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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
newest book, Shalimar the Clown, released in September 2005, was
a finalist for the Whitbread Book Awards.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
10. June, 2006 - Rushdie was interviewed for Bill Moyers PBS special
Faith & Reason
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."
don't think there is a need for an entity like God in my life."
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."
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."
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
Woody Allen were a Muslim, he'd be dead by now."