Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie CH FRSL (born 19 June 1947) is an Indian-British-American novelist of Muslim descent who has since settled in New York City. No scratch that, let's start from the beginning, or should it be before the beginning... or before that.
Rushdie was born in Bombay since renamed Mumbai, a name he doesn't care for. He was born in a liberal Muslim family, but in his own words, his father wasn't very religious and Rushdie very early started identifying himself as an atheist. He studied in England at Rugby College (which he chose because it was Lewis Carroll's school) and later majored in history at Cambridge University. He published his thesis on the origins and development of Islam, and found the material interesting, hoping one day to write a book on it.
After a stint in advertising, he started writing fiction. The first book was a Science Fiction novel called Grimus. His second book was the Breakthrough Hit Midnight’s Children. After that, he published a little-known novel called Shame and The Jaguar Smile, a non-fiction memoir of his time in Nicaragua. In 1988, he published The Satanic Verses, which resulted in massive protests in several countries and the book being banned in India (despite being a secular democracy with a Hindu majority). Things got worse in 1989, when Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's murder, at which point Iran-backed hitmen and assassins started attacking people close to the book, culminating in the 1991 killing of the Japanese translator and stabbing of the Norwegian publisher. Rushdie had to go underground and live under an assumed name for nearly fifteen years of his life. The fatwa is still in effect to this day, with Iran's official explanation being that only the person who issued a fatwa can rescind it-- and Khomeini had died just three months after his declaration.
Despite this, Rushdie continued to be a public figure, often publishing non-fiction and several more books later on. He also became a TV personality, giving interviews on chat-shows on religion, culture and freedom of speech. As a writer, Rushdie's books are highly inspired by Thomas Pynchon, James Joyce, Luis Buńuel and fall in the vein of Deconstruction and Postmodernism. They are filled with numerous characters, Kudzu Plot, Mind Screw, and Magical Realism. They are strongly satirical, are filled with Pastiche, and feature loads of puns and Interplay of Sex and Violence.
On August 12, 2022, Rushdie was stabbed multiple times while preparing to deliver a speech in Chautauqua, New York. Rushdie survived the attack but suffered injuries to his neck, liver, and arm, had to temporarily be placed on a ventilator, and lost sight in one eye and the use of a hand. The assailant was subsequently taken into custody and per police reports, was known to have expressed support for the government of Iran.
- Midnight’s Children
- The Satanic Verses
- The Moor's Last Sigh
- East, West
- The Ground Beneath Her Feet
- Shalimar the Clown
- The Enchantress of Florence
- Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
- The Golden House
- Victory City
- Imaginary Homelands
- BFI Classics: The Wizard of Oz
- Step Across The Line
- Joseph Anton
- Haroun and the Sea Of Stories
- Luka and the Fire of Life
Tropes found in Rushdie's books
- Alternate History: "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" is an alternate history of The '60s.
- Cultural Cringe: Some of his books deals with NRIs (non-residential-Indians) having a culture shock towards India, feeling that it's too vulgar and unsophisticated. They are usually unsympathetic and soon experience Character Development while some locals reluctantly admit that he has a point.
- Defictionalization: The song in the book, The Ground Beneath Her Feet became an actual U2 ballad.
- Genre-Busting: His books never really occupy any single genre, much to his critics' disapproval. They can be serious 19th-Century family drama, murder mystery, historical fiction, science fiction and political satire.
- Historical Domain Character: Many of his books tend to be partly Historical Fiction so you occasionally see actual historical figures mix with fictional characters. The most notorious is of course the fantastic section of The Satanic Verses.
- This actually got Rushdie in some legal trouble in Midnight's Children. Indira Gandhi sued for defamation in British courts, citing a single sentence in the novel. Rushdie agreed to remove the sentence, though begrudgingly and with some bitterness. And this was the last time including real life historical figures in one of his novels ever caused any trouble for Salman Rushdie.
- Mood Whiplash: Expect serious melancholy reflections to clash against slapstick, puerile humor. Or a scene to shift from comic to violent and vice versa.
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Rushdie is British-Indian and he's critical of both Britain and India, while also appreciative of the positive characteristics of both nations. He's especially critical of religious fundamentalism (among both Hindus and Muslims) and government corruption in India.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: A lot of his books have subtle and not so subtle references to real-life political and literary figures in his books. His novel Shame is essentially a satire on Pakistan's government with thinly veiled expies of the Bhutto family. Then there's "The Widow" of Midnight's Children.
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Firmly on the Enlightenment side.
- Shown Their Work: Rushdie studied history at Cambridge so his books tend to be pretty well researched and quite knowledgeable about various societies. For The Enchantress of Florence, he also put a bibliography at the end for readers to reference.
- Signature Style: No one writes quite like Rushdie. Frequent themes include India and the Indian diaspora, modernity and its discontents, Kashmir, pop culture, the interplay between generations and the nature of reality. Kudzu Plots are common, including jumping back and forth through time, and he's very comfortable with Magical Realism — totally fantastical elements sit comfortably next to gritty, realistic elements.
- Think you've identified the protagonist in a Rushdie story? Well, you're probably right, but you're going to spend a lot of time with their parents and grandparents first, going through the entire family lineage and all the little dramas that define their lives.
- Sophisticated as Hell: His prose can be lucid and stately but also features a lot of Precision F-Strike, Cluster F-Bomb and other 20th-21st Century slang.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Not afraid to discuss existentialist philosophy, quantum mechanics or arthouse films in his novels.