Who is Salman Rushdie? Satanic Verses author to release new book Victory City

Who is Salman Rushdie? Satanic Verses author to release new book Victory City

Salman Rushdie, 75, will not promote his new book, Victory City, after being attacked last summer.

His agent, Andrew Wylie, said the author’s “recovery is progressing, but he will not be making any public appearances to promote his forthcoming novel”.

Rushdie was attacked over his book, The Satanic Verses, which has seen the author’s life threatened since its publication in 1988.

Now, the author will release Victory City, his first book since his attack.

Who is Salman Rushdie?

Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born on June 19, 1947, two months before India gained independence, on August 15.

He attended King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied history. Rushdie worked in advertising before beginning his writing career.

The Satanic Verses was his fourth novel, following Grimus (1975), Midnight’s Children (1981), and Shame (1983). It brought him international acclaim, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Why was Salman Rushdie attacked?

In August 2022, the author was allegedly attacked on stage at an event in New York state by 24-year-old Hadi Matar. In August he pleaded not guilty and his trial is ongoing.

The author was airlifted to hospital with severe injuries and subsequently lost sight in one eye.

But August’s attack is not the first time the Indian-born British author’s life has been under threat. Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses resulted in a number of assassination attempts against him.

Iran’s former ruler Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced him to death for blasphemy and placed a £2.5 million bounty on his head.

And following the attack in New York, Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, said: “We, in the incident of the attack on Salman Rushdie in the US, do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusations except him and his supporters. Nobody has the right to accuse Iran in this regard.”

Hadi Matar with his lawyer, Nathaniel Barone (Gene J Puskar)
Hadi Matar with his lawyer, Nathaniel Barone (Gene J Puskar)

What is The Satanic Verses about?

The novel, published in 1988, was inspired by the founder of Islam, the prophet Mohammad, and parodies the Koran’s account of his prophecies. The plot focuses on two Indian Muslims who meet on a flight from Bombay to London. The flight is hijacked by Sikh terrorists who detonate a bomb and blow up the aircraft over the Channel. After the explosion, one turns into the angel Gabriel and the other into the devil.

The character who transforms into the angel Gabriel has a series of dreams, including a revisionist history of the founding of Islam – this is the aspect of the book that many Muslims consider to be blasphemous.

The dream is about a character called Mahound – based on Mohammed – who wants to found a monotheistic religion in a polytheistic town. He receives a vision allowing the worship of three goddesses, before realising the revelation was sent by the devil, and later recants.

Sir Salman Rushdie (Julien Behal / PA)
Sir Salman Rushdie (Julien Behal / PA)

What was the response to The Satanic Verses?

Many Muslims considered The Satanic Verses to be blasphemous due to the revisionist history of the founding of Islam.

Newspapers in India and Pakistan condemned the book, where riots also took place, and a fatwa was issued against Rushdie by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. A bounty was offered for his execution and hundreds of British Muslims endorsed the death sentence.

The Satanic Verses was banned in a number of countries with large Muslim populations and translators of the book were attacked – Japanese translator Hitoshi Igarashi was murdered in 1991.

Rushdie went into hiding under the protection of Scotland Yard and had to be moved 56 times within three months to avoid his would-be assassins. The author remained in hiding for nearly 10 years, but continued to write and later began appearing in public, and has since become an advocate for free speech.

He was knighted in 2007, in a move that was criticised by the Iranian and Pakistani governments.

The fatwa against Rushdie was never rescinded, although he described his life as “relatively normal” just weeks before the attack.

What is his new book Victory City about?

Victory City begins in 14th-century southern India, following a battle between two kingdoms.

After witnessing the death of her mother, nine-year-old Pampa Kampana has a divine encounter and becomes a vessel for a goddess.

She is told that she will play an important part in the rise of a city called Bisnaga – or victory city.

The novel takes place over 250 years, as Kampana’s life becomes interwoven with Bisnaga’s, when she is tasked with giving women equal agency in a patriarchal world.

What date is Victory City released?

Victory City will be published on February 9. There will be a free online event featuring authors Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman to celebrate the occasion.

The publication will also be marked with an event at the Bristol Festival of Ideas on February 21, as well as an event at the Hay Festival on June 1.