Rushdie writes about life under a fatwa 'so I'll never have to talk about it again'

By Louise Jury
Thursday 07 November 2002 01:00

Salman Rushdie hopes to end speculation about his life under the fatwa – a religious death sentence imposed by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini – with the publication of a new book of essays.

Speaking to The Independent after a jury of his literary peers awarded him the 2002 London International Writers Award last night, the Booker prizewinning author said he felt he had put the fatwa behind him. But it was a constant source of questioning from those who met him.

"I hope that this book, Step Across the Line, is a way of drawing a line under it. I get endlessly asked about those years and it what it felt like and what kind of impact it had on me," he said.

"Other than doing the odd interview, I've never put these thoughts together. There are 60 or 70 pages in this book that deal with it, and I hope that I'll never have to talk about it again afterwards. From my view, I haven't been living that life for years now."

Placed under a fatwa in 1989 after the publication of his "blasphemous" novel The Satanic Verses, hemoved between safe houses, surrounded by bodyguards, until the threat of Muslim extremists carrying out the order receded.

Mr Rushdie now spends most of his time in literary circles in America, but insisted last night that he had not abandoned Britain. "I come back all the time. I've never stopped having a place in London, my children are here, a lot of my friends are here."

However, as a Briton in New York, he had observed the US build-up to war with Iraq with enormous concern.

"In America, I've been seeing that Tony Blair has probably the most important position in the world after Bush. He's the reason why the administration has been working with the United Nations."

Mr Rushdie spoke about his writing last night in front of a packed audience at the Apollo Theatre in London as part of the Orange Word Season of talks with writers. He received his award on the vote of other writers who have appeared this season, including Norman Mailer, Martin Amis and Jeanette Winterson.

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