How Salman Rushdie dealt with writer’s block—and other little-known facts

Quartz india
Quartz india

You’d expect Salman Rushdie to be larger than life on the internet.

His Twitter presence hasn’t disappointed so far—with more than one controversy flowing from the barrels of the 140-character statements he fires frequently.

Not surprisingly, therefore, Rushdie’s new website is as creative as his works, which span history, contemporary politics, love and lust, often using magic realism as the glue. Designed by Adrian Kinloch, a New York-based graphic designer who has worked with several literary clients such as Simon & Schuster, Random House, and American novelist and screenwriter, John Irving in the past, the website helped us find things even Rushdie fans might not have known of.

We picked seven of these.

The Enchantress of Florence in Hindi

Rushdie’s 2008 wondrous tale about a mysterious woman, who charms and enchants her ways to control her fate in a world ruled by men, has been published in Hindi translation, and is called Florence Ki Jadugarni. Published by Random House India and translated by Neelabh, the book cover resembles a traditional Madhubani painting with the enchantress in a desi, lehenga-choli avatar.

The writer’s block

Rarely do we see famous writers owning up to their occasional tryst with the dreaded writer’s block. But in this brilliantly witty and candid speech in April 2009 at The Moth, a New York-based nonprofit that conducts live storytelling events, Rushdie takes the audience back to 1986—the year he decided to visit Nicaragua to witness a political revolution, which helped him cure his temporary block.

After a dreaded encounter with what seemed like a rendezvous with landmines, he came back from the war zone to his study in London and wrote the first draft of The Satanic Verses. But it was only later that he realised that “not only landmines could make a big bang, sometimes books could make them too.”

Rushdie’s memoir, in his own voice

Published in September 2012, Rushdie’s book Joseph Anton is an account of his life in 1989, when Iranian theocrat Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him for writing The Satanic Verses (1988), which was accused of being “against Islam, the Prophet, and the Quran.”

The book details the circumstances of his life in hiding under the fatwa—living under police scrutiny 24×7, braving separation from his second, third and fourth wives, unconditional support of other writer-friends—for almost a decade.

The Satanic Verses stands banned in India even today, but there’s the option to read the circumstances around and about it in Rushdie’s poignant autobiography. You can also listen to the three-minute long audio book sample from the prologue of the book, in Rushdie’s own voice.

With Ben Kingsley

A fairly young Rushdie speaks for his protagonist Saleem Sinai from Midnight’s Children in this BBC documentary titled, A Tall Story: How Salman Rushdie Pickled All of India, where he discusses the autobiographical elements of Sinai and birth at the stroke of midnight as India tasted independence, and his own experiences as someone who was born two months before the historical event. The 45-minute-long film is a delightful watch for anyone who has read the book; it also has impressive readings by English actor Ben Kingsley.

Professor Rushdie

Perri Klass, professor of journalism and pediatrics at the New York University, and medical director of Reach Out and Read announced the appointment of Rushdie as distinguished writer-in-residence in the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of the Faculty of Arts and Science in September 2015.

Rushdie will teach and advice journalism students, and provide public readings at the university. He will serve on the faculty of the journalism institute for five years.

His upcoming keynote address

In 2006, Rushdie began his term as distinguished writer-in-residence in the English department at Emory University in Georgia, in the US. It was during the time he spent teaching at the university that he wrote his 2012 memoir, Joseph Anton.

Rushdie’s five-year term will come to an end in spring this year. He will deliver the keynote address during Emory University’s 170th commencement ceremony scheduled to be held on May 11, where he will be awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree.

His new book

This isn’t news for most of us, but here’s some information for the uninitiated. Two Years Eight Months & Twenty-Eight Nights is a short novel, of about 250 pages, and as the title suggests, is inspired from the folktales of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. It is also his first (fiction) novel for adults in six years; the last one being The Enchantress of Florence.

This post first appeared on Scroll.in. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.

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