Salman Rushdie Biography

Salman Rushdie Biography

For Salman Rushdie, being a writer has been far from a safe occupation. His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, was so controversial that he was forced to live in hiding for nearly ten years. The novel had been criticized as portraying the prophet Muhammad irreverently, and when it was deemed as blasphemous by Islamic leaders, a fatwa (or death warrant) was placed on the author. Though the fatwa has been revoked at this point, some extremists still insist they want Rushdie dead. Happily, though, there are many more people who are content to just read his work. He garnered international acclaim when Midnight’s Children was published in 1981. Since then, that book has won numerous accolades, including the “Booker of Bookers” as the best novel to ever receive the prestigious Booker Award.

Facts and Trivia

  • Salman Rushdie has been married four times, most recently to the host of the popular television show Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi, who divorced him in 2007.
  • Rushdie was awarded the British knighthood in 2007 for his services to literature.
  • He has openly criticized the wearing of the veil by Muslim women. “I think,” he has said, “the battle against the veil has been a long and continuing battle against the limitation of women.”
  • Ironically, his first novel, Grimus, was a sci-fi story that no one paid much attention to.
  • Rushdie had a tendon operation in 1999 to correct an eye problem. He claims that if he had not had it done, he would have been unable to open his eyes in later years.

The Novel’s Alleged Offenses

The novel’s odd-numbered sections narrate the adventures of two popular Anglo-Indian actors, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, who (having survived the terrorist bombing of their airplane) attempt to resume normal life in modern London. The even- numbered sections concern an imaginary story about the Prophet Muhammad in the fictitious holy city of Jahilia and the apparently doomed mission of the prophetess Ayesha to lead Muslim Indian villagers on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The novel’s climax reveals a miraculous parting of the waters of the Arabian Sea and the subsequent apparent drowning of the pilgrims. However, it is possible that the entire sequence is part of a fantasy in one of the popular religious films...

(The entire section is 320 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

After early education at Bombay’s Cathedral School (1954 to 1961), Salman Rushdie was sent by his nominally Moslem but Anglophile parents to England for an even more British training: Rugby (1961 to 1964) and King’s College, Cambridge (1965 to 1968). After traveling to Pakistan, he was forced to return to England because his production of Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story (pr., pb. 1959) mentioned “pork,” thereby inciting Moslem protests. He tried acting, worked as an advertising copywriter, and composed the poorly received Grimus (1975). Not until his success with Midnight’s Children in 1981 could he earn a living from his fiction.

In 1988, his life changed radically with the...

(The entire section is 238 words.)