After decades spent in the shadow of a death sentence pronounced by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Salman Rushdie is quietly defiant.
“I don’t want to live hidden away,” he told AFP during a visit to Paris. The novelist’s life changed forever on February 14, 1989, when Iran’s spiritual leader ordered Rushdie’s execution after branding his novel “The Satanic Verses” blasphemous.
Like a kind of reverse Valentine, Tehran renewed the fatwa year after year. Rushdie, who some say is the greatest writer India has produced since Tagore, spent 13 years living under a false name and constant police protection.
“I was 41 back then, now I am 71. Things are fine now,” he said in September. “We live in a world where the subject changes very fast. And this is a very old subject. There are now many other things to be frightened about and other people to kill,” he added ruefully.
Rushdie stopped using an assumed name in the months after September 11 2001, three years after Tehran had said the threat against him was “over”. But armed plainclothes police nonetheless sat outside the door of his French publisher’s office in Paris during an interview with AFP. Several others had taken up positions in the courtyard.