Salman Rushdie is a British-American essayist and novelist who was born in India. Most of his writings are based on the stories of the Indian subcontinent. His scripts are a mixture of magical realism and historical fiction genre that includes connections, migrations and disruptions between the Eastern and Western civilizations. His second novel named Midnight’s Children won the 1981 Man Booker Prize. In 1988, his fourth novel titled ‘The Satanic Verses’ was considered the most controversial book written by him. The writing of the book made several Muslim countries from all over the world issue a fatwa of assassination against him. He was given a death threat by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on 14 February 1989.
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Salman Rushdie was born Ahmed Salman Rushdie on Thursday, 19 June 1947 (age 74 years; as of 2021) in Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India. His hometown is Cambridge, England. His zodiac sign is Gemini. He attended the Cathedral and John Connon School, Bombay and Rugby School, Warwickshire, England for his school education. In 1968, he earned a Master’s Degree in History at King’s College, University of Cambridge, England.
Height (approx.): 5′ 7″
Weight (approx.): 85 kg
Hair Colour: Brown
Eye Colour: Salt & Pepper (Semi-Bald)
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name is Anis Ahmed Rushdie, and he was a lawyer-turned-businessman. His mother’s name is Negin Bhatt, and she was a teacher. He has three sisters and one brother. His younger sister’s name is Sameen Rushdie.
Wife & Children
Salman Rushdie got married to Clarissa Luard in 1976, and they separated in 1987. He has a son named Zafar who was born in 1979.
In 1988, Salman Rushdie got married to Marianne Wiggins, an American Novelist. Their marriage ended in 1993.
Salman Rushdie got married to Elizabeth West in 1997, and they divorced in 2004. The couple has a son named Milan who was born in 1997.
Salman Rushdie got married to Padma Lakshmi, an Indian-American model & actress in 2004 and separated in 2007.
In 2007, he was in a relationship with a Hollywood actress named Rosario Dawson.
Salman Rushdie was involved with Riya Sen, an Indian actress in 2008.
In 2008, the Hollywood actress, Olivia Wilde, was his rumoured girlfriend.
In 2009, he dated Topaz Page-Green for five months.
In 2014, he was in a relationship with Pia Glenn.
In 2016, he was in a relationship with Canadian Pop-star, Nikki Milovanovic who was 40 years younger than him.
In an interview with PBS, He revealed that he was an atheist. He said,
I’m a hard-line atheist I have to say.”
In another interview in 1989, he said,
My point of view is that of a secular human being. I do not believe in supernatural entities, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu.”
Cultural relativism is criticised by Salman Rushdie. He believes in calling things by their actual and real names and debating on what is right and what is wrong. In 2006, while interviewing with Point of Inquiry, Salman explained his views as follows,
We need all of us, whatever our background, to constantly examine the stories inside which and with which we live. We all live in stories, so called grand narratives. Nation is a story. Family is a story. Religion is a story. Community is a story. We all live within and with these narratives. And it seems to me that a definition of any living vibrant society is that you constantly question those stories. That you constantly argue about the stories. In fact the arguing never stops. The argument itself is freedom. It’s not that you come to a conclusion about it. And through that argument you change your mind sometimes.… And that’s how societies grow. When you can’t retell for yourself the stories of your life then you live in a prison.… Somebody else controls the story.… Now it seems to me that we have to say that a problem in contemporary Islam is the inability to re-examine the ground narrative of the religion.… The fact that in Islam it is very difficult to do this, makes it difficult to think new thoughts.”
Religious satire is also advocated by Salman Rushdie. In June 2015, he criticised Charlie Hebdo Attack and said that religion must be subject to satire. In an interview with Huff Post, he said,
Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”
He is a self-claimed humanist. He believes that human existence can be understood only through reading and writing about it. He stated his view in a media conversation,
The larger stories, the grand narratives that we live in, which are things like nation, and family, and clan, and so on. Those stories are considered to be treated reverentially. They need to be part of the way in which we conduct the discourse of our lives and to prevent people from doing something very damaging to human nature.”
In an interview with New York magazine’s The Cut, he supported feminism.
Salman Rushdie worked as a copywriter in Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency where he made advertisements like “irresistibubble” for Aero and “Naughty but Nice” for cream cakes, and Ayer Barker, “That’ll do nicely” for American Express. During the same time, he wrote the words for an advertising record, the song was called “The Best Dreams” and was sung by George Chandler. At Ogilvy, he wrote Midnight’s Children, after which he became a full-time writer. In 1975, he released his first novel titled Grimus.
In 1981, he published Midnight’s Children that put him into literary notability. In 1981, this book won man Booker prize. In 1993 and 2008, this book was awarded the Best of the Bookers as the best novel prize.
In 1983, he wrote Shame that was a controversial novel depicting the political issues in Pakistan based on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. In 1987, he wrote The Jaguar Smile, non-fiction about Nicaragua. This book was based on first-hand experiences and researches of Sandinista political experiments.
In 1988, he published his most controversial book named The Satanic Verses.
Later, he released many short stories including East, West (1994), The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999). In 2002, Step Across This Line was non-fiction written by him. In 2005, he wrote a novel about love and betrayal put in Kashmir and Los Angeles titled Shalimar the Clown. In 2008, The Enchantress of Florence was released by him. In 2010, he published his novel Luka and the Fire of Life. In 2012, he became the first author whose ebooks were transformed into customised soundtracks. In 2015, he published his novel Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights based on magical realism. In 2017, he released ‘The Golden House’ a satirical novel. In 2019, Rushdie published his 14th novel titled Quichotte that was inspired by the novel Don Quijote written by Miguel de Cervantes.
His writings were nominated for the Man Booker prize five times like in 1981 for Midnight’s Children, in 1983 for Shame, in 1988 for The Satanic Verses, in 1995 for The Moor’s Last Sigh, in 2019 for Quichotte. In India, his novel Shalimar the Clown in 2005 got the prestigious Hutch Crossword Book Award. In the UK this book was a finalist for the Whitbread Book Awards. In 2007, it was shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award.
Board Member and Others
From 2004 to 2006, Salman Rushdie was the President of PEN American Center, and he also founded the PEN World Voices Festival during the same time. In 2007, he started working as Distinguished Writer in Residence at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia for five years. In 2008, he was chosen as the Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2014, he delivered a seminar on British Literature at Emory University. He joined the New York University as a Distinguished Writer in Residence in Journalism Faculty in 2015. He is also a member of the advisory board of The Lunchbox Fund and Secular Coalition for America. In 2010, he became a founding member of Ralston College that aims at free speech in life itself.
Movies and Television
Salman Rushdie once said in an interview that if his writing career had not been successful, he would have become a Hollywood actor. Since childhood, he desired to appear in Hollywood movies. In 2001, he gave a cameo appearance in the film Bridget Jones’s Diary. In 2006, Rushdie was a guest host of The Charlie Rose Show in which he interviewed Deepa Mehta, an Indo-Canadian filmmaker. In 2007, he played the role of an obstetrician-gynaecologist in the film Then She Found Me. In 2008 and 2009, he appeared on the HBO program Real Time with Bill Maher. In 2012, his novel Midnight’s Children was adapted into a movie by Deepa Mehta that starred Seema Biswas, Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, and Irrfan Khan. In 2017, Rushdie appeared in Curb Your Enthusiasm and shared some scenes with Larry David.
Salman Rushdie writes quotes too.
In 1988, Salman Rushdie released his novel named The Satanic Verses in which he discredited Islam and Prophet Muhammad. Soon, he was criticised all over the world for the same. The spiritual leader of Iran Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa of his assassination for insulting the Prophet. In 1991, the Japanese translator named Hitoshi Igarashi was stabbed to death while Salman Rushdie escaped death. In the same year, an Italian translator named Ettore Capriolo was also wounded in a stabbing attempt. In 1993, William Nygaard, a Norwegian publisher was shot three times but survived. The book is banned in almost every country of the world. On BBC4, he was asked to respond to the threats, he then said,
Frankly, I wish I had written a more critical book,” and “I’m very sad that it should have happened. It’s not true that this book is a blasphemy against Islam. I doubt very much that Khomeini or anyone else in Iran has read the book or more than selected extracts out of context.”
In 2016, Rushdie’s ex-wife, Padma Lakshmi released a memoir in which she claimed that Rushdie was involved with her only for physical pleasures. She also mentioned him as an “understandable husband.” In her memoir, she stated that Rushdie even called her a ‘bad investment.’
Awards, Honours, Achievements
2014: Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award
Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Cultural Humanism (Harvard University)
St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates
2019: State Prize for Literature (Austria) Swiss Freethinkers Award
European Union’s Aristeion Prize for Literature
The Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy)
The Writer of the Year Award in Germany
Authors: Franz Kafka, Charles Dickens, James Joyce
“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Genghis Khan” by Jack Weatherford
“The White Album” by Joan Didion
“Humboldt’s Gift” by Saul Bellow
“Clear Light of Day” by Anita Desai
Salman Rushdie’s father, Anis Rushdie, submitted a fake birth certificate to the government that showed his age lesser than his actual age, and as a result, he was banished from the Indian Civil Services (ICS). This incident was disclosed in 2014 after 76 years of its happening.
In 2012, Salman’s mentioned in one of his writings that his father adopted the surname Rushdie in honour of Averroes (Ibn Rushd).
In a conversation with Harvard Business Review, Salman Rushdie advised the writers to had a relationship with language while writing a book. He said,
Understanding the world is a very difficult thing. Bringing human beings to life on the page is a difficult thing. I’ve always felt that a writer should also have some relationship with language that changes all the time—new voices, new styles, new manners.”
Due to his Kashmiri descent, Salman Rushdie criticised both India and Pakistan in 2012 over the Kashmir issue. In a conversation with BBC News, he narrated,
In an ideal world you could reunite the Pakistan-occupied part of Kashmir with the Indian-occupied part and restore the old borders. You could have both India and Pakistan agreeing to guarantee those borders, demilitarise the area, and to invest in it economically. In a sane world that would happen but we don’t live in a sane world.”
In his leisure time, Salman Rushdie adores book reading and horse riding.
Salman Rushdie possesses British and American citizenship.
His genre of writing is magic realism, satire and postcolonialism.
Historical criticism and travel writing are his subjects of writings.
Salman Rushdie had a problem with the levator palpebrae muscle in 1999. Due to this problem, he had an operation to operate ptosis disease. According to him,
If I hadn’t had an operation, in a couple of years from now I wouldn’t have been able to open my eyes at all.”
The English football club named Tottenham Hotspur is liked by Rushdie.
In a conversation with Harvard Business Review, Salman Rushdie revealed the fact when he felt like starting writing a new book. He said,
Usually because an idea is nagging at me. Sometimes you have a person you want to write about, sometimes there’s an event you want to explore. Joseph Heller said that all his novels began with a sentence—one would come to him, and he would know that it contained many more.”
In the same interview, he revealed when he felt like finishing the book,
Exhaustion. It’s not that I’m physically tired, but my imagination is. There’s a point at which you’re not making it better; you’re just making it different. You have to be good at recognizing that point.”
In a conversation with GQ, Salman Rushdie narrated an incident of his teens when he moved to England with his family and went to boarding school and when his mother tried to prepare him for some horrors of the Western country. He said,
Having to wipe your bottom with paper. This I had refused to believe. “I said, ‘What do you mean? It’s not possible. No water? Not possible.”
After his novel titled The Satanic Verses was released in 1988, Rushdie kept hiding for ten years after the fatwa was issued against him.