Salman Rushdie


Salman Rushdie

Anglo-Indian author Salman Rushdie is one of the leading novelists of the twentieth century. His style is often likened to magic realism which mixes religion, fantasy and mythology with more grounded reality. Rushdie started his career as a copywriter, working at the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather where he came up with “irresistibubble” for Aero and “Naughty but Nice” for Cream Cakes and at the agency Ayer Barker, where he wrote the memorable line “That’ll do nicely” for the American Express. It was while he was at Ogilvy that he wrote Midnight’s Children.

Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born on June 19, 1947, in Bombay, India, to a middle-class Muslim family. He is an honorary professor in the Humanities Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association, a distinguished Fellow in Literature at the University of Anglia, a recipient of the 1993 Austrian State Prize for European Literature, a recipient of the 1996 Aristeion Literary Prize, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Commandeur de Arts et des Lettres. He was also President of PEN American Center from 2003-2005. In 2000, he moved from London to New York.

His first novel, Grimus (1975) was a work of fantasy about a young Indian who drinks a magic elixir. It was largely ignored by the literary community. His follow-up, however, launched him into the literary spotlight. Rushdie is most well-known for his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses. It was perceived in Muslim countries as blasphemous. The novel, which was allegedly inspired by the life of Prophet Muhammad and whose title refers to writings from the Qur’an, was banned in Rushdie’s home country of India. And in 1989, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini famously issued a fatwa that called for his head. He lived in seclusion for roughly nine years. He is the author of numerous best-selling novels like Grimus, Shame and Fury, The Moor’s Last Sigh among others. Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children (1981) won the Booker Prize, and in 2008 was named the Best of the Bookers, the best Booker prize-winning novel to have received the prize.

Since the religious decree, Rushdie has shunned publicity, hiding from assassins but has continued to write and publish books. Rushdie has been married four times. While Rushdie has always been best known as a novelist, he is also an artful essayist (Imaginary Homelands, 1991 and Step Across This Line, 2002); an influential, and sometimes controversial editor (The Vintage Book of Indian Writing, 1997 and The Best American Short Stories, 2008); a short story writer (East, West, 1994) and an astute cultural critic (The Wizard of Oz, 1992). For Rushdie, it seems, excess, superabundance and multiplicity are more than just aesthetic concerns. In addition to giving interviews to the media, Rushdie has played himself in television films and was cast as Dr Masani, a gynecologist in Hunt’s comedy Then She Found Me in 2007. For the US network Showtime, Rushdie wrote in 2011 a teleplay called Next People about contemporary American life. Following Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on insurgents in 2011, Rushdie and other authors such as Umberto Eco, David Grossman, Amos Oz, Orhan Pamuk and Wole Soyinka urged the United Nations to condemn the repression as a crime against humanity.

Rushdie believes that beyond self-exploration lies a sense of writing as a sacrament. In many interviews, he has said that according to him writing fills the hole left by the departure of God.