Salman Rushdie Wiki
Salman Rushdie Biography
Who is Salman Rushdie ?
Many of the 75-year-old’s books have been hugely successful, and his second novel, Midnight’s Children, won the Booker Prize in 1981.
But it was his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, published in 1988, that became his most controversial work, sparking international upheaval unprecedented in its scale.
Death threats were made against Rushdie, who was forced into hiding after its publication, and the author was placed under police protection by the British government.
The UK and Iran have severed diplomatic relations, but authors and intellectuals across the Western world have denounced the threat to freedom of expression posed by the Muslim reaction to the book.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme leader, issued a fatwa, or decree, calling for the novelist’s assassination in 1989, a year after the book’s publication.
Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay two months before India’s independence from Britain.
At the age of 14, he was sent to England and Rugby School, and went on to gain a BA Hons in History at Kings College, Cambridge.
He became a British citizen and allowed his Muslim faith to lapse. He worked briefly as an actor – he had been in Cambridge Footlights – and then as a copywriter, while writing novels.
His first published book of his, Grimus, did not achieve great success, but some critics saw him as an author with significant potential.
Rushdie took five years to write his second book, Midnight’s Children, which won the Booker Prize in 1981, was widely acclaimed and sold half a million copies.
Where Midnight’s Children had been about India, Rushdie’s third novel, Shame, published in 1983, was about a thinly disguised Pakistan. Four years later, Rushdie wrote The Jaguar Smile, an account of a trip to Nicaragua.
In September 1988, the work that would endanger his life, The Satanic Verses, was published. The surreal, postmodern novel sparked outrage from some Muslims, who considered its content blasphemous.
India was the first country to ban it. Pakistan did the same, as did several other Muslim countries and South Africa.
The novel was praised in many quarters and won the Whitbread Prize for novels. But the backlash to the book grew, and two months later, street protests gained momentum.
Muslims considered it an insult to Islam. They objected, among other things, to two prostitutes in the book being named after the wives of the Prophet Muhammad.
The title of the book refers to two verses removed by Muhammad from the Koran, because he believed they were inspired by the devil.
In January 1989 Muslims in Bradford ritually burned a copy of the book and WHSmith newsstands stopped displaying it there. Rushdie denied the blasphemy charges.
In February, people were killed in anti-Rushdie riots across the subcontinent, the British embassy in Tehran was stoned, and a price was put on the perpetrator’s head.
Meanwhile, in the UK, some Muslim leaders urged restraint, others supported the Ayatollah. The United States, France and other Western countries condemned the death threat.
Rushdie, now in hiding with his wife under police guard, expressed deep regret at the anguish he had caused Muslims, but the Ayatollah renewed his call for the perpetrator’s death.
The London offices of Viking Penguin, the publishers, were picketed and death threats received at the New York office.
But the book became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. The protests against the extreme Muslim backlash were backed by EEC countries, all of which temporarily withdrew their ambassadors from Tehran.
Rushdie’s later books include a children’s novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990), a book of essays, Imaginary Homelands (1991), and the novels East, West (1994), The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995), The Ground Beneath His Feet (1999) and Fury (2001). He participated in the stage adaptation of Midnight’s Children, which premiered in London in 2003.
In the last two decades he has published Shalimar the Clown, The Sorceress of Florence, Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, The House of Gold, and Quixote.
Rushdie has been married four times and has two children. He now lives in the United States and was knighted in 2007 for his services to literature.
In 2012, he published Joseph Anton: A Memoir, an account of his life in the wake of The Satanic Verses controversy.