Salman Rushdie or officially Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is a British Indian author of literary fiction best known for the Fatwa issued against him for writing the novel “The Satanic Verses.” Rushdie was born in in Mumbai, India then Bombay, just before the independence of India in 1947. He was born to a schoolteacher mother and a very wealthy merchant father. Given his family’s wealth, he went to a prestigious private school in Bombay after which he was sent to The Rugby School, a boarding school in Warwickshire, England. For his college studies he studied history at the Kings College of the University of Cambridge. After he got his masters from Cambridge, he moved to Pakistan and lived with his family for a time as he had found a job working as a television writer. But he would soon move back to England in the 1970s and worked as an advertising copywriter before he decided to try his hand at writing fiction. In 1975, he published his first novel “Grimus.” Over the years, Rushdie has received many accolades for his writing. He is a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2007.
In 1976, Salman Rushdie published his first novel “Grimus,” a science fiction and fantasy novel. The novel was a flop as it received tepid reviews and never became popular. Not one to be deterred, he continued writing and in 1981 published his second work “Midnight’s Children,” which was the turning point in his career. Published in 1981, the novel tells the complicated history of India from the eyes of Saleem Sinai, a pickle factory worker. The novel was a critical and commercial success as it won the Best of Bookers, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Booker Prize. In 1983 Rushdie wrote the novel “Shame” which was about his adopted country of Pakistan where he had lived for a few years. The novel made the shortlist for the Booker Prize, and won the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, a prestigious French literary prize. With two critically acclaimed novels he cemented his place as an elite author.
Salman Rushdie became very popular with the publication of his magical realist novel “The Satanic Verses.” The novel was critically acclaimed and made the shortlist for the Booker Prize and was the winner of the novel of the year Whitbread Award. Partly inspired by the life of Muhammad, it drew the ire of Muslims across the world for what was then deemed a disrespectful account of the life of Islam’s prophet. The novel was banned in many majority Muslim countries and Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Rushdie in 1989. The fatwa offered a bounty for anyone that killed the author and henceforth Rushdie had to live under police protection. The fatwa was finally lifted in 1998 and Rushdie voiced his support for Islam and offered a public apology. Despite the controversy, he generated he continued to write in the following years and as it stands has nearly a dozen novels, several children’s books, a number of published essay collections and several works of nonfiction. In 2019, he published “Quichotte” a reworking of Miguel de Cervantes’s 17th-century novel “Don Quixote” which has been well received by critics. His works have been published in more than 40 languages across the world.
Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” is an allegory of the history of India just before and after the partition and independence of India. The lead character is Saleem Sinai that was born just as India gained its independence from Britain. He was born with a constantly sopping nose, a particularly sensitive sense of smell and telekinetic powers. He was born at midnight on 15th August 1947 and became one of the special children born in the hour between 12 and 1 am that all have supernatural abilities. He is a telepathic conduit that uses his gifts to bring together children of different backgrounds as they try to discover the origin and meaning of their special powers. Saleem’s Midnight Children’s Conference mirrors the challenges faced by India such as political, cultural, religious and linguistic differences immediately after it came into existence. During this time, he has to endure the migrations and violence that characterized the partition of the continent. Saleem is also caught up in the Indira Gandhi Emergency and strongly criticizes the prime minister’s overreaching policies and greed for power during this time of turmoil. He writes a chronicle of the emergency that is a combination of the history of the nation and his own, which he hopes his son will one day come to read.
“Shame” by Salman Rushdie is a novel set in a fictional society where shame is explored in all its different manifestations. The characters right from the outset swim in their indignity as Salman tells of the people engaged in the seven deadly sins before adding fury to make for quite an interesting story. The story features three sisters Bunny, Chunni and Munnee who are virtually prisoners in their father’s rich and expansive mansion. They are waiting for the man to die so that they can get their hands on the money he has accumulated. They throw a huge party when the old man finally gives up the ghost as they are now free. As often happens when previously locked up and naïve girls are set free to do as they please, one of the girls gets pregnant but it is anything but unplanned. The sisters had always wanted a baby and so they were all eager to become aunts and surrogate mothers to their sister’s illegitimate child. Omar Khayyam is a disturbed youth who is so lazy that he hardly leaves the compound. But he finally leaves when his three mothers convince him to go out to the city with them where they engage in sin and gluttony. He had been brought up to be unashamed of anything and befriends a slovenly boy named Iskander and together, they are soon living a legendary life of debauchery.
Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” is his most popular and most critically acclaimed work. At the opening of the novel, two Indian born expatriates are traveling to London when their plane is taken over by hijackers and blown up over the English Channel. They are both driven by tempestuous desires and a love for the British Isles whose citizens proudly proclaim that they are the standard bearers of civilization across the world. The two are the only ones to survive the terrorist incident and from their experiences escaping from certain death, they become completely new persons. Gibreel Farishta who had once been a washed-out celebrity from Bollywood is now angel Gabriel while his friend Saladin Chamcha forsakes his culture and identity to come back as Satan. But they are not the only people who are living their well-ordered robotic lives in this story. Salman Rushdie writes a nonlinear narrative loosely following the life of Prophet Muhammad, though he takes his history from sub-Saharan climes to the wet and gloomy streets of London to the Indian continent over different periods of time.
Books in order of publication:
|The Satanic Verses||(1988)|
|Haroun and the Sea of Stories||(1990)|
|The Moor’s Last Sigh||(1995)|
|The Ground Beneath her Feet||(1999)|
|Shalimar the Clown||(2005)|
|The Enchantress of Florence||(2008)|
|Luka and the Fire of Life||(2010)|
|Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights||(2015)|
|The Golden House||(2017)|
|The Prophet’s Hair||(2016)|
|The Jaguar Smile||(1987)|
|The Wizard of Oz||(1992)|
|The Rushdie Letters||(1993)|
|Conversations with Salman Rushdie||(2000)|
|Step Across This Line||(2002)|