Considered to be one of the most important writers in the category of Indian Writing in English, Salman Rushdie (1947 - Present) remains so far a popular figure for his fantastic works across all ages.
His well-known novel, Midnight’s Children (1980) which won the Booker Prize in 1981 and Booker of Bookers Prize in 1993 made him famous not only in his own birth land, India but also worldwide.
Midnight’s Children is considered to be a milestone in Rushdie’s career as a novelist.
Life of Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie, full name being Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born to a very well-to-do, affluent, liberal Muslim family on 19th June, 1947, in Bombay just two months before India’s independence.
His father was Anis Ahmed Rushdie, a Cambridge educated businessman and his mother’s name was Negin (nee Butt). His paternal grandfather was an Urdu poet. He had three sisters, himself being the eldest and the only son. The family was settled in a villa above Warden Road, a privileged part of the city.
Rushdie was first sent to Cathedral school and later at the age of fourteen he was enrolled to Rugby, a British public school. The false impression which he had in his mind regarding England as an idealized society soon changed during his stay at Rugby where he was treated as an outsider and an inferior.
This period produced a short autobiographical novel titled The Terminal Report, where Rushdie used writing as a device to outlet his frustrations and emotions.
Having spent his childhood among books and spending long hours listening to stories and tales, his love for books and a dream to be a writer had developed at an early age.
Thereafter Rushdie enrolled himself in King’s college, Cambridge in 1965 where he graduated in History. It was during his stay at Cambridge that his parents moved from Bombay to Karachi, Pakistan permanently.
Rushdie could never forgive them for this act and the statement, “He could never forgive Karachi for not being Bombay” as figured in Midnight’s Children expresses his disappointment and sense of loss of an identity.
After completing his study at Cambridge Rushdie returned to Pakistan for a brief stay where he worked at a television station. But it proved to be unsatisfactory where after he returned to London in1970.
Shortly after returning to London, he worked in the fringe theatre and then as a copywriter for an advertising agency named as Ogilvy and Mather from 1971 to 1981.
As a novelist and a writer on political and controversial issues, Salman had to face many charges and communal violence leveled against him. Ayatollah Khomini issued a fatwa against him after the publication of his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses in 1988.
Rushdie has been married for four times, his first wife named Clarissa Luard, a British origin in 1976. They had a son named Zafar. The couple got divorced in 1988. He soon married Marianne Wiggins, an American writer.
Salman left his third wife, Elizabeth West in 2004 and finally ended up marrying celebrity Padma Laksmi in the same year. But sadly enough this time also his marriage did not last long and he finally divorced in June, 2007. Currently he is residing in New York City, London.
Literary careerIt is undoubtedly a fact that the social, political and cultural aspects and events of a society make an impact in a writer’s creative output. A writer through his narration, imaginary characters, places and themes puts down his views and judgments in order to bring a state of change in the society.
In most of Rushdie’s novels, one can sense the political issues, of a dislocated identity, the Indo-Pak partition, riots and other such controversial issues. Another point to be noted is that as a versatile writer, Rushdie implies in his writings the elements of myths, fantasy, magic realism, historical events and so on.
Some of his well known works are Grimus (1975), Midnight’s Children (1980), Shame (1983), The Satanic Verses (1988), The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995).
Midnight’s Children, his second novel is considered to be a milestone in Rushdie’s career as a novelist. The novel challenges the existing history of India and paves the way for further criticisms.
According to Meenakshi Mukherjee, “Midnight’s Children demonstrated how epic, fable, national events, family saga, advertisements, films, popular songs, newspaper clippings, parody, pastiche and gossip could all be gathered up in one comprehensive sweep that is comic, historic and mythic at the same time.”
The Satanic Verses weaves together several worlds and narrative modes and it created global controversy leading to his fatwa. Interestingly India was the first country to ban the novel, which affected him a great deal.
Rushdie felt his love and devotion towards his motherland was never appreciated. Thereafter he had decided that he will never write about India again. Rushdie had also written a collection of short stories for children titled Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) which is full of fantasy and magical elements.
Besides being a novelist, he had also written many essays. One of his collections of essays is titled as Imaginary Homelands (1991).He had also written short stories East, West (1994) which brought his scattered pieces together.
His latest novels are titled The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999) and Fury (2001). Rushdie considers The Moor’s Last Sigh in 2019 one of the best literary work so far.
Awards and AchievementsSalman Rushdie for his literary output has many been awarded many titles and awards so far. He has been awarded the Booker prize in 1981 for Midnight’s Children and also the Booker of Bookers in 1993.
He has also been awarded the James Joyce Award- University College Dublin, Writer’s Guild of Great Britain- Award for Children Fiction among others. Salman Rushdie has also been honored with the title of Knighthood for his contribution in the field of literature in Queen Birthday Honors on 16th June, 2007.
Other International Awards are:
- Golden PEN Award
- Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award (2014)
- Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Cultural Humanism (Harvard University)
- PEN Pinter Prize (UK)
- St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates
- State Prize for Literature (Austria)
- Swiss Freethinkers Award 2019
- European Union's Aristeion
- Prize for Literature, the Premio Grinzane Cavour Italy
- Writer of the Year Award in Germany