The translators of “Satanic verses” in Japan, Italy, Norway and Turkey were attacked
In his 50-year literary career, death threats are nothing new for Salman Rushdie. The writer is one of the most famous and successful British authors. But his fourth novel – “Satanic Verses”, published in 1988, caused an unprecedented international upheaval.
In recent times, Salman Rushdie had come to believe that his life was “normal again” and that fears of an attack were in the past, he himself said in an interview. Just two weeks later, he was attacked with a knife in New York. On Friday, the 75-year-old writer was stabbed at least 12 times, including in the face and neck. One of the wounds is in the writer’s eye, and it is possible that he will lose it. In another blow, the knife went into his abdomen, rupturing his liver.
Despite the very severe injuries, Salman Rushdie was disconnected from the ventilator, he is conscious and is even talking now.
The suspect in the attack is 24-year-old New Jersey resident Hadi Matar. In court, he pleaded not guilty and his hands were handcuffed. “Satanic Verses” was published a decade before Matar was born to parents who emigrated from Lebanon. His social media activity suggests admiration for Iran and Shiite extremism.
Already with his second book “Midnight’s Children” in 1981, Salman Rushdie won the most prestigious British literary prize “Booker”. In September 1988, the work that will threaten his life – “Satanic stanzas” – was published. The surreal postmodern novel has sparked outrage among some Muslims, who consider its content blasphemous and claim that its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad is a serious affront to their faith.
Iran quickly severed relations with the UK, and in 1989, a year after the book was published, then-supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, a decree calling for the writer’s murder. All Muslims are called upon to respond to the fatwa and kill the writer, as well as the publishers of the book and anyone familiar with its contents. As a result, Rushdie spent almost a decade in hiding and was provided with British police protection. In the first 6 months following the fatwa, he changed 56 homes and did not tell his children where he lived.
Salman Rushdie was born in Mumbai to non-practicing Muslims and is himself an atheist. At the age of 14, he was sent to England, where he received his education and graduated with honors in history at the prestigious “King’s College” in Cambridge. Become a British citizen. He worked briefly as an actor and then as an advertising copywriter while writing novels.
In the controversial work “Satanic Stanzas”, he tells the adventures of two Indians who miraculously survived a terrorist attack on their plane. The two arrive safe and sound on an English beach and mingle with the migrants in London. According to Rushdie himself, his novel is about immigrants who have lost their roots, about how they feel abroad. The second chapter is the one that causes a scandal. In it, Rushdie describes scenes in which a lightly comic character named Prophet Mahund, harassed by Satan, preaches belief in deities other than Allah. The title refers to two verses removed from the Koran by the Prophet Muhammad because he believed they were inspired by the devil.
Rushdie’s native India was the first to ban the novel. Pakistan followed suit, as did 20 or so other countries in Asia and South Africa. Some Muslims object, among other things, to two prostitutes in the book being named after wives of the Prophet Muhammad.
Rushdie himself is not the only one threatened over the book. The Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses was found murdered at a university northeast of Tokyo in 1991. Hitoshi Igarashi, who worked as an assistant professor of comparative culture, had been stabbed several times and left in the hallway outside his office. His killer has never been found. Earlier that month, Italian translator Ettore Capriolo was stabbed in his apartment in Milan but survived the attack. The Norwegian translator of the book, William Nygaard, was shot in 1993 outside his home in Oslo – he also survived. That same year, 37 people died in a hotel fire in Turkey set by protesters against the book’s Turkish translator, who survived the tragedy.
Rushdie only began to emerge from his life on the run in the late 1990s, after Iran declared in 1998 that it no longer supported his assassination. However, the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, once said that the fatwa against Rushdie was “fired like a bullet that does not stop until it hits its target.”
“The fatwa is a serious matter. Fortunately, we didn’t have the internet back then. The Iranians had faxed the fatwa to the mosques. All this is a long time ago. Today, my life is completely normal again,” Rushdie said calmly weeks before the near-fatal attack. Over the years, he hasn’t stopped writing and has 12 novels to date. He has been married four times and has two children. He now lives in the USA and since 2007 has been knighted by the British Queen for his services to literature.