Born June 19, 1947, in Bombay, Maharashtra, India; son of Anis Ahmed (in business) and Negin Rushdie; married Clarissa Luard (in publishing), May 22, 1976 (divorced, 1987); married Marianne Wiggins (an author), 1988 (divorced, 1990); married Elizabeth West, 1997 (divorced, 2004); married Padma Lakshmi, 2004 (divorced, c. 2007). children: (first marriage) Zafar (son), (second marriage) Milan (son). Education: King's College, Cambridge, M.A. (with honors), 1968. Memberships: International PEN, Royal Society of Literature (fellow; president, beginning 2004), Society of Authors, National Book League (member of executive committee), International Parliament of Writers (chair). Addresses: Office: Deborah Rogers Ltd., 49 Blenheim Crescent, London W11, England. Agent: Wylie Agency Ltd., 36 Parkside, London SW1X 7JR, England.
Writer. Fringe Theatre, London, England, actor, 1968-69; freelance advertising copywriter, 1970-73, 1976-80; writer, 1975-. Executive member of Camden Committee for Community Relations, 1976-83; member of advisory board, Institute of Contemporary Arts, beginning 1985; member of British Film Institute Production Board, beginning 1986. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, honorary visiting professor of humanities, 1993; Emory University, Atlanta, GA, writer-in-residence, beginning 2007, named Distinguished Professor.
Booker McConnell Prize for fiction, and English-speaking Union Literary Award, both 1981, and James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 1982, all for Midnight's Children; British Arts Council bursary award, 1981; Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, 1984, for Shame; Whitbread Prize, 1988, for The Satanic Verses; Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for children's literature, 1992, for Haroun and the Sea of Stories; British Book Award for author of the year, Publishing News, and Whitbread Novel Award, both 1995, both for The Moor's Last Sigh; Aristeion Literary Prize, 1996; Mantova Literary Prize (Italy), 1997; Budapest Grand Prize for Literature (Hungary), 1998; Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), 1999; Freedom of the City, Mexico City, Mexico, 1999; decorated Knight of the British of Empire, 2008; Best of the Booker Prize, 2008, for Midnight's Children; James Joyce Award, University College, Dublin, Ireland, 2008; PEN Pinter Prize, 2014. Also recipient of honorary degrees.
- Grimus, Gollancz (London, England), 1975, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1991, reprinted, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2003.
- Midnight's Children, Knopf (New York, NY), 1981, with an introduction by Anita Desai, A.A. Knopf (New York, NY), 1995, reprinted, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.
- Shame, Knopf (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, Random House (New York, NY), 2008.
- The Satanic Verses, Viking (New York, NY), 1988, reprinted, Random House (New York, NY), 2008.
- The Moor's Last Sigh, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1995, Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.
- The Ground beneath Her Feet, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
- Fury, Random House (New York, NY), 2001.
- Shalimar the Clown, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
- The Enchantress of Florence, Random House (New York, NY), 2008.
- Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Random House (New York, NY), 2015.
- Quichotte, Random House (New York, NY), 2019.
- The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey, Viking (New York, NY), 1987, reprinted, Random House (New York, NY), 2008.
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories (juvenile), Granta Books (London, England), 1990.
- Imaginary Homelands: The Collected Essays, Viking (London, England), 1991, published as Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.
- The Wizard of Oz: BFI Film Classics, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1992, 2nd edition, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2012.
- Soldiers Three & In Black & White, Viking Penguin (London, England), 1993.
- The Rushdie Letters: Freedom to Speak, Freedom to Write, edited by Steve MacDonogh, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1993.
- East, West (stories), Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1994.
- (Editor, with wife, Elizabeth West) Mirrorwork: Fifty Years of Indian Writing, 1947-1997, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1997.
- Conversations with Salman Rushdie, edited by Michael Reder, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 2000.
- Step across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
- (Adapter, with Simon Reade and Tim Supple) Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (play; produced in London, England, 2004), Modern Library (New York, NY), 2003.
- (Editor, with Heidi Pitlor) The Best American Short Stories 2008, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2008.
- Luka and the Fire of Life: A Novel (juvenile; sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories), Random House (New York, NY), 2010.
- Joseph Anton: A Memoir, Random House (New York, NY), 2012.
Author of television screenplays The Painter and the Pest, 1985, and The Riddle of Midnight, 1988; author of screen adaptation of "The Firebird's Nest"; work represented in anthologies, including Granta Thirty-Nine: The Body, Viking Penguin, 1992; contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Atlantic Monthly, Granta, London Times, London Review of Books, New Statesman, and New York Times. Rushdie's literary archives are housed at Emory University, Atlanta, GA.
The Ground beneath Her Feet was adapted for film by Gemini Films; Haroun and the Sea of Stories was adapted as an opera by Charles Wuorinen.
Although Indian-born British author Salman Rushdie began his writing career quietly, he has become one of the world's best-known writers, not only for the ire he attracted from Islamic fundamentalists after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses, but also for his thought-provoking examinations of a changing sociopolitical world landscape. Rushdie's first published novel, Grimus, which tells of a Native American who receives the gift of immortality and begins an odyssey to find life's meaning, initially attracted attention among science fiction readers and critics who variously called the work a fable, fantasy, political satire, or magical realism.
Rushdie turns to India, his birthplace, for the subject of his second book. An allegory, Midnight's Children chronicles the history of modern India throughout the lives of 1,001 children born within the country's first hour of independence from Great Britain on August 15, 1947. Saleem Sinai, the novel's protagonist and narrator, is one of two males born at the precise moment of India's independence--the stroke of midnight--in a Bombay nursing home. Moonfaced, stained with birthmarks, and possessed of a "huge cucumber of a nose," Sinai becomes by a twist of fate "the chosen child of midnight." He later explains to the reader that a nurse, in "her own revolutionary act," switched the newborn infants. The illegitimate son of a Hindu street singer's wife and a departing British colonist was given to a prosperous Muslim couple and raised as Saleem Sinai. His midnight twin, called Shiva, was given to the impoverished Hindu street singer who, first cuckolded and then widowed by childbirth, was left to raise a son on the streets of Bombay. Thus, in accordance with class privilege unrightfully bestowed, Sinai's birth was heralded by fireworks and celebrated in newspapers; a congratulatory letter from Jawaharlal Nehru portended his future. "You are the newest bearer of the ancient face of India which is also eternally young," wrote the prime minister. "We shall be watching over your life with the closest attention; it will be, in a sense, the mirror of our own."
Midnight's Children begins more than thirty years after the simultaneous births of Sinai and independent India. Awaiting death in the corner of a Bombay pickle factory where he is employed, Sinai--prematurely aged, impotent, and mutilated by a personal history that parallels that of his country--tells his life story to Padma, an illiterate working girl who loves and tends him. All of midnight's children, Sinai discloses, possess magical gifts, including prophecy and wizardy.
Sinai and the rest of midnight's children "incorporate the stupendous Indian past, with its pantheon, its epics, and its wealth of folklore," summarized New York Times critic Robert Towers, "while at the same time playing a role in the tumultuous Indian present." "The plot of this novel is complicated enough, and flexible enough, to smuggle Saleem into every major event in the subcontinent's past thirty years," wrote Clark Blaise in the New York Times Book Review. "It is ... a novel of India's growing up; from its special, gifted infancy to its very ordinary, drained adulthood. It is a record of betrayal and corruption, the loss of ideals, culminating with 'the Widow's' Emergency rule." Although Midnight's Children "spans the recent history, both told and untold, of both India and Pakistan as well as the birth of Bangladesh," commented Anita Desai in the Washington Post Book World, "one hesitates to call the novel 'historical' for Rushdie believes ... that while individual history does not make sense unless seen against its national background, neither does national history make sense unless seen in the form of individual lives and histories."
Midnight's Children was extremely well received and won England's most exalted literary award, the Booker McConnell Prize for fiction, in 1981. The novel also elicited favorable comparisons to Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Günter Grass's The Tin Drum, Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March, Louis-Ferdinand Celine's Death on the Installment Plan, and V.S. Naipaul's India: A Wounded Civilization. And yet, opined Blaise, "it would be a disservice to Salman Rushdie's very original genius to dwell on literary analogues and ancestors. This is a book to accept on its own terms, and an author to welcome into world company."
In 2003 Rushdie collaborated with Simon Reade and Tim Supple to adapt Midnight's Children for the New York and London stage. Writing in Back Stage, Simi Horwitz described the three-plus-hours play as "a frenetic work punctuated by video projections--including fantasy sequences and historical film clips--and brightly flashing lights." In a review of the London staging of the play, Matt Wolf in Variety commented: "Within minutes a narrative is set in motion that weds the personal to the political, the past to the present, and some surprisingly crude stagecraft to a use of video and film that after a while makes one wonder whether Rushdie's source novel wouldn't have been better off as the BBC miniseries he has long wanted it to be."
Like Midnight's Children, Rushdie's third book, Shame, blends history, myth, politics, and fantasy in a novel that is both serious and comic. Shame explores such issues as the uses and abuses of power and the relationship between shame and violence. The idea for the novel, reported interviewer Ronald Hayman in Books and Bookmen, grew out of Rushdie's interest in the Pakistani concept of sharam. An Urdu word, sharam conveys a hybrid of sentiments, including embarrassment, modesty, and the sense of having an ordained place in the world. It speaks to a long tradition of honor that permits, and at times even insists upon, seemingly unconscionable acts. In developing this concept, Rushdie told Hayman, he began "seeing shame in places where I hadn't originally seen it." He explained: "I'd be thinking about Pakistani politics; and I'd find there were elements there that I could use. I had a feeling of stumbling on something quite central to the codes by which we live." Rushdie elaborated in a New York Times Book Review interview with Michael T. Kaufman: "There are two axes--honor and shame, which is the conventional axis, the one along which the culture moves, and this other axis of shame and shamelessness, which deals with morality and the lack of morality. Shame is at the hub of both axes."
Rushdie develops his theme of shame and violence in a plot so complex and densely populated with characters that, as Towers commented in the New York Times, "it is probably easier to play croquet (as in Alice in Wonderland) with flamingos as mallets and hedgehogs as balls than to give a coherent plot summary of Shame." The novel's story line spans three generations and centers on the families of two men--Raza Hyder, a celebrated general, and Iskander Harappa, a millionaire playboy. Their life-and-death struggle, played out against the political backdrop of their country, is based on late twentieth-century Pakistani history. The two characters themselves are based on real-life Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was deposed by Zia in 1977 and later executed.
Sufiya Zinobia, the novel's heroine, is the embodiment of both shame and violence. Her shame is born with her and is evidenced by her crimson blush. Later, as she absorbs the unfelt shame of others, Sufiya's blushes take on such intensity that they boil her bath water and burn the lips of those who kiss her. Eventually the heat of her shame incubates violence, turning Sufiya into a monster capable of wrenching the heads off of grown men. As the incarnation of an entire nation's shame, wrote Una Chaudhuri in Commonweal, "Sufiya Zinobia is the utterly convincing and terrifying product of a culture lost in falsehood and corruption."
The novel's marginal hero is Sufiya Zinobia's husband, Omar Khayyam Shakil. Introduced at length at the beginning of the book, he disappears for long periods of time thereafter. "I am a peripheral man," he admits shamelessly; "other people have been the principal actors in my life story." The son of an unknown father and one of three sisters, all claiming to be his mother, Shakil was "scorned by the townspeople for his shameful origins," observed Margo Jefferson in Voice Literary Supplement, and "he developed a defensive shamelessness." Omar Khayyam Shakil feels himself "a fellow who is not even the hero of his own life; a man born and raised in the condition of being out of things."
Rushdie's choice of a "not-quite hero" for a "not-quite country" addresses an issue that Chaudhuri felt to be central to the book's theme. "Peripherality," she postulated, "is the essence of this land's deepest psychology and the novel's true hero: Shame. It is the doom of those who cannot exist except as reflections of other's perceptions, of those who are unable to credit the notion of individual moral autonomy."
Following Shame and the publication of The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey, a nonfiction account of the political and social conditions Rushdie observed during his 1986 trip to Nicaragua, the author published the novel that made his name known even to nonreaders. The Satanic Verses outraged Muslims around the world who were infuriated by what they believed to be insults to their religion. The book was banned in a dozen countries and caused demonstrations and riots in India, Pakistan, and South Africa, during which a number of people were killed or injured. Charging Rushdie with blasphemy, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini proclaimed that the author and his publisher should be executed; multimillion-dollar bounties were offered to anyone who could carry out this decree. This fatwa, or death sentence, was reaffirmed by the Iranian government as late as 1993; three people involved with the book's publication were subsequently attacked and one, Rushdie's Japanese translator, was fatally injured.
Religious objections to The Satanic Verses stem from sections of the book that concern a religion resembling Islam and whose prophet is named Mahound--a derisive epithet for Mohammed. Offense was taken to scenes in which a scribe named Salman alters the prophet's dictation, thus bringing into question the validity of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. In addition, many Muslims claim that Rushdie repeatedly makes irreverent use of sacred names throughout the book.
For his part, Rushdie has argued that The Satanic Verses is not meant to be an attack on the Islamic religion, but that it has been interpreted as such by what he once called "the contemporary Thought Police" of Islam who have erected taboos in which one "may not discuss Mohammed as if he were human, with human virtues and weaknesses. One may not discuss the growth of Islam as a historical phenomenon, as an ideology born out of its time." Rushdie explained that in Islam Mohammed, unlike Jesus in the Christian religion, "is not granted divine status, but the text is." A number of critics pointed out that the whole controversy could have been avoided if Rushdie's detractors took into consideration that all of the objectionable scenes take place in the character Gibreel Farishta's dreams, and are part of his insanity-inspired delusions. It has been pointed out that few of those outraged had seen the book, let alone read it.
The Satanic Verses is a complex narrative that tells several stories within a story in a manner that has been compared to A Thousand and One Nights. The central story concerns two men who miraculously survive a terrorist attack on an Air India flight. Gibreel Farishta, a famous Indian actor, acquires a halo; Saladin Chamcha, whose occupation involves providing voices for radio and television programs, metamorphoses into a satyr-like creature. Gibreel becomes deluded into thinking he is the archangel Gabriel, and much of the novel is preoccupied with a number of his dreams, which take on the form of parables. Each story, including the controversial tale concerning Mahound, comments on religion and its demands. The novel concludes with a confrontation between Gibreel and Saladin, but at this point the difference between which character is good and which evil has been blurred beyond distinction.
After being forced into hiding to escape the ire of Islamic fundamentalists, Rushdie penned a fairy tale for children that appeared in the United States early in 1991. Haroun and the Sea of Stories, conceived by the author as a bedtime story for his son, is a fanciful tale with an important underlying message for adults. A talented storyteller, Rashid receives his gift from the Sea of Stories located on a moon called Kahina. When a water genie's error disconnects Rashid's invisible water faucet, the storyteller loses his abilities. His son Haroun, however, resolves to help his father and journeys to Kahina to meet Walrus, ruler of Gup and controller of the Sea of Stories. Haroun arrives to find the people of Gup at war with Chub and its wicked ruler, Khattam-Shud. Khattam-Shud is poisoning the sea with his factory-ship in an effort to destroy all stories because within each story is a world that he cannot control. After many adventures, Haroun and his allies from Gup destroy Khattam-Shud, saving the Sea of Stories and restoring Rashid's storytelling powers.
Underlying the fantastical plot of Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a clear message against the stifling of artistic freedom by figures like Khomeini, whom several reviewers pointed out to be represented by Khattam-Shud. But the Khomeinis of the world are not the only problem; Rushdie's book also tells how the Walrus hordes sunlight for the Sea of Stories by stopping the moon's rotation, thus unwittingly giving Khattam-Shud his power because the evil ruler thrives on darkness. "If a Khomeini can come to power," explained Richard Eder in Los Angeles Times Book Review, "it is in part because the West has arrogated sunlight to itself, and left much of the globe bereft of it. Rushdie defies the Ayatolloah's curse. It is he, not his persecutor, who is the true defender of the Third World."
In 1995, six years after Khomeini initially ordered Rushdie's death, the writer published a collection of short fiction titled East, West. Composed of nine short stories divided into three sections--"East," set in India; "West," set in Europe; and "East-West," set in England--the book's central theme is what the author described to Newsweek interviewer Sarah Crichton as "cultural movement and mongrelization and hybridity," a reflection, in fact, of Rushdie's own background. Rushdie's "heritage was derived from the polyglot tumult of multi-ethnic, post-colonial India," Shashi Tharoor explained in Washington Post Book World. "His style combined a formal English education with the cadences of the Indian oral story-telling tradition. ... He brought a larger world--a teeming, myth-infused, gaudy, exuberant, many-hued and restless world--past the immigration inspectors of English literature. And he enriched this new homeland with breathtaking, risk-ridden, imaginative prose of rare beauty and originality."
Each story contains characters embodying diverse cultures who interact on a variety of social and emotional planes. Most of them are "a pleasure to read," wrote John Bemrose in Maclean's. "Like his great master, Charles Dickens, Rushdie goes in for encyclopedic comedy, with rich people and beggars rubbing shoulders across his pages. His language has something of Dickens's energetic verbosity, while his characters like to wear, for the most part, the gaudy clothes of caricature." Bemrose noted that while most of Rushdie's novels are long, sprawling works, "the stories in East, West have the careful precision of ivory miniatures. And all of them, beneath their infectiously playful surfaces, ponder the imponderables of human fate."
Rushdie's name was back on best-seller lists in 1995 with The Moor's Last Sigh. A novel that offers a satirical view of the politics of India, its publication seemed almost to mirror that of The Satanic Verses. Containing an undisguised parody of powerful Hindu fundamentalist leader Bal Thackeray and making gentle fun of India's first prime minister, Nehru--a stuffed dog bears the leader's first name, Jawaharlal--The Moor's Last Sigh was quickly yanked from bookstore shelves in India's capital city and subjected to an embargo by the Indian government.
Narrated by Moraes "the Moor" Zogoiby, The Moor's Last Sigh is framed by a dilemma reminiscent of that of the storyteller Scheherazade. The Moor's deranged captor, who was an acquaintance of Moraes's late, famous mother, demands to know the woman's family history. The Moor extends his life by cushioning his tale with a thousand incidental facts--some true, some imagined--and follows the thread of narrative from ancestor and Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama through the rise and fall of a Portuguese trade dynasty, the meeting of his parents in the 1950s, childhood memories of his flamboyant artist mother, Aurora, and his own exile from India. As a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted, the novel hints at a dark fate for India: "The society Rushdie portrays so powerfully is rife with corruption; pluralism is dying and a dangerous separatism is on the rise, encouraging hatred and despair."
Although many critics have interpreted everything Rushdie wrote following the imposition of the fatwa as a cloaked reference to the author's unfortunate personal dilemma, Paul Gray maintained in Time that The Moor's Last Sigh "is much too teeming and turbulent, too crammed with history and dreams, to fit into any imaginable category, except that of the magically comic and sad. ... The true subject of The Moor's Last Sigh is language in all its uninhibited and unpredictable power to go reality one better and rescue humans from the fate of suffering in silence." Rushdie remained ambivalent on the place of the novel within his own body of work, telling Maya Jaggi in New Statesman that The Moor's Last Sigh is a "completion of what I began in Midnight's Children, Shame, and The Satanic Verses--the story of myself, where I came from, a story of origins and memory. But it's also a public project that forms an arc, my response to an age in history that began in 1947 [when India formed a democratic socialist state]. That cycle of novels is now complete."
Rushdie's novel The Ground beneath Her Feet is a modern-day retelling of the Orpheus myth, with the hero and heroine cast as rock stars. Ormus Cama, a pop star reminiscent of Elvis Presley and John Lennon, seeks to bring back to life the divine Vina Apsara, a celebrity icon on par with Madonna and Princess Diana, who is swallowed up by an earthquake on Valentine's Day, 1989. Their tragic love story is narrated by the power couple's close friend, the photographer Rai Merchant, who has long been obsessed with Vina himself. Ormus's grief leads him to seek out Vina's slavish fans who painstakingly emulate the star. He latches on to one--Mira Celano--who accompanies him on his "Into the Underworld" tour in search of Vina. Many of the themes prominent in Rushdie's earlier novels appear in The Ground beneath Her Feet as well. The book "addresses the themes of exile, metamorphosis and flux," wrote Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times, "and like those earlier books it examines such issues through the prism of multiple dichotomies: between home and rootlessness, love and death, East and West, reason and the irrational."
Complicated and many-layered, the book brought criticism from some reviewers, including Michael Gorra in Times Literary Supplement. "There is too much too-muchness," Gorra noted, with "so many characters, so many incidents--and in all that prosy batter something gets lost." James Gardner wrote in National Review that the novel's main characters are not "compelling." "He makes the fatal mistake of being too impressed by their rock-star glamour," Gardner explained, "and despite the arbitrary complexities that he attributes to them, he never succeeds in animating them with the emotional vitality that has so memorably enlivened his characters in the past." Other critics appreciated Rushdie's intended message. The author's theme, commented a reviewer in the Economist, "is that the ground beneath our feet is always shifting. Modern culture is in a permanent state of fragmentation. ... Reality exists on many planes." Sven Birkerts, writing in Esquire, compared Rushdie's storytelling abilities to those of Ovid and Scheherazade. "Rushdie roves the world like one in mad pursuit of tale and theme," Birkerts wrote, and The Ground beneath Her Feet "tells a grand story--a kind of ur-story--of the age of rock 'n' roll, but in the process spins around it half a hundred veils of myth and hidden meaning." Troy Patterson praised the novel in Entertainment Weekly as being "about the power of song itself," noting that "the Ulysses-like name-dropping also evokes memories of dreams dreamt and heroes adored."
Fury at first appears to be more straightforward than many of Rushdie's previous novels. The book follows Malik Solanka, the Indian-born, Cambridge-educated philosopher and creator of the pop-culture phenomenon of the "Little Brain," a philosophically minded doll who becomes the star of a successful television show. Malik succumbs to a serious midlife crisis, hastily leaves his wife and child in London, and attempts to begin anew as an academic at a Manhattan university. Malik is uncomfortable with modern society and is subject to fits of rage, which increasingly come to dominate his life. In Malik's quest for renewal he becomes involved with two women, the second of which, the beautiful Neela, forces Malik into an epiphany of sorts as the narrative veers into the magic realism for which Rushdie has come to be known. Complicating matters is Malik's resemblance to a Panama hat-wearing serial killer, who is murdering young women from the city's society elite.
Some critics took issue with Rushdie's portrayal of American society in Fury. By date-stamping the book with names like Monica Lewinsky, Tommy Hilfiger, and Courtney Love, "Fury is immediately obsolete," maintained James Wood in the New Republic. A reviewer for the Economist remarked that "Rushdie is usually too effervescent a writer to be pompous, but here he is drawn into making overwrought and grandiose pronouncements on the state of America." Kakutani in the New York Times claimed that Rushdie's portrayal of New York "fails not only because it's based on a false observation--the city in 2000 was reeling more from a surfeit of greed and complacency than from free-floating anxiety and anger--but also because Solanka never seems intimately connected to the events he is witnessing in America." Other critics commended Rushdie's scathing view of American society. As Malik attempts to conquer his fury, his story becomes "a fantastic, humorous, and gravely serious tale about the torments of love," wrote Brad Hooper in Booklist, "but, even more than that, the abrasions on the soul inflicted by today's cellphone society." Barbara Hoffert of Library Journal commended the novel for its evocation of a frantic, skin-deep society, writing that Fury "veers precariously through our obsessive times, capturing every nuance exactly."
Other critics focused on different aspects of the novel. Paul Evans, reviewing Fury in Book, praised Rushdie's fiction as "a metaphysical thriller and a sci-fi-tinged fantasy, a treatise on gender politics and a farce about academia." Evans further concentrated on the idea that to transcend his anger, "Malik must endure the demise of his old self in order to live anew." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that Rushdie "catches roiling undercurrents of incivility and inchoate anger" in "prose crackling with irony." Regarding the book's language, which other critics have compared to that of Vladimir Nabokov, the reviewer said that "his relatively narrow focus results in a crisper narrative; there are fewer puns and a deeper emotional involvement with his characters."
In Shalimar the Clown Rushdie focuses not on the state of America, but on the state of the world. The characters in the novel traverse the globe, from Germany to France to Kashmir to Los Angeles, California. The story opens as Max Ophuls, named after the famous director, is killed in Los Angeles. The plot then moves backward in time, and across several continents, to portray the events that led up to the murder.
Reviews of the book were mixed, and critics could not even agree on the book's overarching theme. While Nation critic Lee Siegel quoted a passage from the novel--"our lives, our stories, flowed into one another's, were no longer our own, individual, discrete"--as an illustration of the theme, a Publishers Weekly contributor simply stated that "the focus of the novel is extremism." The latter statement refers to the Holocaust, territorial disputes over Kashmir, and Islamic terrorism, all of which figure significantly into the story's plot. Yet another reviewer had an entirely different impression of the novel's meaning. Writing in the Atlantic, Christopher Hitchens stated that the book illustrates that "gone is the time when anywhere was exotic or magical or mythical, or even remote." The Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that "Shalimar the Clown is a powerful parable about the willing and unwilling subversion of multiculturalism."
In addition to fiction, Rushdie has published several essay collections. Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991 is a selection of essays and other short journalistic pieces. Some of the essays, such as "One Thousand Days in a Balloon," which Rushdie presented at an unannounced appearance at Columbia University in 1991, and "Why I Have Embraced Islam," an explanation of his commitment to the religion whose popular leaders violently reject and continue to persecute him, were written after he was forced into hiding. Others, dating from before the fatwa, picture a writer gradually forming his own concepts of what constitutes truth and beauty in literature. These works, Commonweal contributor Paul Elie wrote, "serve as a reminder that once upon a time"--before the wrath of fundamentalist Islam fell upon on the author's head--"he was just another middling British writer, holding forth on this and that with more intelligence and enthusiasm than was required of him."
A new collection of Rushdie's nonfiction writings was published as Step across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002. Donald Morrison, writing in Time International, commented that in this book Rushdie shows himself to be a "thoughtful and feisty essayist." Booklist contributor Donna Seaman praised the works included, noting that the author "has written stirring and significant essays about his harrowing, often surreal life."
In September 1998, the fatwa against Rushdie was lifted by the Iranian government, though certain fundamentalist Muslim groups, claiming that a fatwa cannot be lifted, increased the reward for killing him to two million, eight hundred thousand dollars. In addition, in 2004 an Iranian extremist Islamic group calling itself the General Staff for the Glorification of Martyrs of the Islamic World offered another reward for Rushdie of one hundred thousand dollars. As a result, the author has continued to keep security tight, although he frequently travels between his homes in London, New York, and India, gives interviews, and makes public appearances. In 1999 he even joined the rock group U2 on stage to perform the song "The Ground beneath Her Feet," which was inspired by Rushdie's book. A short time later Rushdie was finally granted a visa to return to India; he was quoted in Time as saying that the lifting of this restriction "feels like another step back into the light."
Christopher Hitchens hypothesized in Progressive that "if it were not for the threat of murder, and the fact that this murder has been solicited by a religious leadership, I believe that Salman Rushdie might now be the Nobel Laureate in literature. ... He has raised a body of fiction that explores the world of the post-colonial multi-ethnic and the multi-identity exile or emigrant. He has done so, moreover ... by making experiments in language that recall those of Joyce. ... All of his works are designed to show that there is no mastery of language unless it is conceded that language is master."
Rushdie's novel The Enchantress of Florence was published in 2008, the year in which he received the James Joyce Award. A yellow-haired stranger who can dream in seven languages and who calls himself Mogor dell-Amore (Moghul of Love) claims to be the son of Nino Argalia, who was captured by Turks and forced to convert to Islam, and at various times in the story he goes by the names of Niccolo Vespucci and Uccello. He arrives in Fatehpur Sikri at the court of Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar (1542-1605) with a message from Queen Elizabeth of England and says that he is Akbar's uncle and the son of Qara Koz, or Lady Black Eyes, a descendant of Genghis Khan and the Mughal's great-aunt. Argalia met Qara Koz after she was abandoned by the Shah of Persia after he was defeated.
In fact, the message was obtained through treachery. The foreigner was a stowaway on a British ship bound for India, but after he was discovered, he charmed the captain with his stories and magic and the surprises he took from the many pockets of his patchwork leather coat. When he had the captain's confidence, he was able to slip a drug into his drink that induced a coma. When he searched the ship for valuables, he found the letter of introduction. Upon docking, he killed the ambassador and took the letter.
He becomes a chief advisor to Akbar the Great and falls in love with Memory Palace, like many of the women in this tale referred to as an object rather than by a proper name. She is a mute who has stored up the memories of his orphan friend of long ago, a boy without a childhood. Other figures whose lives are intertwined with the story include Niccolo Machiavelli, Agostino Vespucci, cousin to Amerigo, for whom America was named, and Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula). Fantasy is interwoven through the story. Mughal artist Dashwanth disappears into his own painting, and mandrake roots cry as they are picked. The emperor has many wives to please him, but his favorite is Jodha, invented by him much as a child invents an imaginary friend.
"This brilliant, fascinating, generous novel swarms with gorgeous young women both historical and imagined, beautiful queens and irresistible enchantresses, along with some whores and a few quarrelsome old wives--all stock figures, females perceived solely in relation to the male," wrote Ursula K. Le Guin in a Guardian Online review. "Women are never treated unkindly by the author, but they have no autonomous being. The Enchantress herself, who turns everyone into puppets of her will, has no personality at all, and exists--literally--by pleasing men."
Reviewing The Enchantress of Florence for the Los Angeles Times Online, Amy Wilentz noted that this story contains dungeons, fools, and beautiful princesses, and wrote that "sometimes, reading along, one feels as if one were in an elaborate Disney world; there are secret vials of magical perfumes; two prostitutes nicknamed Mattress and Skeleton after their physiques; fearless generals and vampires; wicked wives and henpecked husbands; a tamed elephant; walled capitals and peasant fires; slaves, enchanted forests, giants; a tulip-tattooed, long-haired warrior who resembles a member of the rock band Queen more than he does someone from the Renaissance ... what is there that is not in this book?" Wilentz added: "Above all the fog of creation, the emperor stands out like a beacon of sense and decency. A mature and beguiling character, Akbar is at once virile and kind, open and dominating, thoughtful and heroic. One cannot get enough of him. He is the archetype of the virtuous Prince, the benign dictator, and whenever he is present, the book moves along with grace and clarity."
Familiar Rushdie themes run through the novel--the relationship between politics and art, music, and culture. There are sections about marriage, imprisonment, and sea battles. Olivia Cole wrote in a review for the Independent Online: "The whole novel is haunted by a sly, gentle account of Botticelli's muse, at the centre of two of the loveliest paintings in Florence, La Primavera and The Birth of Venus, and the shadowy relationship between Machiavelli and the Medicis is humanely teased out in a totally fresh way."
Washington Post Book World contributor Michael Dirda described the novel as "a romance of beauty and power" and concluded that it "will certainly live up to the romantic promise of its title. As Akbar himself reflects, 'Witchcraft requires no potions, familiar spirits, or magic wands. Language upon a silvered tongue affords enchantment enough.'"
Rushdie and Heidi Pitlor selected the twenty stories from magazines in the United States and Canada that are contained in The Best American Short Stories 2008. Rushdie also wrote the introduction. Publications such as the New Yorker and Harper's are well represented, as are a number of small journals such as Ecotone, which first published Kevin Brockmeier's "The Year of Silence," and the Missouri Review, in which Katie Chase's "Man and Wife" first appeared. Booklist contributor Kevin Clouther praised both stories, calling the latter "2008's surprise gem."
"Child's Play," a contribution from Alice Munro, is the story of two girls who drown a fellow camper. Animal cloning is the subject of "Admiral," a story in which a college graduate returns to her old dogsitting job but finds that the dog she knew has changed. Karen Brown's "Galatea" finds a young woman marrying the town stalker. A computer programmer faces the crumbling of his relationship and his dreams in "Closely Held" by Allegra Goodman. The tragic relationship between two aging brothers in A.M. Homes's "May We Be Forgiven" moved a Kirkus Reviews contributor to name this "the most harrowing story" of the collection, which is "bleak but brilliant." "Under editor Rushdie," wrote Clouther, "The Best American Short Stories improves upon last year's already strong edition."
In 2010, Rushdie published a stand-alone sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories titled Luka and the Fire of Life: A Novel. The book follows Luka, Haroun's younger brother, across many challenges. According to an article in Iran Times International, Rushdie wrote the work as a birthday present for his thirteen-year-old son Milan, whose middle name is Luka. The work is full of modern myths influenced by pop-culture staples such as popular video games. Luka saves up lives by completing tasks and must defeat obstacles to move to the next level. In the work, the protagonist Luka must complete all of the tasks to save his father, the storyteller, from death. It is structured similarly to Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In each, a young boy is faced with an impending threat. Although the work was written for a child, it is marketed to both children and adults.
In an interview about the book with Charlie Rose on the Charlie Rose show, when asked why he began writing children's books, Rushdie responded: "It's a great age for children's books for a start and there are an enormous amount of gifted writers working in that field. In my case it was just a consequence of having children. Until I had children I wasn't that interested in them. And my older son ... when he was a kid, he said why don't you ever write books that I want to read? What do you say to that?"
Reviewing the work, Booklist contributor Sarah Johnson remarked: "The triumphant finale is a fantastic tribute to the rich interior world of the storyteller." A Publishers Weekly contributor claimed that the work is "essentially a fun tale for younger readers, not the novel Rushdie's adult fans have been waiting for." A contributor to Maclean's reported: "If Haroun was, in part, an attempt to address through fiction the issues of censorship and intolerance that Rushdie was then facing, Luka was integral to Rushdie's aim to write enough books to 'bury' that period of his life. When I last interviewed him, in 2008, he was just conceiving of the book and expressed the hope that 'the more work I can do, the easier it'll be to go beyond that moment.'"
Rushdie released his memoir, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, in 2012, then returned to fiction with the fantasy novel Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. The novel is set in the twelfth century, the present day, and the distant future. In the first section, a jinni princess named Dunia falls in love with the philosopher (and historical figure) Averroes. The second section follows their descendants, none of whom are aware of their magical heritage. Yet, when the veil between the human world and the jinni world is torn, Dunia's great-great-great-great (etc.) grandchildren begin to experience strange powers. One of her descendants, a gardener named Geronimo, begins to levitate. The final section continues the tale of Dunia's magical progeny.
Commenting on his inspiration for the story in a New York Times interview with Alexandra Alter, Rushdie remarked: "Science fiction is where I started out, really. When I was a kid, I was a complete addict of science fiction. It was one of my earliest interests as a writer, and I've just taken a long time to circle back around to it. It was also a reaction against writing my memoir. I'd spend two or three years trying really hard to tell the truth, and by the end, I was sick of the truth--enough truth, let's make some [expletive] up." Rushdie also noted that the initial idea for the story was centered on "Mr. Geronimo the gardener and his detachment from the earth. The thing that made me want to write it was the idea that he would only be half an inch off the ground. Flying up in the sky, that's not interesting, but to be half an inch off the ground, which is just as big a breach of the law of gravity--it's funnier."
Indeed, as Leo Robson remarked in his New Statesman assessment, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights presents "a rummage around scepticism and superstition in the form of a historical record of the legendary 'time of the strangenesses', which took place right about now." He added: "When Nabokov wrote Ada, he was trying to align his taste for what he called the 'invented habitus' with his hatred of 'general' ideas--his disdain for po-faced realism with his love of intellectual puzzles. But he ended up writing a book about time instead, just as Rushdie has ended up writing a book concerned in the broadest way with reason." Erica Wagner, writing in the London Guardian, was also impressed, and she announced that "Rushdie understands better than most that our power to envision a world beyond our own is our greatest blessing and perhaps our greatest curse. If there is a beautiful jinn to love us, there will be a dark jinn to destroy us too. But the dark delights that spring from his imagination in this novel have the spellbinding energy that has marked the greatest storytellers since the days of Scheherazade."
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- Goonetilleke, D.C.R.A., Salman Rushdie, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
- Gorra, Michael Edward, After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, Rushdie, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1997.
- Kuortti, Joel, Place of the Sacred: The Rhetoric of the Satanic Verses Affair, P. Lang (New York, NY), 1997.
- Kuortti, Joel, The Salman Rushdie Bibliography: A Bibliography of Salman Rushdie's Work and Rushdie Criticism, P. Lang (New York, NY), 1997.
- Kuortti, Joel, Fictions to Live In: Narration as an Argument for Fiction in Salman Rushdie's Novels, P. Lang (New York, NY), 1998.
- Rushdie, Salman, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, Random House (New York, NY), 2012.
- America's Intelligence Wire, October 21, 2010, "Salman Rushdie to Write His Memoirs for 2012 Publication."
- Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 21, 1996, Alan Ryan, review of The Moor's Last Sigh, p. L11.
- Atlantic Monthly, February, 1996, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of The Moor's Last Sigh, p. 114; September, 2005, Christopher Hitchens, review of Shalimar the Clown, p. 123; July-August, 2008, Christopher Hitchens, review of The Enchantress of Florence, p. 135.
- Back Stage, April 4, 2003, Simi Horwitz, review of Midnight's Children (play), p. 3.
- Biography, summer, 2003, Ruchir Joshi, review of Step across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002, p. 554.
- Book, September, 2001, Paul Evans, review of Fury, p. 67.
- Booklist, November 1, 1995, Brad Hooper, review of The Moor's Last Sigh, p. 435; June 1, 2001, Brad Hooper, review of Fury, p. 1798; September 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Step across This Line, p. 194; April 15, 2008, Brad Hooper, review of The Enchantress of Florence, p. 6; September 15, 2008, Kevin Clouther, review of The Best American Short Stories 2008, p. 24; September 1, 2010, Sarah Johnson, review of Luka and the Fire of Life: A Novel, p. 44.
- BookPage, September, 2015, Cat Acree, review of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, p. 20.
- Books and Bookmen, September, 1983, Ronald Hayman, interview.
- Bookseller, November 6, 2009, "Rushdie Writes Haroun Sequel," p. 9; October 29, 2010, "Cape to Publish Rushdie Memoir," p. 9.
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, July 29, 2008, "Rushdie May Write about Life under the Fatwa"; July 30, 2008, "Rushdie, Berger Nominated for Booker Prize"; August 14, 2008, "Rushdie Blasts Publisher for Cancelling the Jewel of Medina"; February 24, 2010, "Rushdie Says His Fatwa Story 'Needs to Be Told'"; October 12, 2010, "Rushdie at Work on Memoir."
- Charlie Rose Show, December 30, 2010, "Historian Discusses the History of Ballet; Interview with Salman Rushdie about His New Children's Book."
- Chatelaine, December, 2010, review of Luka and the Fire of Life, p. 174.
- Chicago Tribune Book World, January 28, 1996, John Blades, "An Interview with Salman Rushdie," p. 3.
- CNN Newsroom, November 28, 2010, "Holiday Travel Outlook; Uneasy Korean Peninsula; Portland Bomb Plotter Arrest; Military Police Sweep in Brazil; Elections Under Way."
- Commonweal, November 4, 1983, Una Chaudhuri, review of Shame, p. 590; December 4, 1992, Paul Elie, review of Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991.
- Economist, May 15, 1999, review of The Ground beneath Her Feet, p. 12; August 25, 2001, review of Fury; March 29, 2008, review of The Enchantress of Florence, p. 111.
- Entertainment Weekly, April 16, 1999, Troy Patterson, review of The Ground beneath Her Feet, p. 52.
- Esquire, May 1, 1999, Sven Birkerts, review of The Ground beneath Her Feet, p. 60.
- Guardian (London, England), September 13, 2015, Erica Wagner, review of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.
- Iran Times International, October 15, 2010, "Rushdie Still Working on Memoir about Hiding," p. 7.
- Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2008, review of The Enchantress of Florence; September 1, 2008, review of The Best American Short Stories 2008.
- Library Journal, August, 2001, Barbara Hoffert, review of Fury, p. 166; October 15, 2002, Shelly Cox, review of Step across This Line, p. 73; May 15, 2008, Henry Carrigan, review of The Enchantress of Florence, p. 95; June 15, 2010, review of Luka and the Fire of Life, p. 6;
- Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 11, 1990, Richard Eder, review of Haroun and the Sea of Stories.
- Maclean's, October 9, 1995, John Bemrose, review of East, West, p. 85; October 25, 2010, "A Big Fatwa Doorstopper," p. 12; November 29, 2010, "The Misfortune of an Interesting Life: Salman Rushdie Spent Almost a Decade in Hiding after Ayatollah Khomeini Issued a Fatwa against Him. His Children, He Says, Have Been 'a Kind of Salvation'," p. 96.
- Nation, October 3, 2005, Lee Siegel, review of Shalimar the Clown, p. 28; September 15, 2008, William Deresiewicz, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- National Review, May 17, 1999, James Gardner, review of The Ground beneath Her Feet, p. 61.
- New Republic, September 24, 2001, James Wood, review of Fury, p. 32.
- New Statesman, September 8, 1995, Maya Jaggi, "The Last Laugh," interview, pp. 20-21; April 28, 2008, Salil Tripathi, review of The Enchantress of Florence, p. 57; September 11, 2015, Leo Robson, "Drowning in Flotsam," p. 46.
- Newsweek, February 6, 1995, Sarah Crichton, interview, pp. 59-60.
- New Yorker, January 3, 2011, review of Luka and the Fire of Life, p. 67.
- New York Times, April 23, 1981, Robert Towers, review of Midnight's Children; November 2, 1983, Robert Towers, review of Shame; April 13, 1999, Michiko Kakutani, review of The Ground beneath Her Feet; August 31, 2001, Michiko Kakutani, review of Fury; October 12, 2010, "Rushdie Writing Memoir about Years in Hiding," p. 3; September 4, 2015, Alexandra Alter, author interview.
- New York Times Book Review, April 19, 1981, Clark Blaise, review of Midnight's Children, p. 1; June 8, 2008, David Gates, review of The Enchantress of Florence; November 7, 2010, "Spellbound," p. 27.
- PTI: The Press Trust of India Ltd., October 9, 2010, "Rushdie's Latest Inspired from Video Games"; October 21, 2010, "Writer Salman Rushdie Signs Memoirs Deal: Publishers."
- Publishers Weekly, October 2, 1995, review of The Moor's Last Sigh, p. 52; July 16, 2001, a review of Fury, p. 166; July 25, 2005, review of Shalimar the Clown, p. 39; March 24, 2008, review of The Enchantress of Florence, p. 52; July 26, 2010, review of Luka and the Fire of Life, p. 42; October 25, 2010, "RH, Rushdie Ink Multilanguage Deal," p. 4; May 25, 2015, review of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, p. 28.
- Quill and Quire, April, 1996, Nancy Wigston, review of The Moor's Last Sigh, p. 25.
- Spectator, April 12, 2008, Simon Baker, review of The Enchantress of Florence, p. 38.
- Statesman, July 18, 2010, "Rushdie to Pen Memories of His Life under Fatwa."
- Sunday Times (London, England), March 30, 2008, Peter Kemp, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Time, January 15, 1996, Paul Gray, review of The Moor's Last Sigh, p. 70, "Writing to Save His Life," pp. 70-71; February 22, 1999, Maseeh Rahman, "Homecoming to What? Rushdie's Planned Return to India Is of Symbolic Value to Him but an Opportunity for Vengeance to Many," interview, p. 24l; April 26, 1999, Paul Gray, review of The Ground beneath Her Feet, p. 99; November 22, 2010, "10 Questions for Salman Rushdie."
- Time International, December 23, 2002, Donal Morrison, review of Step across This Line, p. 63.
- Times Literary Supplement, April 9, 1999, Michael Gorra, review of The Ground beneath Her Feet, p. 25; April 2, 2008, Ruth Morse, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Times of India, January 22, 2011, "Salman's Too Touchy!"
- Variety, February 10, 2003, Matt Wolf, review of Midnight's Children (play), p. 43.
- Voice Literary Supplement, November, 1983, Margo Jefferson, review of Shame.
- Washington Post Book World, March 15, 1981, Anita Desai, review of Midnight's Children; January 8, 1995, Shashi Tharoor, review of East, West, pp. 1, 11; May 25, 2008, Michael Dirda, review of The Enchantress of Florence, p. 10.
- Australian Online, http://www.theaustralian.new.com.au/ (March 29, 2008), Stella Clarke, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Entertainment Weekly Online, http://www.ew.com/ (January 19, 2009), Troy Patterson, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Financial Times Online, http://www.ft.com/ (April 5, 2008), John Sutherland, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Guardian Online, http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (March 29, 2008), Ursula K. Le Guin, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Independent Online, http://www.independent.co.uk/ (April 13, 2008), Olivia Cole, review of The Enchantress of Florence; (April 25, 2008), Aamer Hussein, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Los Angeles Times Online, http://www.latimes.com/ (May 30, 2008), Amy Wilentz, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- New Humanist Online, http://newhumanist.org.uk/ (January 19, 2009), Shirley Dent, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- New York Sun Online, http://www.nysun.com/ (May 28, 2008), Marco Roth, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- NPR Online, http://www.npr.org/ (November 11, 2008), "Acquainted with the Night: Books for Insomniacs."
- Observer Online (London, England), http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (April 20, 2008), Tim Adams, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Salman Rushdie Home Page, http://www.salman-rushdie.com (November 3, 2015).
- Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (June 13, 2008), Laura Miller, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- San Francisco Chronicle Online, http://www.sfgate.com/ (June 1, 2008), Joan Frank, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Sydney Morning Herald Online, http://www.smh.com.au/ (April 11, 2008), Andrew Reimer, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Telegraph Online, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (April 4, 2008), Stephen Abell, review of The Enchantress of Florence; Jerry Brotton, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- Times Online, http://www.entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/ (April 11, 2008), Helen Dunmore, review of The Enchantress of Florence.
- USA Today Online, http://www.usatoday.com/ (June 5, 2008), Deirdre Donahue, review of The Enchantress of Florence.*