Story at a glance
- After Salman Rushdie published his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” Iran’s then-leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his death.
- “Midnight’s Children” won the Booker Prize in 1981 and was awarded the accolade of “the best novel of all winners” on two occasions.
- Rushdie’s sixth novel, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” is set in three cities that prove to be important markers in his life – Bombay, London and New York City.
British-American author Salman Rushdie is on the mend, days after the author of “The Satanic Verses” suffered serious injuries in a stabbing at a lecture in New York.
Rushdie, who has been nominated for the Booker Prize seven times, won the prestigious award in 1981 for his book “Midnight’s Children,” and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for services to literature in 2007.
He has authored more than 20 books including a children’s novel, “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” (1990), as well as a book of essays titled “Imaginary Homelands” (1991).
Here are five of the books that made Rushdie an international literary icon:
Midnight’s Children (1981)
Rushdie’s second novel, “Midnight’s Children,” is set against the backdrop of India’s independence from British rule and follows the protagonist Saleem Sinai – who is born at the exact moment of independence – at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947.
The book chronicles the country’s struggles under the weight of the chaotic partition of the Indian sub-continent and the pain and trauma faced by the two new nations – India and Pakistan.
Interestingly, Sinai is gifted with telepathic powers that connects him to India’s other “midnight’s children,” who were born in the hour following independence. The novel places him at every pivotal moment in the sub-continent over the course of the next three decades.
Rushdie was born in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) two months before India was given independence. In 1993, the book was picked as the best Booker Prize novel in 25 years.
The Satanic Verses (1988)
His most controversial work – “The Satantic Verses” – is a magical realism work of fiction published in 1988 that resulted in the fatwa against him and was panned by some Muslims who considered the novel to be blasphemous. While “Midnight’s Children” generated international acclaim, it was his fourth novel that led him to spend the next decade in hiding. The book’s descriptions of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad garnered fierce backlash from Iran’s former supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued the fatwa calling for his death.
Rushdie was criticized for his character’s name in the book – Mahound – which is a medieval corruption of “Muhammad,” according to The Associated Press.
The character was a prophet in a city called Jahilia, which in Arabic refers to the time before the advent of Islam on the Arabian Peninsula, and implies that Muhammad, not Allah, may have been the Quran’s real author.
The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999)
Rushdie’s sixth novel, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” is set in three cities that prove to be important markers in his life – Bombay, London and New York City.
The book follows three protagonists: Vina Apsara, a famous rock singer; guitarist and songwriter Ormus Cama, who is her lover and band mate; and the narrator, a tone-deaf photographer known as Rai.
The book is inspired by the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus, where the latter descends to the underworld to retrieve her. Vita is lost in an earthquake in Mexico and Ormus tries to bring her back. The book begins with an earthquake that takes place on February 14, 1989, the same day Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Rushdie.
Shalimar the Clown (2005)
His 2005 novel, “Shalimar the Clown,” is set in Kashmir – known as the crown jewel of British India and famed for its beauty. India and Pakistan bitterly fought over Kashmir since its independence, sparking two wars between the countries.
The novel follows U.S. diplomat Max Ophuls, who worked in the Kashmir Valley and is murdered by his former chauffeur, Shalimar. It is story of love and politics.
The book was named as one of the finalists of Britain’s prestigious Whitbread Book Awards in 2005. However, some reviews of the book were heavily critical of Rushdie. The New York Times review said that the novel is “hobbled by Rushdie’s determination to graft huge political and cultural issues onto a flimsy soap-opera plot.”
Joseph Anton (2012)
Rushdie wrote about his experience in hiding in his memoir published in 2012 called “Joseph Anton,” using his alias for a decade while he was on the run following the fatwa. The New York Times noted that the memoir is “a record of his relocation from Bombay to London to New York, where he settled in 2000.”
The name is a combination of his favorite writers: Anton Chekhov and Joseph Conrad.
He told NPR that the alias was necessary so that he could rent property because doing so in his own name would be dangerous.
“And I was asked to make it not an Indian name. And so, deprived of one nationality, I retreated into literature — which is, you could say, my other country — and chose this name from the first names of Conrad and Chekhov: Joseph Conrad, Anton Chekhov equals Joseph Anton,” he added.
[With inputs from The Associated Press]