The story at a glance
- After Salman Rushdie published his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then leader of Iran, issued a fatwa calling for his death.
- ‘Midnight’s Children’ won the Booker Prize in 1981 and was awarded ‘Best Novel of All Winners’ twice.
- Rushdie’s sixth novel, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”, is set in three cities that turn out to be important markers in his life – Bombay, London and New York.
British-American author Salman Rushdie is on the mend, days after the ‘Satanic Verses’ author was seriously injured in a stab wound at a conference in New York.
Rushdie, who has been nominated seven times for the Booker Prize, won the prestigious prize in 1981 for his book “Midnight’s Children” and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his services to literature in 2007.
He is the author of more than 20 books including a children’s novel, “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” (1990), as well as a book of essays entitled “Imaginary Homelands” (1991).
Here are five of the books that made Rushdie an international literary icon:
The Midnight 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 was 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 subcontinent and the pain and trauma faced by the two new nations – India and Pakistan.
Interestingly, Sinai is endowed with telepathic powers that connect him to India’s other ‘midnight children’, born within an hour of independence. The novel places him at every pivotal moment in the subcontinent over the next three decades.
Rushdie was born in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) two months before India’s independence. In 1993, the book was chosen as the best Booker Prize novel in 25 years.
The Satanic Verses (1988)
His most controversial work – “The Satantic Verses” – is a work of magical realism fiction published in 1988 which resulted in the fatwa against him and was rejected by some Muslims who considered the novel to be blasphemous. While “Midnight’s Children” garnered international acclaim, it was his fourth novel that saw him spend the next decade in hiding. The book’s descriptions of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad drew strong reactions from Iran’s former supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued the fatwa calling for his death.
Rushdie has come under fire 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 town called Jahilia, which in Arabic refers to the period before the advent of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, and implies that Muhammad, not Allah, may have been the true author of the Quran.[RELATED: What you need to know about Salman Rushdie and the fatwa against him]
The Ground Under His Feet (1999)
Rushdie’s sixth novel, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”, is set in three cities that turn out to be important markers in his life – Bombay, London and New York.
The book follows three protagonists: Vina Apsara, a famous rock singer; guitarist and songwriter Ormus Cama, who is her lover and bandmate; and the narrator, a deaf photographer known as Rai.
The book is inspired by the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus, where the latter descends into hell 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 Iranian 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 famous for its beauty. India and Pakistan have bitterly argued over Kashmir since its independence, sparking two wars between the countries.
The novel follows American diplomat Max Ophuls, who was working in the Kashmir Valley and is assassinated by his former driver, Shalimar. It is a story of love and politics.
The book was named one of the finalists for the prestigious UK Whitbread Book Awards in 2005. However, some reviews of the book were highly critical of Rushdie. The New York Times review said the novel is “hampered by Rushdie’s determination to graft enormous political and cultural issues onto a flimsy soap opera plot”.
Joseph Anton (2012)
Rushdie wrote about his experience in hiding in his 2012 memoir titled “Joseph Anton”, using his pen name for a decade while 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 pseudonym was necessary for him to be able to rent a property because doing so in his own name would be dangerous.
“And I was asked not to make it an Indian name. And so, deprived of a nationality, I withdrew into literature – which is, one might say, my other country – and I chose this name among the first names of Conrad and Chekhov: Joseph Conrad, Anton Chekhov equals Joseph Anton,” he added.[With inputs from The Associated Press]
Posted on August 15, 2022