Rushdie: how the fatwa made me a much nicer man

Author admits he nearly gave up writing during 10 years in isolation – but he emerged stronger and with a new zest for life

Sir Salman Rushdie has confessed how he emerged a better person after being under a fatwa that saw him live a life in virtual seclusion for almost a decade.

In 1989, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued the author with a death warrant over alleged blasphemy against the Prophet Mohamed in his novel The Satanic Verses. In a revelatory encounter with clinical psychologist Pamela Connolly, to be shown on Channel 4 later this month, the author claims the decision ultimately helped him become more self-aware. He recalls how he reached rock bottom when the fatwa was declared and says that it "erased" his personality.

The persecution almost drove him to stop writing altogether, he claims: "It's the only time in my life that I ever really thought, if this is what you get for writing, then why do it?"

Speaking during a session with Dr Connolly for the Shrink Rap series, which has seen celebrities submit to what amounts to a televised therapy session, Rushdie admits he was "deranged" when claiming to be a Muslim in an attempt to deal with the pressures of the fatwa and "that's the moment at which I hit bottom".

He adds: "After that, it cleared things up in my head... I stopped being the prisoner of that thing, because I thought, OK, there are people who are not going to like me and do you know what? I don't like them."

The author also reveals how he suffered during his time at Rugby public school. In a scathing aside, he says, "I was clever, and I was foreign, and I was bad at games, and these are the three mistakes at an English boarding school."

Everyone now knows his views on marriage. In an interview with the writer Kathy Lette for Elle magazine, Rushdie proclaimed: "I've been married four times, but I actually don't think marriage is necessary. Girls like it – it's the dress."

He seems to be enjoying being single since his divorce from Indian actress Padma Lakshmi. This week he was seen nuzzling actress Scarlett Johansson in the video for her debut single. He was photographed 10 days ago at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington DC on the arm of statuesque brunette actress Olivia Wilde, 24.