HELLO! 100 Most Influential: Salman Rushdie

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Why he matters: Such is the might of this award-winning novelist that his words can endure even an assassination attempt. A Booker Prize recipient and no stranger to controversy, the Victory City author continues to influence generations of writers and intellectuals.

There are writers, and then there’s Salman Rushdie. The ultimate rockstar writer. Arguably the most famous novelist in the world, he catapulted to fame in 1981 after winning the Booker Prize for his seminal novel, Midnight’s Children, and has never receded from the public eye.

His 1988 book, The Satanic Verses, inspired by the life of the Prophet, landed him in the eye of a storm, with Iran issuing a fatwa calling for his death, and India becoming the first country to ban the novel, fearing that the subject would create a law-and-order disturbance. Forced to go into hiding, Rushdie lived under heavy police protection in the UK — and he wrote about those stressful years in a memoir titled Joseph Anton, published in 2012.

The most shocking turn of events in his life, however, unfurled in August 2022, when Rushdie faced an assassination attempt. He was stabbed multiple times while about to deliver a lecture in Chautauqua, New York, after which he spent six weeks in hospital, losing vision in one eye and the functioning of an arm. Unsurprisingly, he wrote his way through the trauma and announced his latest work, Victory City, earlier this year.

With 40 books to his name, Rushdie’s words have influenced generations of writers and intellectuals, and he’s often touted as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His style of magic realism explores the tensions between the East and West, the immigrant experience, as well as South Asian history.

The author, who studied at Cambridge University, was born and brought up in Mumbai, a city that continues to hold a special place in his heart. He’s been married five times, including to the Indian-American Padma Lakshmi.

In a recent interview, Rushdie told the BBC, “Writers don’t have much power. We don’t have armies. What we have is the ability to write about the world, and if we’re any good, that might endure.”

It’s safe to say that Rushdie’s words will stand the test of time...

To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!