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Celebrating Salman Rushdie

By Kristin Masters. Jun 19, 2012. 2:22 AM.

Topics: Literature

Today is the birthday of Salman Rushdie, the controversial author whose works explore the connections—and dissonances—between East and West. Rushdie’s novels, essays, and other works have set him apart as one of the greatest authors of our time.

Authorial Beginnings

Born in Bombay, India, Salman Rushdie is the son of a businessman and a school teacher. His family is of Kashmiri descent, and he was raised Muslim. Rushdie attended the University of Cambridge, where he studied history. Rushdie’s first employment was actually as a copywriter, but he doesn’t often allude to this experience.

Rushdie published his first novel, Grimus (1975) and didn’t earn much notice. His next novel, Midnight’s Children (1981) met with widespread critical acclaim, winning the Booker Prize that year. It’s often named one of the best books of the last 100 years. Midnight’s Children firmly established Rushdie as a significant figure.

The Satanic Verses

Since then, Rushdie has addressed political turmoil and oppression, never shying away from controversy. His most notorious work is The Satanic Verses, immediately created waves in the Islamic community because of Rushdie’s irreverent depiction of the prophet Muhammad. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s spiritual leader at the time, issued a fatwa ordering Rushdie’s execution. People associated with publishing the book were attacked, bookstores were bombed, and copies of the novel were publicly burned.

Rushdie went into hiding for about ten years, though he still made public appearances during that time. There have been multiple attempts on his life; in January 2012, Rushdie even cancelled his scheduled appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival and the subsequent tour of India due to threats on his life.

A Rich and Varied Career

Yet Rushdie never allowed these dangers to quash his productivity. He’s written nine novels, most recently The Enchantress of Florence (2008); contributed to three different short story collections; and penned two children’s books (Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) and Luka and the Fire of Life (2010). Meanwhile Rushdie has written numerous essays and non-fiction pieces and earned a long list of accolades.

He has reached beyond the literary world. Rushdie has been working on a television series for Showtime, and he’s also collaborating on a cinematic adaptation of Midnight’s Children.

Salman Rushdie will undoubtedly continue to be a force to be reckoned with. How did you first encounter his works? What will be his most significant contribution to literature (or politics)?

Kristin Masters
Master Content Brain. You think it, she writes it, no good thought remains unposted. Sprinkles pixie dust on Google+, newsletters, blog, facebook, twitter and just about everything else.


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