The Life and Controversies of Sir Salman Rushdie

The acclaimed author and Booker Prize winner turns 71 today.

3 min read

(This article was first published on 19 June 2017 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the birth anniversary of Salman Rushdie.)

Happy birthday to possibly the only person who could give Shashi Tharoor a run for his Oxford dictionary – Salman Rushdie!

The celebrated author who is officially a septuagenarian was born to a Kashmiri-Muslim family in Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay) on 19 June 1947.

With an exhaustive list of laurels, the author has not had a life sans controversy. Here’s taking a look at his most notable professional and personal struggles.


Religion and the Sea of Controversy

The work that Rushdie is best known for is also the work that became a threat to his life.

In 1988, he published his critically acclaimed Satanic Verses, which went on to get him the Whitbread Award that year. However, it also went on to get banned in several nations for the way he wrote about Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

The leader of Iran Ayatollah Khomeni issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death and for the killing of his publishers for insulting the Prophet. The author was accused of misusing freedom of speech.

While Rushdie has managed to escape physical harm, his Japanese translator Hitoshi Igarashi was stabbed to death in 1991, the Italian translator Ettore Capriolo was seriously injured in a stabbing the same year and the Norway publisher William Nygaard was shot three times in an attempted assassination in 1993 but survived.

The book has remained banned in several nations around the world, with India banning it before Iran. In 2015, P Chidambaram accepted that the book should not have met such a fate.

The acclaimed author and Booker Prize winner turns 71 today.
Protests after Satanic Verses was released, calling for Rushdie’s death. (Photo: Reuters)

Not an Ideal Husband

The critically acclaimed author has been married four times, all of which ended in divorce. His last marriage was to Indian-American model-author Padma Lakshmi. The couple split after three years of marriage in 2007.

The acclaimed author and Booker Prize winner turns 71 today.
Padma Lakshmi and Salma Rushdie. (Photo: Reuters)

In her memoir published in 2016, Lakshmi wrote about how the author was sexually needy and was not an understanding husband. She said that he also at one point called Lakshmi a “bad investment”.

After all these years, Rushdie’s take on marriage is not any rosier than Lakshmi’s.

It’s strange, given that I’ve been married four times, but I actually don’t think marriage is necessary... Girls like it, especially if they’ve never been married before – it’s the dress. Girls want a wedding, they don’t want a marriage. If only you could have weddings without marriages.

Love, Loss and the Nobel

Lakshmi also claimed that their relationship was marred with jealousy. When she appeared on the cover of Newsweek, she said Rushdie sourly exclaimed:

The only time Newsweek put me on their cover was when someone was trying to put a bullet in my head.

Lakshmi also went on to say that when the Nobel winners were announced each year and Rushdie’s name wasn’t included, he would need a lot of consoling.

Rushdie may not be the perfect man or husband, but his pen and imagination never run dry.

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