The fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini made Rushdie one of the most famous writers on the face of the earth. But it also stole a decade of his freedom. Now Rushdie says that he will write about the ten years he spent in hiding.
"It's my story, and at some point, it does need to be told. That point is getting closer, I think," Rushdie told reporters at Emory University, where an exhibition of his personal correspondence, papers, and manuscripts will open tomorrow. He commented that "When [the archive material] was in cardboard boxes and dead computers, it would have been very, very difficult, but now it's all organized."
It was 1989 when Ayatollah Khomeini ordered Muslims to kill Rushdie for having written "The Satanic Verses," calling the book an insult to Islam, the prophet Muhammad, and the Koran.
In the literary world, many are already predicting that a book by Rushdie about his years in hiding would be a huge commercial success. "Rushdie's profile is clearly massive, he still sells strongly, and he'll get a lot of publicity for this book if he decides to write it," Benedicte Page, associate editor at the Bookseller, told The Guardian.
Rushdie's profile may also receive a slightly less massive boost from the display of Rushdie's personal material about to open at Emory. The exhibit includes e-mails and written correspondence by Rushdie from the 1970s through 2006. Among these are letters between Rushdie and correspondents such as U2's Bono and Barack Obama. (Obama was an Illinois senator at the time the letters were written.)
Rushdie, who was knighted in 2007, is also the author of "Midnight's Children," which won the British Booker Prize in 1981.
Apart from questions about how Rushdie coped with life in hiding and what impact it had on his writing, some readers may also be curious to know if any book Rushdie writes about his fatwa decade includes mention of his bodyguards, specifically Ron Evans. In 2008 Evans tried to publish a book called "On Her Majesty's Service" about his experience as one of Rushdie's protectors.
The book, however, never saw the light of day. Rushdie demanded that it be withdrawn, saying that it falsely depicted him as "mean, nasty, tight-fisted, arrogant and extremely unpleasant." The book was never published and both Evans and his publisher ultimately apologized to Rushdie.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.