University of Cambridge
One of the most popular and controversial writers of the twentieth century, Salman Rushdie is a British Indian essayist and novelist. He has authored several novels and short stories in his life, which has continued to attract the interest of both critics and public till date. His ability to combine magical realism with historical fiction is an exceptional quality which makes him a truly unique writer. Most of the works written by him feature around the Indian subcontinent and mostly contain themes like migrations to and fro the East and West and the incidences occurring in between them. Bit by the writing bug at the tender age of five, Rushdie’s foray into the world of literature was in the year 1975. Though his first book did not garner much positive response, Rushdie made a strong comeback with his second novel which not only gained him international fame and recognition but brought equivalent commercial and critical success. Since then, there has been no looking back for this excellent writer who continued to allure his readers through his numerous novels, short stories and non-fiction. It was Rushdie’s fourth novel, ‘The Satanic Verses’, which enraged the Muslim community across the globe to the extent of Ayatollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa or a death sentence against him. However, despite the same, Rushdie continued writing and released several books and novels. For his immense contribution in the field of literature, Rushdie is the proud recipient of several prestigious awards, honorary doctorates and fellowships.
- Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay in a Muslim family of Kashmiri descent. He was the only child of his parents.While his father Anis Ahmed Rushdie was a University of Cambridge educated lawyer turned businessman, his mother Negin Bhatt was into the profession of teaching.After completing his preliminary education from John Connan School in Mumbai, young Rushdie moved to England. He enrolled at the Rugby School from where he completed his higher education.Rushdie went to King’s College and later to Cambridge University from where he attained his Master’s Degree in History in 1968.Career
- Rushdie’s first-hand experience into the field of writing was as a freelance writer for the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. Working in the profile of a copywriter, he wrote ads and came up with tag-lines and words for various companies and stuffs such as ‘irresistibubble’ for Aero and ‘Naughty but Nice’ for cream cakes.In 1975, with the release of the part-science fiction tale ‘Grimus’, Rushdie plunged into the career of full time writing, though he still continued freelancing as an advertisement writer.The book, ‘Grimus’, revolved around the story of a Native American Eagle who voyaged to find out the true meaning of life. It failed to appeal to the sense of both the public and literary critics.Rushdie’s second book, ‘Midnight’s Children’, released in 1981 brought instant fame and recognition to him. Apart from popular and critical appraise, Rushdie received much literary notability due to the book.‘Midnight’s Children’ highlighted the life of a child, born at the stroke of midnight as India gained its independence. It focused on the character of Saleem Sinai, the special powers that he seem to be endowed with and his connection with other children born at the dawn of the modern and independent India and their magical power possessions.Revelling in the success of ‘Midnight’s Children’, Rushdie released his yet another work titled ‘Shame’. The book illustrated the political unrest, mayhem and tumult faced by Pakistan. Two of his characters drew inspiration from principal Pakistani political leaders, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Muhammad Zia-ul-HaqThe success factor for both ‘Midnight’s Children’ and ‘Shame’ rested on the fact that they had a style of magic realism in them and presented an immigrant outlook that Rushdie excels in.Rushdie’s next venture was released under the title, ‘The Jaguar Smile’ in 1987. It was his first attempt at non-fiction and was primarily about Nicaragua. Much unlike his previous works, the book presented an account of the first-hand experience and research at the scene of Sandinista political experiments.Year 1988 witnessed the release of the most controversial book of Rushdie, ‘The Satanic Verses’. A take on Prophet Mohammed’s utterance of the three verses which were later removed as they were considered offensive to the Muslims (hence the title Satanic Verses), the book cause a rage of fury amongst the Muslim community worldwide.The book was banned in twelve countries including, India, Bangladesh, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, Singapore, Venezuela, and Pakistan.What’s more, Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran then, issued a fatwa or a death sentence against Rushdie. He called for all obedient Muslims to assassinate Rushdie and offered a bounty to one who succeeded in the task.Book burning was held all over the globe as Muslims condemned the book for insulting their sentiments, their faith, their religion and Prophet. While the book was removed from the book shelves of the large bookselling chains, several people who were involved with its publication were injured and killed.Rushdie went into the hiding for several years and was forced to live under police protection. Though he made a public apology and embraced Islam, he was not entirely safe and thus had to lead a life of isolation for many years.Despite the major turmoil in his life, Rushdie’s love for writing did not die as he continued to write even in his years of isolation. In 1990, he released his next book, ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’, a children’s novel.His next couple of works include a collection of essays, ‘Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991’, released in 1991, and a collection of short stories, ‘East, West’ released in 1994.While ‘The Moor’s Last Sigh’ presented an epic tale of a family ranging over 100 years of Indian history, ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’ highlighted an alternative history of modern rock music.In 2001, came Rushdie’s next piece of work, ‘Fury’ which was followed by ‘Step Across This Line: Collected Non-fiction 1992-2002’ in 2002. In the latter, Rushdie acknowledges his appreciation and respect for the Italian writer Italo Calvino and the American writer Thomas Pynchon, among others.While each of these books appealed to the senses of the readers, it was the 2005 released ‘Shalimar the Clown’ that zoomed or escalated the string of commercially successful and critically acclaimed novels by Rushdie even more.In 2010, he came up with the novel, ‘Luka and the Fire of Life’. Two years thence he released a memoir of his days in the hiding under the title, ‘Joseph Anton: A Memoir’. Same year, Rushdie became one of the first major authors to embrace Booktrack, a company that synchronises ebooks with customised soundtracks, for his short story, ‘In the South’.Philanthropic Work
- Rushdie has for long been an active member of the advisory board of The Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization that provides daily meals to students of township in Soweto of South Africa.He has also been a member of the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America, an advocacy group representing the interests of atheistic and humanistic Americans in Washington, D.C.Rushdie is the founding patron of the Ralston College, a new liberal arts college that has adopted as its motto a Latin translation of a phrase ‘free speech is life itself’.Major Works
- ‘Midnight’s Children’ changed Rushdie’s literary fortune for good, as it brought him international fame and recognition. The book highlighted the life of children born at the stroke of midnight of India’s independence and magical powers that each of them possesses.‘The Satanic Verses’ is the most controversial book written by Rushdie till date. It not only brought him to limelight for the wrong reasons, but caused life-threatening problems as well.‘Shalimar the Clown’ released in 2005 was very well accepted by the public and the critics alike and escalated Rushdie’s string of commercially successful and critical acclaimed movies by leaps and bounds.Awards & Achievements
- For his outstanding contribution in the field of literature, Salman Rushdie has been felicitated with numerous awards for his works. ‘Midnight’s Children’ was bestowed with the Booker Prize and ‘Best of the Bookers’, while ‘Shame’ won France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book) award. It was also a close competitor at the Booker Awards.‘The Satanic Verses’ won the Whitbread Award, despite the great controversial havoc worldwide. ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ won the Writers’ Guild Award, while ‘Shalimar the Clown’ successfully managed to reach the as one of the finalists for the Whitbread Book Awards.Rushdie is a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature. Additionally, he holds the honorary doctorates and fellowships at six European and six American universities. Rushdie is an Honorary Professor in the Humanities at M.I.T, and Distinguished Writer in Residence at Emory University.He is the Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association and a Distinguished Fellow in Literature at the University of Anglia. He holds the rank of Commandeur de Arts et des Lettres, France’s highest artistic honour. In ‘The Times’ list of ‘The 50 Greatest British Writers’ since 1945, Rushdie is placed on the 13th position.From 2003 until 2005, Rushdie served as the President of PEN American Center. Additionally, he was also the founder of the Pen World Voices Festival.In 2007, Rushdie received a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. What’s more, Rushdie became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was named a Library Lion of the New York Public LibraryPersonal Life & Legacy
- Rushdie first tied the nuptial knot in the year 1976 to Clarissa Luard. The couple was blessed with a son named Zafar in 1980. The alliance however did not last long as the two separated in the year 1987.Following the divorce, Rushdie went into the wedlock with American novelist Marianne Wiggins in 1988. This too did not work out as the two separated in 1993.Rushdie married Elizabeth West IN 1997 and fathered a son, Milan in 1999. The two divorced in 2004.Indian American actress cum model Padma Lakshmi was Rushdie fourth wife. They got in married in 2004 and shared a cordial relationship until Lakshmi decided to end the same in 2007.Rushdie was romantically linked to Indian model Riya Sen in 2008 by the media but there has been no formal announcement by either.In 1989, Rushdie was blessed with a second life as Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh failed in his assassination attempt to kill the former. A book bomb loaded with RDX explosives exploded prematurely causing the death of Mazeh instead of Rushdie.Rushdie refrained from appearing in the Jaipur Literature Festival in January 2012 and cancelled his entire India tour citing security concerns as the primary reason. He however made an official appearance to the country in March same year.Rushdie is presently staying in New York City since 2000. He underwent an operation to correct ptosis, a tendon condition that causes drooping eyelids. The condition was making it increasingly difficult for him to open his eyes.Trivia
- This controversial writer’s writing style has a characteristic magic realism which mixes religion, fantasy, and mythology into more grounded reality. Due to his works, he has been compared to the likes of Peter Carey, Emma Tennant, and Angela Carter.Interestingly, it was during his years at Ogilvy & Mather that he wrote and compiled the book ‘Midnight's Children’, before becoming a full-time writer. His novel has been turned into a film of the same name by director Deepa Mehta.His book ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’ highlighted an alternative history of modern rock music. There is also a song by the same name by U2, due to which he has been credited as a lyricist as well.A Pakistani film entitled International Gorillay (International Guerillas) was released that depicted him in a Rambo-like figure. His character was seen plotting to cause the downfall of Pakistan by opening a chain of casinos and discos in the country.
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