Edinburgh Book Festival welcomes return of Rushdie after 20-year absence

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The Independent Culture

For the first time in two decades British writer Salman Rushdie will appear at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The author of The Satanic Verses is one of more than 500 novelists, poets, journalists, scientists, historians, biographers and illustrators from 30 countries taking part in this year's two week festival which is now the biggest literary celebration of its kind in the world.

Mr Rushdie, who was the subject of a fatwa imposed by Iran's leaders for alleged blasphemy in 1990, last appeared at the Edinburgh event in the 1980s and yesterday Catherine Lockerbie, director of the festival, said she was delighted he had agreed to return.

This summer's festival, which runs from 13 to 29 August in the city's Charlotte Square Gardens, host 650 events featuring a wide range of novelists, poets, politicians, crime writers, scientists, journalists, historians and biographers, as well as children's authors and illustrators from all over the world.

Other famous names from the printed page who will be appearing include Nobel prize-winner Dario Fo, Canadian Booker winner Margaret Atwood, who wrote The Handmaid's Tale and White Teeth author Zadie Smith.

Veteran left-wing politician and former cabinet minister Tony Benn will also appear as well as TV newsmen Jon Snow, Fergal Keane, Andrew Marr and Rageh Omaar.

Last year 207,000 people attended the festival and this year the organisers hope to match or even exceed those numbers.

"The book festival's rapid growth convinced us that there was a huge appetite among the public for engaging with books, words and ideas and we have been proven correct," said Ms Lockerbie.

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