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Posted at: Feb 12, 2019, 6:57 AM; last updated: Feb 12, 2019, 6:57 AM (IST)

30 yrs after fatwa, Rushdie says doesn’t want to hide

On the satanic verses

  • We live in a world where the subject changes very fast. And this is a very old subject. There are now many other things to be frightened about — and other people to kill. — Salman Rushdie
30 yrs after fatwa, Rushdie says doesn’t want to hide
Salman Rushdie

Paris, February 11

After decades spent in the shadow of a death sentence pronounced by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Salman Rushdie is quietly defiant.

“I don’t want to live hidden away,” he said during a visit to Paris. His life changed forever on February 14, 1989, when Iran’s spiritual leader ordered Rushdie’s execution after branding his novel The Satanic Verses blasphemous.

Like a kind of reverse Valentine, Tehran renewed the fatwa year after year. Rushdie, who some say is the greatest writer India has produced since Tagore, spent 13 years living under a false name and constant police protection.

“I was 41 back then, now I am 71. Things are fine now,” he said in September. Rushdie stopped using an assumed name in the months after September 11, 2001, three years after Tehran had said the threat against him was “over”.

But armed plainclothes police nonetheless sat outside his French publisher’s office in Paris during an interview with AFP. Several others had taken up positions in the courtyard. Earlier, Rushdie had assured a sceptical audience at a book fest in France that he led a “completely normal life” in New York, where he has lived for two decades. “I take the subway,” he said.

The Satanic Verses was Rushdie’s fifth book. He has now written his 18th. Titled The Golden House, it is about a man from Mumbai, who much like the author, reinvents himself in the Big Apple in a bid to shake off his past.

The dark years of riots, bomb plots and the murder of one of the book’s translators and the shooting and stabbing of two others now “feels like a very long time ago,” he said.

“Islam was not a thing. No one was thinking in that way,” he explained of the period when The Satanic Verses was written. “One of the things that happened is that people in the West are more informed now.” Even so, the book was greatly misunderstood, he said: “It’s a novel about South Asian immigrants in London.” — AFP

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