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Rushdie, Salman (1947 - )
"I don't think there is a need for an entity like God in my life."

Salman Rushdie


Salman Rushdie is an Indian-born, ethnically Kashmiri, British essayist and author of fiction, most of which is set on the Indian subcontinent. He lives in London and New York City. Rushdie grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai) attended the Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai, Rugby School in Warwickshire, then King's College, Cambridge in England. Following an advertising career with Ayer Barker, he became a full-time writer. His narrative style, blending myth and fantasy with real life, has been described as magic realism.

In 2004, Rushdie married his fourth wife, the prominent Indian model and actress Padma Lakshmi. He is best known for the violent criticism his book The Satanic Verses (1988) provoked in the Muslim community. After death threats and a fatwa by Ruhollah Khomeini, calling for his assassination, he spent years underground, appearing in public only sporadically. Between 2004 and 2006 he served as president of the PEN American Center.

Career
His writing career began with Grimus, a fantastic tale, part-science fiction, which was generally ignored by the book-buying public and literary critics. His next novel, Midnight's Children, however, catapulted him to literary fame and is often considered his best work to date. It also significantly shaped the course that Indian writing in English was to follow over the next decade. This work was later awarded the 'Booker of Bookers' prize in 1983 — after being selected as the best novel to be awarded the Booker Prize in its first 25 years.

After the success of Midnight's Children, Rushdie wrote a short novel, Shame, where he depicts the political turmoil in Pakistan by basing his characters on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Both these works are characterised by, apart from the style of magic realism, the immigrant outlook of which Rushdie is so very conscious.

Rushdie is also highly influenced by modern literature. Midnight's Children borrows themes from Günter Grass's novel The Tin Drum, which Rushdie claims inspired him to begin writing. The Satanic Verses is also clearly influenced by Mikhail Bulgakov's classic Russian novel The Master and Margarita.

India and Pakistan were the themes, respectively, of Midnight's Children and Shame. In his later works, Rushdie turned towards the Western world with The Moor's Last Sigh, exploring commercial and cultural links between India and the Iberian peninsula, and The Ground Beneath Her Feet, which presents an alternate history of modern rock music. Midnight's Children receives accolades for being Rushdie's best, most flowing and inspiring work, and many of Rushdie's post-1989 works have been critically acclaimed and commercially successful.

Rushdie has also long mentored - though quietly - younger Indian (and ethnic-Indian) writers, and can be said to have an influenced an entire generation of 'Indo-Anglian' writers; it would not be an exaggeration to say that he has had a hand in shaping (and re-shaping) post-colonial literature in general. He has received many plaudits for his writings including the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. Rushdie was the President of PEN American Center from 2003-2005.

His newest book, Shalimar the Clown, released in September 2005, was a finalist for the Whitbread Book Awards.

He opposes the British government's introduction of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, something he writes about in his contribution to Free Expression Is No Offence, a collection of essays published by Penguin in November 2005. Avowedly secular, Rushdie is a self-described atheist.

Rushdie frequently speaks at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, held annually in the United Kingdom. His last appearance was in 2005 to publicise Shalimar the Clown. During the Satanic Verses controversy his appearance caused the entire room to be "locked down" by his security team.

The Satanic Verses controversy
The publication of The Satanic Verses in September 1988 caused immediate controversy in the Islamic world due to what was perceived as an irreverent depiction of the prophet Muhammad. The title refers to a Muslim tradition that is related in the book. According to it, Muhammad (Mahound in the book) added verses to the Qur'an accepting three goddesses that used to be worshipped in Mecca as divine beings. According to the legend Muhammad later revoked the verses, saying the devil tempted him to utter these lines to appease the Meccans (hence the Satanic Verses). The book was banned in many Islamic countries.

On February 14, 1989, a fatwa requiring Rushdie's execution was proclaimed on Radio Tehran by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran, calling the book "blasphemous against Islam," and a bounty was offered for the death of Rushdie, who was forced to live in hiding for years to come.

Meanwhile, further violence occurred around the world, with the firebombing of bookstores. Muslim communities throughout the world held public rallies in which copies of the book were burned. Several people associated with translating or publishing the book were attacked and seriously injured or killed.

In early 2005, Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie was reaffirmed by Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message to Muslim pilgrims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Iran has rejected requests to withdraw the fatwa on the basis that only the person who issued it may withdraw it.

Salman Rushdie in popular culture
1. In the episode "The Implant" of the U.S. television sitcom Seinfeld (1989–1998), Kramer claims to have seen Salman Rushdie in a health club. When questioned by Kramer in a sauna, the man says that he is a writer and his name is Sal Bass.
2. When The Late Show with David Letterman was staged in London for a week in 1995, Rushdie appeared briefly on the show, handed the Top Ten list to Dave, stated that he was staying in the 'Plaza Hotel' and left.
3. Salman Rushdie walked onstage during a U2 concert at Wembley Stadium on August 11, 1993. Rushdie and Bono co-wrote the song "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" for the book of the same name; the song was later recorded by U2 for the soundtrack to the film The Million Dollar Hotel.
4. Rushdie appeared as a guest panelist on the British news quiz Have I Got News For You. To prevent foreknowledge of his appearance, Paul Merton's guest was listed as the celebrated Tub of Lard.
5. In the British comedy Coupling, the character Jane claims to have stalked Rushdie, claiming "He's a real tricky one to track down," and that she, "had to use her full range of techniques."
6. In the British TV series Spooks, a character based on Salman Rushdie is assassinated in the episode "Who Guards the Guards", airing first on the 25th of October 2004
7. In October 2005, Rushdie appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher as part of a guest panel.
8. In May 2006, it was alleged that student author Kaavya Viswanathan lifted portions of Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories for her book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.
9. On May 12, 2006, Rushdie was a guest host on The Charlie Rose Show, where he interviewed filmmaker Deepa Mehta about her 2005 film, Water.
10. June, 2006 - Rushdie was interviewed for Bill Moyers PBS special Faith & Reason

Quotations

"The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas -- uncertainty, progress, change -- into crimes."

"I don't think there is a need for an entity like God in my life."

"Free societies ... are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction. Free people strike sparks, and those sparks are the best evidence of freedom's existence."

"We who have grown up on a diet of honour and shame can still grasp what must seem unthinkable to people living in the aftermath of the death of God and of tragedy: that men will sacrifice their dearest love on the implacable altars of their pride."

"Of course this is "about Islam." The question is, what exactly does that mean? After all, most religious belief isn't very theological. Most Muslims are not profound Koranic analysts. For a vast number of "believing" Muslim men, "Islam" stands, in a jumbled, half-examined way, not only for the fear of God -- the fear more than the love, one suspects -- but also for a cluster of customs, opinions and prejudices that include their dietary practices; the sequestration or near-sequestration of "their" women; the sermons delivered by their mullahs of choice; a loathing of modern society in general, riddled as it is with music, godlessness and sex; and a more particularized loathing (and fear) of the prospect that their own immediate surroundings could be taken over."

"... If Islam is to be reconciled with modernity, these voices must be encouraged until they swell into a roar. Many of them speak of another Islam, their personal, private faith. The restoration of religion to the sphere of the personal, its depoliticization, is the nettle that all Muslim societies must grasp in order to become modern...."

"If Woody Allen were a Muslim, he'd be dead by now."

 
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