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October 11, 2012

Sir Salman Rushdie: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey makes Twilight look like War and Peace’

Sir Salman Rushdie

Sir Salman Rushdie has admitted that one of his least favourite books is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, saying that it makes the Twilight series look “look like ‘War and Peace’.”

By Chris Irvine

The author of ‘The Satanic Verses’ and ‘Midnight’s Children’ said that he had read a page or two of the book on Amazon, but quipped: “I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made ‘Twilight’ look like ‘War and Peace.'”

Fifty Shades of Grey has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, despite critical reception of the novel being at best mixed.

The Twilight saga is a series of vampire-themed teen romance novels by US author Stephanie Meyer that has been turned into a hugely successful film series starring Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.

Sir Salman was speaking over the weekend at the New York Festival, in New York, and was discussing ‘Joseph Anton’, his new memoir about the fatwa declared on him in 1989 by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

He also talked about the cathartic experience of finally writing his story.

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August 15, 2012

Nehru, Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

Salman Rushdie  (1947 – )

On this day in 1947, India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain. Salman Rushdie got the title for his 1981 Booker Prize-winner, Midnight’s Children from the speech Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave in the first minutes of the new day: “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. . . .”

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January 29, 2012

Salman Rushdie has found peace – but the Satanic Verses ‘affair’ won’t go away

Salman Rushdie has put the 'affair' of Ayatollah Komeini's fatwa behind him. Photograph: Christopher Jones/Rex Features

The terror of Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa has faded but the challenge it posed to artistic freedom has not, as a brush with the Indian authorities has shown.

By Nick Cohen

For Salman Rushdie, the “affair” is over. When he walks into a Notting Hill restaurant, his eyes do not scan the room for signs of danger. The other diners do not wolf down their meals and scuttle for the exit, in case today is the day when the bomber gets through. They treat the entrance of a writer, who once could not move without a posse of suspicious security guards, as an unremarkable event.

Rushdie is fine. More than fine, actually: he’s flourishing. Deepa Mehta has filmed Midnight’s Children. Rushdie has written the script, so if viewers wish to protest that the film diminishes, trivialises or otherwise fails to match the glittering standards of his masterpiece they must direct their complaints to him. A US cable network has commissioned him to write a sci-fi series and, like so many others, Rushdie relishes the space and freedom American television gives to dramatists.

The terror, which once dominated his life and the lives of everyone associated with his work, is history now. When Ayatollah Khomeini ordered Muslims to kill him for his blasphemies, Julian Barnes gave him a shrewd piece of advice. However many attempts were made on his life and lives of his translators and publishers, however many times Special Branch moved him from safe house to safe house, he must not allow the “Rushdie affair” to turn him into an obsessive.

Totalitarians are like stalkers or internet trolls. They want their targets to think about them constantly. Rushdie did not become like his enemies. He never replicated the fanaticism they directed against him. He has been a good friend to other victims of religious terror, but in his novels and children’s stories he has tackled new themes. Despite the entreaties of his agent, he put off writing his autobiography until he was able to view the “affair” with detachment. It should be out in September and I would be astonished if it is not read around the world.

Rushdie has had a flat in London for decades, but tells me he spends more and more time in New York.

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November 30, 2011

Future of fat books

Future of fat books

By Rohini Nair

When Charles Dickens began his Tale of Two Cities with the lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” to portray France on the cusp of its historic revolution, little did he know that circa 2011, those very same superlatives would be used to describe the uncertain future of his medium, the novel itself. The digital age is shrinking our attention spans, our minds, the time at our disposal. Will it shrink the Great Indian Novel as well?

Doom has been prophesised by voices as authoritative as Salman Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul. Rushdie’s latest bit of “writing” was in the form of a limerick on Kim Kardashian’s divorce, posted on the restricted-to-140-characters microblogging site, Twitter. Quite a shrinkage from his 500-page tomes Midnight’s Children and Satanic Verses.

India is witnessing a strange phenomenon. Whether it is Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis books or Amish Tripathi’s Meluha adventures, “fat books” (those over 500 pages) are finding takers. So much so, that it is the short story collections (with the exception of award-winning writers like Jhumpa Lahiri) that aren’t selling well. But for how long?

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October 12, 2011

Stella Rimington: ‘Weirder people than me have chaired the Booker’

'It's pathetic that so-called literary critics are abusing my judges and me' … Stella Rimington. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Since Stella Rimington and her fellow Man Booker prize judges announced their shortlist, they have been savaged by the literary establishment. Here the former MI5 chief turned thriller writer bites back.

By Stuart Jeffries

‘What I cannot tolerate is personal abuse,” says Dame Stella Rimington, fixing me with the piercing green eyes that made Soviet double agent Oleg Gordievsky come over all unnecessary during the cold war.

The former MI5 chief turned spy-thriller writer and Man Booker prize jury chairman who, for the last hour, has been a study in question-deflating diplomacy, is angry. “As somebody interested in literary criticism [her degree from Edinburgh was in English literature], it’s pathetic that so-called literary critics are abusing my judges and me. They live in such an insular world they can’t stand their domain being intruded upon.”

It’s hard to understand why she’s so cross – surely hissed denunciations, counter-denunciations and deals done behind closed doors during her 40-year career as a spy were ideal training for judging Britain’s leading literary prize. And surely the media flaying of Booker judges’ credentials is such an annual ritual that no one with a thick skin would be troubled by it.

Rimington is responding to headlines such as: “This year’s Booker judges don’t inspire confidence” and “Booker prize crisis”. The furore started last month when she announced the shortlist of six for the Booker, whose winner will be announced on 18 October. What kind of barbarians, critics fumed, could have omitted Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child? It was the critics’ favourite and, more significantly, William Hill’s. What was she thinking of?

“We didn’t choose it,” shrugs Rimington. “I got called homophobic for not choosing Hollinghurst and Philip Hensher [whose King of the Badgers also didn’t make the cut]. I didn’t know Hensher was homosexual and if I had, it wouldn’t have made any difference.”

Rimington was savaged thus by New Statesman’s lead fiction reviewer, Leo Robson: “An able and intelligent woman – but you wouldn’t ask John Bayley to be a consultant on Spooks. And Rimington’s status as a novelist doesn’t much help matters. Do we really believe that the author of Secret Asset would have recognised the virtues of, say, Midnight’s Children or Life and Times of Michael K or How Late it Was, How Late?”

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June 14, 2011

Salman Rushdie says TV drama series have taken the place of novels

Booker-prizewinning novelist to write sci-fi drama for television, citing The Wire, The Sopranos and Mad Men as an inspiration.

By Vanessa Thorpe

Salman Rushdie is to make a sci-fi television series in the belief that quality TV drama has taken over from film and the novel as the best way of widely communicating ideas and stories.

“It’s like the best of both worlds,” said the novelist in an interview with the Observer. “You can work in movie style productions, but have proper control.”

The new work, to be called The Next People is being made for Showtime, a US cable TV network. The plot will be based in factual science, Rushdie said, but will contain elements of the supernatural or extra-terrestrial. Although filming is yet to begin, a pilot has been commissioned and written. It will have what Rushdie described as “an almost feature-film budget”.

Showtime has announced that the hour-long drama will deal with the fast pace of change in modern life, covering the areas of politics, religion, science, technology and sexuality. “It’s a sort of paranoid science-fiction series, people disappearing and being replaced by other people,” said Rushdie, 63, best known for Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses.

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