The reaction to The Satanic Verses forced Salman Rushdie into hiding – but he reappeared


When Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding on Valentine’s Day in February 1989, it wasn’t just the biggest cultural story of the moment; It was also the greatest political story.

ine was one of the bylines on The Independent‘s cover story on the night the Iranian fatwa called for the writer’s assassination, on the content of the author’s fourth novel, published in 1988. The Satanic Verseswhich contained dream sequences that included the Prophet Muhammad had caused outrage among some Muslims, who considered its content blasphemous.

An interview with the writer was what everyone wanted, and the founding editor of The IndependentAndreas Whittam Smith, walked up to my desk the next morning and said, “I’m counting on you to find him” – quite a request.

Rushdie was far from friendless. The art world has been vocal in his defense and appalled at the public burning The Satanic Verses in Bradford and marching with banners of Rushdie with a noose around his neck.

Rushdie came out of hiding occasionally during his decade in safe houses, and I was present on two of those occasions when he addressed gatherings of both supporters and critics. At the end of the meetings, Special Branch retrieved him. Rushdie was later to say how contradictory he felt after criticizing the police to now see them as his protectors, companions and friends.

Rushdie was one of a brilliant lineup of young novelists, including Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, whose work dominated the literary landscape of the last decades of the 20th century. Born in present-day Mumbai, his second novel midnight childrenpublished in 1981, was a spectacular blend of historical fiction and magical realism, a magnificent exploration of division, its horrors and the psychological trauma it left in its wake for the people of India at the time.

He not only won the Booker Prize, but twice the Booker of Bookers, an award given for the novel considered the best of any previous Booker Prize winner.

A startling development for a man who started out as a copywriter for an advertising agency and invented the then-famous slogan for fresh cream cakes: “Cheeky. Cheeky.” But nice.”

There were protests and demonstrations in Britain, riots – with dead people – in other nations and the targeted killing of the Japanese translator of the book. The book was banned in numerous countries.

Rushdie was his usual defiant self at first, saying “I honestly wish I’d written a more critical book,” but as his exile dragged on, he embraced Islam to end the controversy. But it was no use. In 1998 a new regime in Iran declared the end of the fatwa and Mr Rushdie, who was knighted in 2007, eventually moved to the US where he felt safe. The reaction to The Satanic Verses forced Salman Rushdie into hiding – but he reappeared

Fry Electronics Team

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