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Web extra: Revisiting a 2013 interview with Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie attends the 68th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on Nov. 15, 2017, in New York.  Rushdie was  attacked while giving a lecture in western New York. An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage Friday at the Chautauqua Institution as Rushdie was being introduced. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Salman Rushdie attends the 68th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on Nov. 15, 2017, in New York. Rushdie was attacked while giving a lecture in western New York. An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage Friday at the Chautauqua Institution as Rushdie was being introduced. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

This interview originally aired on Radio Boston in 2013. 

The writer Salman Rushdie remains in critical condition a week after he was brutally attacked while on stage in New York State.

“His life changing injuries are severe,” Rushdie’s son said in a statement. “[But] his usual feisty and defiant sense of humor remains intact.”

The knife attack comes more than 30 years after the Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death, following the publication of Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

What was so scary about the novel that a powerful national religious and state leader called for a writer’s murder?

The Satanic Verses refers to an incident in the prophet Mohammed’s life. In Rushdie’s book, a character named Mahound appears in dreams. And in one scene another character tells Mahound:

“First we said, Mahound will never compromise, and you compromised. Then we said, Mahound has betrayed us, but you were bringing us a deeper truth. You brought us the Devil himself, so that we could witness the workings of the Evil One, and his overthrow by the Right. You have enriched our faith. I am sorry for what I thought.”

Mahound moves away from the sunlight falling through the window. ”Yes.”

Bitterness, cynicism. ”It was a wonderful thing I did. Deeper truth. Bringing you the Devil. Yes, that sounds like me.”

And for those simple words, Khomeini wanted Rushdie to die. Last Friday, a knife-wielding fanatic came close to fulfilling that awful wish.

After the fatwa, Salman Rushdie spent more than a dozen years in hiding. By 2012, his life had returned enough to normal that he wrote a memoir about his decade of fear.

The memoir, called Joseph Anton, describes with moving candor, Rushdie’s pain, confusion, and anger at the sometimes absurd lengths he had to go to in order to remain safe, even while under the protection of British police.

In 2013, Meghna Chakrabarti had a chance to speak with Rushdie. He was on the tail end of his book tour for Joseph Anton.

In this podcast special, we’re resurfacing the 2013 Radio Boston interview with Salman Rushdie.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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