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In an essay translated into French and published in the literary journal La Nouvelle Revue Française (NRF), celebrated novelist Salman Rushdie offered his perspective on the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) on the literary domain. Renowned for his Booker Prize-winning works such as The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie explored the potential impact of AI on various genres of writing, particularly highlighting its limitations in mimicking his own distinctive literary style.

Upon evaluating the capabilities of AI language model ChatGPT by commissioning it to produce a text of approximately 200 words in his stylistic manner, Salman Rushdie characterized the output as “a bunch of nonsense.” He confidently asserted that “no reader who had read a single page of mine could think I was the author. Rather reassuring,” a sentiment echoed in a translation of the article by AFP.

Rushdie articulated concerns that generative AI tools might represent a more significant threat to authors who engage in more formulaic genres, such as thrillers and science fiction, where innovation might be deemed less critical. He observed, “The trouble is that these creatures learn very quickly,” acknowledging the potential challenges this rapid advancement could pose, particularly to the realms of film and television writing, which often recycle familiar narratives. He was especially critical of the capacity of AI for creativity and humor, concluding that the technology demonstrated “no originality” and appeared “completely devoid of any sense of humor.” 

Rushdie’s reflections emerge from a career marked by both literary acclaim and controversy, including years spent in concealment following a fatwa issued by Iran in 1989 alleging blasphemy in his novel The Satanic Verses. More recently, in August 2022, the writer was attacked and seriously injured by a US citizen of Lebanese descent during a literary event in the New York area, resulting in loss of vision in one eye.

Salman Rushdie is a figure of towering intellect and narrative prowess, whose literary contributions have not only garnered critical acclaim but also sparked widespread debate and controversy. Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, in 1947, Rushdie’s work often interweaves magical realism with historical fiction, exploring themes of identity, migration and the intersections of personal and political narratives. His novel The Satanic Verses (1988) became the center of a global storm when a fatwa was issued calling for his death, forcing him into years of hiding. Despite these challenges, Rushdie has remained a steadfast champion of free speech and the power of literature to transcend borders and ideologies. His richly inventive books, including the Booker Prize-winning Midnight’s Children, continue to inspire and provoke readers worldwide. Beyond his novels, Salman Rushdie’s thoughtful commentary on the implications of technology, particularly AI, in the realm of creative writing underscores his engagement with contemporary cultural and ethical debates.

With AFP