Congratulations, Sir Salman! Kudos to Tony Blair and the Labour government for giving Salman Rushdie (picture taken from the BBC) a knighthood. I haven’t been blogging since my wife arrived from Calcutta (Kolkata) late last month to spend a month with me in Singapore. But how could I ignore the news of Rushdie being knighted by the Queen? He is one of my favourite writers.
I still remember the excitement when he won the Booker Prize for Midnight’s Children — his second novel — in 1981. Soon after he visited Calcutta. I attended a talk he gave there. Soft-spoken and erudite, he was really impressive.
I haven’t read The Satanic Verses, published in 1988. But whatever his views, there can be no question he is one of the greatest living writers. Martin Amis is the only English writer who rivals him as a stylist. Midnight’s Children may be regarded as his greatest novel, having won the Booker of the Bookers. But my favourite is The Ground Beneath Her Feet, published in 1999. I love rock music and and so does Rushdie — he wrote wonderfully about it in this book. And who can forget the last paragraphs of Fury, published in 2001? And then followed Shalimar the Clown in 2005.
Apart from his rich prose, what I admire most about Rushdie is his erudition, the wealth of knowledge he brings to whatever he writes about. He stays on top of the latest trends and issues. He wrote with an insider’s knowledge about rock music in The Ground Beneath Her Feet and wrote as knowledgeably about the Internet in Fury and terrorism in Shalimar the Clown. That gives his writings a topical, journalistic quality.
But first and foremost he is a great novelist, with a rich style, a wonderful imagination and a marvellous storytelling ability.
Just think of Haroun and The Sea of Stories. Published in 1990, two years after The Satanic Verses, this book showed Rushdie’s wonderful storytelling powers. It’s remarkable how he came out with a book like this while living under death threats issued by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. That even death threats couldn’t stifle his creativity shows his remarkable talent, resilience and courage.