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Salman Rushdie (1947- )

Biographical Information

Main Works

Featured Works: Haroun and the Sea of Stories


Selected Quotations


Biographical Information

Salman Rushdie (1947- ), Postcolonial and postmodern Anglo-Indian novelist known for his use of mythology, fantasy, religious and traditional materials in a series of works with links to magical realism

Born in Bombay to a Moslem family of middle class background; his grandfather was a poet in the Urdu literary tradition, his father a businessman educated in England (Cambridge)

Attended Rugby School in England

Rushdie's family moved to Pakistan as part of exodus of Muslims caused by religious intolerance (1964)

Graduation from King's College (Cambridge) where he studied history (1968)

Worked for Pakistani TV, then as a writer in advertising

Rushdie targeted by death sentence issued by the ruler of Iran (1989), the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as punishment for his authoring of The Satanic Verses (1988). Million-dollar reward offered to anyone carrying out the sentence. The Egyptian author, Naguib Mahfouz, accused Khomeini of "intellectual terrorism." Rushdie forced to live in hiding.

Iranian government claimed, in 1998, to be no longer interested in encouraging the assassination of Rushdie

Renewed threats against Rushdie, including offers of multi-million dollar monetary reward for his assassination (1999)

Rushdie fell in love with an actress, left his third wife, and moved from London to New York (2000)
where he still lives in hiding.

Main Works

Grimus (1975), a novel with elements of science fiction, fantasy, and mythology; the title is an anagram of the word "Simurg" the Persian name for a mythological bird endowed with magical powers.

Midnight's Children (1981), earned Rushdie critical acclaim, international fame, and the Booker Prize; story of the one thousand children of Saleem Sinai after the Indian declaration of Independence; a satirical allegory of Indian history including critical views of official population control policies; the title of the novel is derived from the famous speech of Indian independence delivered by Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) at midnight on August 14, 1947 (also the year of Rushdie's birth).

The Satanic Verses (1988), novel that earned the Whitebread Award and made Rushdie the target of persecution and death threats from the Iranian authorities and Muslim fundamentalists. The novel features a complex series of adventures and dream material exploring issues of religious belief and of the interpretation of Islamic religious scriptures. The title of the work refers to verses, containing allusions to the goddesses Lat, Manat, and Uzza, that are said to have been at some point incorporated into the Koran but later rejected as "satanic." In the novel, a character named "Mahound" (the devil) and the revelations he receives act as parodies of the prophet Mohammed and the Koran.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) a novel written for young people and in many ways an effort by Rushdie to regain his own faith in storytelling after the traumatic experience of the violent reactions against The Satanic Verses. The tale involves the storyteller Rashid Khalifa and his son Haroun who embark on fantastic adventures in the moon Kahani in an attempt to restore Rashid's connection to the "sea of stories."

The Moor's Last Sigh (1995) a novel dealing with issues of religious intolerance, in particular the persecution of non-Hindus by right-wing religious extremists in India.

Fury (2001), a recent novel in which the main protagonist, Malik Solanka, a Cambridge academic, leaves his wife and moves to New York City in search for a new life. In America he faces a struggle with anger and the complexities of his involvement with two women and a doll named "Little Brain."


Islam: A major world religion first preached by Muhammad (Mohammed) in 7th-century Arabia. The Arabic term islam (literally meaning "surrender") refers to the idea that the believer (called "Muslim") must completely submit to the will of Allah (God). Allah is considered the sole God, creator and supporter of the world. The will of Allah is revealed through sacred scripture, the Qur'an (Koran), which Allah revealed to Muhammad. In Islam, Muhammad is seen as the last of a series of prophets (including Adam, Noah, Jesus, and others), and his message simultaneously fulfills and supersedes the revelations of earlier prophets and other religions. The "five pillars of Islam" are: faith, prayer, charity/concern for the needy, self-purification (fasting during month of Ramadan), and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Islamism, a political ideology based on a radical, fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran and characterized by strong opposition to Western political, economic, and cultural dominance. Islamism seeks to establish a strict way of life based on Islamic law and morality (Sharia) and to banish Western presence, lifestyles, and other influences from Muslim countries. The 1979 Shi'ite Muslim revolution in Iran gave a powerful boost to such ideologies which are also observed in the values and goals of groups such as the Taliban.

Indian Independence from Britain (1947), an event in many ways defining, for India and other nations, the end of colonial occupation and the onset of the postcolonial era.

Assassination of Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) by Hindu fanatic opposed to his teachings on peace and religious tolerance. Gandhi was one of the leaders of the movement for Indian indepencence from Britain and for a united India including Hindus, Muslims, and other religious faiths.

Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979), brought about the overthrow of the western-supported Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the rise to power of Islamic Shi'ite fundamentalists under the leadership of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Events such as the crisis of Americans taken hostage by fanatical Iranian students contributed to the deterioration of relations between the U.S. and Iran and to the victory of Ronald Reagan and defeat of incumbent Jimmy Carter in the presidential elections of 1980. Also in 1980, Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein and supported by the U.S., invaded Iran and began the Iran-Iraq war that lasted till 1988.

Iran-Contra Affair: secret negotiations of the U.S. administration under Ronald Reagan arranging for the release of American hostages in exchange for weapons' sales to Iran, a known supporter of international terrorism. The money obtained by the U.S. from such sales, about $48 million, was then diverted to support anti-communist guerrillas (the so-called "Contras") in Nicaragua. The discovery of the arrangement in 1986 caused a scandal as it contravened U.S. laws about negotiating with terrorists and involved concealing the illegal activity from the U.S. Congress.


Selected Quotations

to come


Biographical and bibliographic information on Rushdie and his works

A page with information and links to numerous resources on Rushdie and his works

Commentary on title of The Satanic Verses




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last updated 8/20/2003


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