Though he is acclaimed for his elegant prose, the Indian-born, prize-winning British-American novelist is best known for having to go into hiding when Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him, essentially putting a target on his head for Islamic extremists around the world. Despite the constant threats to his life, Rushdie has managed to live a life of celebrity, including a high-profile marriage to model and foodie television star Padma Lakshmi. On Aug. 12, 2022, he was stabbed on a stage as he was about to give a lecture in New York state, sustaining serious injuries.
Facts & Information
June 19, 1947, Mumbai, India
- Grimus (1975)
- Midnight’s Children (1981)
- Shame (1983)
- The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey (1987)
- The Satanic Verses (1988)
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990)
- The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995)
- The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999)
- Fury (2001)
- Shalimar the Clown (2005)
- The Enchantress of Florence (2008)
- Luka and the Fire of Life (2010)
- Joseph Anton: A Memoir (2012)
- Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015)
- The Golden House (2017)
- Quichotte (2019)
- Booker Prize
- Golden PEN Award
- Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service for Outstanding Achievement in Literature
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize
- Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award
- Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Cultural Humanism from Harvard University
- PEN Pinter Prize
- St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates
- Aristeion European Literary Prize
- State Prize for Literature from Austria
- Swiss Freethinkers Award
- Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature
- Costa Novel Award
Language is courage: the ability to conceive a thought, to speak it, and by doing so to make it true.“The Satanic Verses”
How do you defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized.Salman Rushdie
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Born in India under the British Raj in what was then called Bombay, Rushdie was the son of a Cambridge University-educated lawyer and a teacher. His family was Muslim and Kashmiri.
Rushdie left India to attend high school in Warwickshire, England, and then college at Cambridge, earning a degree in history. As an adult, he worked in advertising agencies, writing novels in his spare time until the success of “Midnight’s Children” in 1981.
“Midnight’s Children,” a magical realist take on a generation of supernaturally gifted children with a mystical connection to India’s own birth as an independent modern nation, was a literary and commercial success, and made Rushdie one of the biggest names in literature.
Now a full-time novelist, Rushdie followed up with titles including the critically acclaimed “Shame,” a take on Pakistani history; and a nonfiction book about the Sandinistas and Nicaragua.
The Fatwa and Forced Into Hiding
In 1988, Rushdie published “The Satanic Verses,” a controversial rewriting (in a dream sequence) of Muhammad’s life and the origin of the Quran. The book created an immediate outcry in majority-Muslim countries and was banned by several of them. His books — and sometimes the stores that carried them — were burned as protests broke out around the world.
The most notable reaction was from Iran’s leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, who issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, calling for Rushdie’s death. Rushdie, who then lived in London, was forced to go into hiding and accept constant police protection for years. He survived a 1989 bombing plot. In 2010, he was included in a hit list published by Al Qaeda. In 2012, he was forced to cancel an appearance at a literary festival in Jaipur, India, after officials learned of a threat to his life.
Khomeini’s successor, the Ayatollah Ali Khameini, has repeatedly confirmed that the decree for Rushdie’s death is still in place, and an Iranian foundation reportedly still offers a $3.3 million bounty for killing him.
Celebrity and later years
Rushdie has continued to write and, despite having an extremist death sentence to his name, has become a mainstream celebrity, even appearing as himself in the 2001 movie “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” In 2007, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Rushdie has been married four times and has two children. His most high-profile marriage was to model and “Top Chef” food personality Padma Lakshmi from 2004 to 2007.
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