New Delhi: Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses was banned by India four months before Iran's supreme leader late Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for his killing without any proper examination or a judicial process, writes the controversial author in his memoirs.
"The Satanic Verses was denied the ordinary life of a novel. It became something smaller and uglier: an insult. And he became the Insulter, not only in Muslim eyes but in the opinion of public at large," Rushdie writes in his memoirs Joseph Anton on his hiding days after the fatwa.
In excerpts from the book published in The New Yorker, he said but for few weeks in the fall of 1988 the book was still "only a novel" and he was still himself.
The book was then shortlisted for the Booker Prize along with novels by Peter Carey, Bruce Chatwin, Marina Warner, David Lodge and Penelope Fitzgerald.
"Then on Thursday, October 6th, 1988 his friend Salman Haidar, who was Deputy High Commissioner of India in London, called to tell him formally, on behalf of his government, that The Satanic Verses had been banned in India," he writes in a third person account.
Haidar later became India's Foreign Secretary. "The book had not been examined by any properly authorised body, nor had there been any semblance of judicial process. The ban came, improbably, from the Finance Ministry, under Section 11 of the Customs Act, which prevented the book from being imported.
"Weirdly, the Finance Ministry stated that the ban 'did not detract from the literary and artistic merit' of his work. Thanks a lot, he thought," Rushdie says. The first death threat was received four days later on October ten at the London office of his publisher Viking Penguin and the day after that, a scheduled reading in Cambridge was cancelled by the venue because it, too, had received threats, he says.
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