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Happy birthday, Salman Rushdie

Happy birthday, Salman Rushdie! He is all of 67 today. What a pity a book he began with such brio has haunted him ever since. Few books open as memorably as The Satanic Verses. I cannot imagine any other writer describing an air crash quite like him. After the plane […]

Joseph Anton: Rushdie on Rushdie

I remember watching on CNN the World Trade Center collapse on September 11, 2001. I could not believe my eyes as the two planes commandeered by al-Qaeda terrorists hit the twin towers, bringing them down in tongues of fire, clouds of smoke. Nearly 3,000 people were killed and retribution followed […]

Amit Chaudhuri, The Immortals

It's been a long time coming. Except that Amit Chaudhuri wouldn't have used those words sung by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The gifted Indian writer,who teaches contemporary literature at the University of East Anglia, prefers Indian classical music. An accomplished singer himself, he pays homage to the music in […]

Salman Rushdie and a fatwa woman

On this day 20 years ago, Salman Rushdie was defending The Satanic Verses in a BBC interview, denying it was an attack on Islam. But the first blood had already been spilled with five people killed in violent agitation over the book in Islamabad, Pakistan. And the next day – […]

Updike’s Terrorist and adulterers

The Terrorist by John Updike India, not Iran, was the first to ban Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses shortly after it came out in September 1988, reminds the Observer. The then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress government banned the book under pressure from the opposition Janata Party. Both wanted the […]

Marquez biographer talks about the author

Even those who have not read Gabriel Garcia Marquez will enjoy listening to The Strand, the BBC World Service arts and culture programme, where Gerald Martin tells Harriett Gilbert how he wrote Marquez's biography. The 1982 Nobel Prize winner for literature emerges as such a fascinating figure that one immediately […]

The Enchantress of Florence

The Enchantress of Florence begins and ends like a movie. It opens with a golden-haired stranger arriving in the Mughal emperor Akbar’s capital, Fatehpur Sikri, and ends with Akbar meeting a legendary beauty. What happens in between has the fairytale quality of the Arabian Nights and uses the same literary […]