Celebrated British author Salman Rushdie, whose 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” generated a firestorm of controversy among Islamic fundamentalists, explores the freedom of expression, religion and their relationship to modern society Thursday, April 20 at Lawrence University as part of the college’s convocation series.
Rushdie presents ”A Morning with Salman Rushdie” at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, 510 E. College Ave., Appleton. He also will conduct a question-and-answer session at 2 p.m. in Youngchild Hall, Room 121. Both events are free and open to the public.
Rushdie, 58, has established himself as one of the most successful novelists of his generation in part for his thought-provoking examinations of the world’s changing sociopolitical landscape. Hailed as an “author to watch” by literary critic David Wilson after his first novel, 1975’s “Grimus,” Rushdie has written eight novels and a half dozen other works, including the award-wining children’s fairy tale “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” and a collection of short stories entitled “East, West.”
He is arguably best known for “The Satanic Verses,” a complex narrative that has been compared to “A Thousand and One Nights” for its multiple stories-within-a-story approach. Honored with the U.K.’s Whitbread Novel Award and named a finalist for the prestigious Booker McConnell Prize, “The Satanic Verses” was banned in Rushdie’s native India before it was published. It was subsequently deemed sacrilegious by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeni, who issued a “fatwa” — death sentence — against Rushdie in 1989. A reward of nearly $3 million was offered by fundamentalist Muslim groups to have Rushdie killed. The Iranian government eased the fatwa in 1998, although some Islamic groups claim that a fatwa cannot be canceled.
Rushdie’s 1995 novel, “The Moor’s Last Sigh,” another Booker McConnell Prize finalist, took a satirical look at the politics of India and earned a fate similar to “The Satanic Verses.” It, too, was banned by the Indian government.
His follow-up to “Grimus,” 1981’s “Midnight’s Children, won both the Booker McConnell Prize for fiction and the Union Literary Award. His more recent works include “Step Across This Line: Collected Non-Fiction, 1992-2002,” a series of essays, some of which explore his own reaction to the fatwa, as well as reactions of the media and various governments and the novel “Shalimar the Clown,” which was published by Random House last September.
Born in Mumbai (Bombay), India and educated at King’s College at the University of Cambridge, where he earned a degree in history, Rushdie has been recognized with numerous international literary awards. In addition to the Booker Award, the most prestigious award available to British novelists, he’s also been honored with France’s Prix du Leilleur Livre Etranger, the Budapest Grand Prize for Literature, Italy’s Natova Prize, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature and the London International Writers’ Award.
In 2004, Rushdie was the named the president of The PEN American Center in New York City, the largest of the 141 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization.