By Ethan Shea
Falvey Memorial Library’s Dig Deeper series explores topics of importance in our society and the news. It connects these subjects with resources available through the Library, so our faculty, students, and staff can explore and learn more, potentially sparking new research and scholarship.
Salman Rushdie, author of award-winning literature such as Midnight’s Children (1981) and The Satanic Verses (1988), has been the subject of intense controversy for more than three decades.
The most notable conflict began after the publication of The Satanic Verses when the former Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or ruling on Islamic law, against against Rushdie, ordering his execution.
Hostility toward The Satanic Verses stems from Rushdie’s magical realist depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, representations many influential Muslims found offensive.
In addition to violence against Rushdie, hatred for The Satanic Verses has caused a few people connected to the text, such has translators, to be injured or killed in attacks. Not to mention that several people have died during protests against the book’s publication.
As a result of this violent opposition, Rushdie was forced to go into hiding for over a decade. During this time, he lived in a guarded safe house in London and was granted protection by the British police.
In recent years, Rushdie has enjoyed a more public life and even made public appearances with minimal security on occasion. However, the fatwa (officially or unofficially) still remains.
Flash forward to last month, and Rushdie’s worst fears were realized. On Aug. 12, 2022, before giving a lecture at Chautauqua Institution in New York, Rushdie was stabbed multiple times. He remains alive but will most likely suffer long-term, serious injuries, such as the loss of an eye.
The attack on Rushdie has sparked new debates over freedom of expression and the role of artists.
From book to Twitter bans, this is not a new topic, but seeing actual violence carried out against a prominent writer on American soil is undoubtedly reason for concern. However, this does not mean authors have been silenced by the attack. Rather, writers are expressing the urgency of making their voices heard more than ever before.
In an interview with The Guardian, outspoken French-Moroccan writer Leïla Slimani says that cowering away from the spotlight after the attack is akin to letting terrorism win. As an artist, Slimani feels obligated to continue to use her voice despite any potential consequences, and she is not alone.
To learn more about Salman Rushdie and his work, dig deeper into the resources below.
Find Salman Rushdie’s books at Falvey:
Check out the full Guardian interview with Leïla Slimani here.
Several texts criticizing and interpreting Rushdie’s work can be found here.
This article references Rushdie’s cameo on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Rushdie was also mentioned in the plot of the Seinfeld episode “The Implant.”
Ethan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.
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