have served as lightening rods for intellectual controversy and extremist anger–concluded the PEN World Voices Festival with a conversation about tyranny’s effect on writers.

PEN filmed the event, but you can get a sneak peek at the proceedings in the GalleyCat video embedded above. Hitchens opened the annual Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture by urging Americans not to be stalled by terrorist threats: “Somebody told me this evening that perhaps attendance was down at this event because of an attempted atrocity in Times Square. If that was true, I would both be depressed and I would take it as an opportunity to align what I want to talk about…the contagion of fear.”

The two writers discussed the impact of the Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa–a religious death sentence issued against the novelist in 1989. During a conversation with Hitchens after the lecture, Rushdie reminded the audience that he was still alive while Khomeini had died. “Don’t mess with novelists!” laughed Rushdie.

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