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Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie (born June 19, 1947, Bombay, India) is an essayist and author of fiction mostly set on the Indian subcontinent. He grew up in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), then graduated with honors from King's College[?], Cambridge in England. His narrative style, blending myth and fantasy with real life, has been described as connected with magical realism.

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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 considered his best work to date. It also shaped Indian writing during the next decade significantly. This work was later awarded the 'Booker of Bookers' prize in 1993 - being 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. Both these works are characterised by, apart from the style of magical realism, the immigrant outlook that Rushdie is so very conscious about.

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

India and Pakistan were respectively the themes 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[?], in which the influence of American rock 'n' roll[?] on India plays a role. Midnight's Children receives accolades for being Rushdie's best, most flowing and inspiring work, but none of Rushdie's post-1989 works has had the same critical reception or caused the same controversy as The Satanic Verses.

Rushdie received many other awards for his writings including the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature[?]. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society for Literature[?] and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.

The Satanic Verses controversy

The publication of The Satanic Verses in 1989 caused controversy in the Fundamentalist Muslim world, due to his irreverent depiction the prophet Muhammad. On February 14, 1989, a fatwa promising his execution was placed on him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, calling his book "blasphemous against Islam." Furthermore, Khomeini condemned Rushdie for the crime of "apostasy", i.e. attempting to leave Islam, which according to the Qu'ran is punishable by death. This was due to Rushdie's communication through the novel that he no longer believes in Islam. Khomeini called on all "zealous Muslims" to execute the writer, as well as the publishers of the book. On February 24 Khomeini then placed a three-million-US dollar bounty for the death of Rushdie. Rushdie has since lived in hiding under British-financed security.

During this period, violent protests in India, Pakistan, and Egypt caused several deaths. In 1990 Rushdie published an essay In Good Faith to appease his critics and issued an apology in which he reaffirmed his respect for Islam. However, Iranian clerics did not retract the fatwa.

Even popular musician Yusuf Islam, (a.k.a. Cat Stevens) infamously stated his agreement with the fatwa, later changing its tone to agree with the fatwa', but say:

"...that is not to say I am encouraging people to break the law or take it into their own hands: far from it. Under the Islamic Law, Muslims are bound to keep within the limits of the law of the country in which they live. - [1] (http://catstevens.com/articles/00013/index)

After the death of Khomeini, the Iranian Government publicly committed itself in 1998 to not carry out the death sentence against Mr Rushdie. This was agreed to in the context of a larger deal between Iran and the UK to normalise relations. Rushdie afterward declared that he would stop living in hiding. However, the fatwa of the Ayatolla was not lifted and some Fundamentalist Islamic media allegedly stated:

"The responsibility for carrying out the fatwa is not the exclusive responsibility of Iran. It is the religious duty of all Muslims - those who have the ability or the means - to carry it out. It does not require any reward. In fact, those who carry out this edict in hopes of a monetary reward are acting against Islamic injunctions."

In 1999 an Iranian foundation put a 2.8M USD bounty on Rushdie's head.

The novel was banned in India and South Africa and burned on the streets of Yorkshire, England. In 1991 the Japanese translator was murdered and in 1993 Rushdie's Norwegian publisher was wounded in an attack outside his house. In 1997 the bounty was doubled, and the next year (before the Iran-UK agreement) the highest Iranian state prosecutor restated his support.


  • Grimus (1975)
  • Midnight's Children (1980)
  • Shame (1983)
  • The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey (1987)
  • The Satanic Verses (1989)
  • Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990)
  • Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991 (1992)
  • East, West (1994)
  • The Moor's Last Sigh (1995)
  • The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999)
  • Fury (2001)

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