- Category : Author
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Education 1
Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie born 19 June 1947) is a British-Indian novelist and essayist. He first achieved fame with his second novel, Midnight's Children (1981), which won the Booker Prize.
Much of his fiction is set on the subcontinent of India. Increasingly, however, the dominant theme of his work has become the long, rich and often fraught story of the many connections, disruptions and migrations between the East and the West.
His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), provoked violent reactions from Muslims all over the world. After death threats and a fatwa (religious edict) issued by Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini calling for his assassination, he spent years underground, appearing in public only sporadically. During the last decade, however, he has resumed a normal literary life. In June 2007, he was appointed a Knight Bachelor for "services to literature". The announcement met with disapproval from some Muslim nations and communities, , with some claiming that it "may spark terrorism".
The only son of Anis Ahmed Rushdie, a lawyer turned businessman, and his wife, the former Negin Butt, a teacher, Rushdie was born into a Muslim family in Mumbai (then called Bombay), India. He was educated at Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai and Rugby School and King's College, Cambridge, where he read history. Following an advertising career with the firms Ogilvy & Mather and Ayer Barker, he became a full-time writer.
Rushdie has been married four times. His first wife was Clarissa Luard, to whom he was married from 1976 to 1987 and with whom he has a son, Zafar Rushdie. His second wife was the American novelist Marianne Wiggins; they were married in 1988 and divorced in 1993. His third wife, from 1997 to 2004, was Elizabeth West; they have a son, Milan Rushdie. Since 2004, he has been married to the Indian actress and model Padma Lakshmi, the host of the American reality-television show Top Chef.
In 1999, Rushdie had an operation to correct a tendon condition that was making it increasingly difficult for him to open his eyes. "If I hadn't had an operation, in a couple of years from now I wouldn't have been able to open my eyes at all," he said.
Religious & political beliefs
Salman was raised a muslim but is reviled as an apostate in muslim countries especially Pakistan. His books often focus on the role of religion in society and conflicts between faiths and between the religious and those of no faith.
Rushdie advocates the application of higher criticism, pioneered during the late 19th century. Rushdie calls for a reform in Islam in a guest opinion piece printed in The Washington Times and The Times in mid August 2005. Excerpts from his speech,
"What is needed is a move beyond tradition, nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air.
It is high time, for starters, that Muslims were able to study the revelation of their religion as an event inside history, not supernaturally above it.
Broad-mindedness is related to tolerance; open-mindedness is the sibling of peace."
Major literary work
His first novel, Grimus (1975), a part-science fiction tale, was generally ignored by the book-buying public and literary critics. His next novel, Midnight's Children (1981), however, catapulted him to literary fame. It also significantly shaped the course that Indian writing in English would follow over the next decade. This work won the 1981 Booker Prize and in 1993 was awarded the 'Booker of Bookers' as the best novel to have received the prize during its first 25 years. After the success of Midnight's Children, about the birth of the modern nation of India, Rushdie wrote Shame (1983), in which he depicts the political turmoil in Pakistan by basing his characters on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Shame won France's Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book) and was a close runner-up for the Booker Prize. Both of these works are characterised by a style of magic realism and the immigrant outlook of which Rushdie is very conscious, as a member of the Indian diaspora. In the 1980s, Rushdie visited Nicaragua, the scene of Sandinista political experiments, and this experience was the basis for his next book, The Jaguar Smile (1987).
In his 2002 nonfiction collection Step Across the Line, he professes his admiration for the Italian writer Italo Calvino and the American writer Thomas Pynchon, amongst others. His early influences included James Joyce, Günter Grass, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Lewis Carroll.
India and Pakistan were the themes of Midnight's Children and Shame, respectively, examples of postcolonial literature. In his later works, Rushdie turned towards the Western world with The Moor's Last Sigh (1995), exploring commercial and cultural links between India and the Iberian peninsula, and The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999), which presents an alternative 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. His 2005 novel Shalimar the Clown received, in India, the prestigious Crossword Fiction Award, and, in Britain, was a finalist for the Whitbread Book Awards. It is shortlisted for the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Rushdie has mentored – though quietly – younger Indian (and ethnic-Indian) writers, influenced an entire generation of 'Indo-Anglian' writers, and is an influential writer in postcolonial literature in general. He has received many plaudits for his writings, including the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature, the Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy), and the Writer of the Year Award in Germany. 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 2004 to 2006.
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. He is a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association.
On October 6, 2006, it was announced that Rushdie would be joining the Emory University faculty as Distinguished Writer in Residence for one month a year for the next five years.He is currently working on a book set in the Mughal Empire and Renaissance Italy. Though he enjoys writing, Salman Rushdie says that he would have become an artist if his writing career was not successful. Even from early childhood, he drew pictures and sculpted long before he took an interest in writing.
He was awarded a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 2007. He remarked "I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognised in this way." The Iranian Foreign Ministry qualified the honoring of "a hated apostate" as Islamophobic.
The Satanic Verses and the fatwa
The publication of The Satanic Verses in September 1988 caused immediate controversy in the Islamic world because of 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 (sura) 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). However, the narrator reveals to the reader that these disputed verses were actually from the mouth of the Archangel Gibriel. The book was banned in many countries with large Muslim communities. His critics included peers, such as Roald Dahl who called him "a dangerous opportunist", Germaine Greer who called him "an Englishman with dark skin" and Hugh Trevor-Roper who said "I would not shed a tear if some British Muslims should waylay him in a dark street".
On 14 February 1989, a fatwa requiring Rushdie's execution was proclaimed on Radio Tehran by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran at the time, calling the book "blasphemous against Islam." A bounty was offered for the death of Rushdie, who was thus forced to live under police protection for years to come. On 7 March 1989, the United Kingdom and Iran broke diplomatic relations over the Rushdie controversy.
The publication of the book and the fatwa sparked violence around the world, with bookstores being firebombed. Muslim communities in several nations held public rallies in which copies of the book were burned. Several people associated with translating or publishing the book were attacked, seriously injured, and even killed.
On 24 September 1998, as a precondition to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Britain, the Iranian government, then headed by moderate Mohammad Khatami, gave a public commitment that it would do nothing to harm Rushdie. But the hardliners in Iran have continued to reaffirm the death sentence. In early 2005, Khomeini's fatwa was reaffirmed by Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message to Muslim pilgrims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Additionally, the Revolutionary Guards have declared that the death sentence on him is still valid. Iran has rejected requests to withdraw the fatwa on the basis that only the person who issued it may withdraw it.
Salman Rushdie reported that he still receives a "sort of Valentine's card" from Iran each year on February 14 letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him. He was also quoted saying, "It's reached the point where it's a piece of rhetoric rather than a real threat." Despite the threats on Rushdie, he has publicly said that his family has never been threatened and that his mother (who lived in Pakistan during the later years of her life) even received outpourings of support.