Salman rushdie

Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith and Salman Rushdie are cut down to size

It is very possible that Peter Kemp is the best-read man in Britain. Certainly, as the Sunday Times’s chief literary critic for goodness knows how many years, he has read and opined upon more works of new fiction than most. His is either a dream job or an absolute nightmare, depending on how you feel about the state of the novel. A Sisphyean task? A Herculean labour? Or just a colossal waste of time? All those keen debuts, all that second-rate dross, all those egos demanding attention: Kemp has bravely buckled up, knuckled down and dutifully banged out 800-plus words, week in, week out, for longer than most of us

Salman Rushdie was never safe

The stabbing of Salman Rushdie sends a renewed message to the world: take Islamism – the transformation of the Islamic faith into a radical utopian ideology inspired by medieval goals – seriously. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the most consequential Islamist of the past century, personally issued the edict (often called a fatwa) condemning Rushdie to death in 1989. Khomeini, responding to the title of Rushdie’s magical-realist novel The Satanic Verses, decided it blasphemed Islam and he deserved death. Initially alarmed by this edict, Rushdie spent over 11 years in hiding protected by the British police, furtively moving from one safe house to another under a pseudonym, his life totally disrupted.  Already

The New York Times’ strange silence on Rushdie

The New York Times has never been shy about sharing its opinion – especially when it comes to bashing Britain. In recent years, Mr S has greatly enjoyed reading the London dispatches from America’s least reliable news source, in which Brexit Britain is re-imagined as an autocratic archipelago where plague-riddled, rain-drenched, swamp-dwelling subjects devour legs of mutton and fascistic propaganda. But now, Steerpike has rare cause to bemoan the ‘Gray Lady’s’ absence. For the NYT, whose staff proudly consider it to be the world’s leading liberal newspaper, has been strangely quiet on an area of intense local concern. The stabbing of Sir Salman Rushdie shocked the world last Friday, with expression

Salman Rushdie and the incitement of violence

When I met Salman Rushdie in New York a couple of years ago, he told me that the days in which he feared physical attack were long behind him. ‘It only affects my life when I talk to journalists,’ he said, a little pertly. ‘It is 20 years since I required any form of protection. I go everywhere I want.’ That was true, and not true. It was obvious to me – and, Sir Salman being no fool, will have been even more obvious to him – that thirtysomething years after the philistine clerisy of Iran sentenced him to death, there was nothing to prevent a lone nutter making an

France’s support of Rushdie puts Britain to shame

If any further evidence was needed of the moral cowardice of the British political class it has been provided in the wake of the appalling attack on Salman Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution. There were of course messages condemning the atrocity in New York, although notably it took Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey the best part of 24 hours to find the time to react. One might have expected the leaders of two of the three main political parties in Britain to consider such a sinister assault on Western values worthy of immediate comment. From Mark Drakeford, the first Minister of Wales, and Nicola Sturgeon there has been

Salman Rushdie overcame his fear

After Ayatollah Khomeini ordered Muslims to kill him for publishing The Satanic Verses in 1989, Julian Barnes gave Salman Rushdie a shrewd piece of advice. However many attempts were made on his life and the 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. When I interviewed him ten years ago he had learned to live without fear. No shaven-headed bodyguards accompanied him as he walked into a Notting Hill restaurant. His eyes did not scour the room for signs of danger. If the other diners knew

The Mozarts of ad music

It’s Christmas 2020 and Kevin the Carrot is on a mission. Snow swirls, ice glistens and roast turkeys and cold cuts wait on the table, bathed in cosy firelight. The visual symbols of Christmas are all present and correct in the big Aldi seasonal advert, but what pulls them together is the music. A hint of John Williams on a solo horn, a burst of swashbuckling rhythm; symphonic strings as our vegetable hero makes it home. It’s all there, sumptuously scored and precisely gauged to make you feel that in 30 seconds, you’ve experienced an epic. And then, of course, to go out and buy parsnips. ‘I was lucky, because

Salman Rushdie: ‘The implausible has become everyday’

When I say goodbye to Sir Salman Rushdie in his offices at New York University in Lower Manhattan in early March, we bump elbows. Not that it’s much more than a gesture, by this stage: we shook hands unthinkingly on first meeting, and we’d just shaken hands again. It’s a novelty, still halfway to being a joke. As I descend in the lift to Cooper Square, it occurs to me that if I’ve given Rushdie coronavirus I will be halfway to achieving what the mullahs couldn’t. Halfway funny as a hypothetical; halfway not at this distance, writing the piece up three weeks later. As Alan Moore’s nihilistic Rorschach puts it: