Sir Salman Rushdie (born Ahmed Salman Rushdie in 1947) remains one of the most vital and historically relevant international novelists to emerge in the years following World War II. The son of a Muslim businessman based in India, Rushdie received his formal education in England, at the Rugby School and the University of Cambridge; he essayed an early career in the U.K. as an advertising copywriter, before his debut novel, the 1975 Shame, spurred him on to immense global success as a writer. Several successive books followed (each of which encountered tremendous critical acclaim), but Rushdie only attained "household name" status by virtue of his weighty 1988 religious allegory The Satanic Verses, and unfortunately, for the direst of reasons. The work, with its intimate knowledge of Islamic belief, Middle Eastern tradition and lore, its lyrical imagery, and its supremely challenging rhetorical style perched midway between poetry and traditional prose, tells a controversial revisionist version of the life of the Mohammed (with a character modeled upon that prophet). Many Muslims found the narrative incorrigibly blasphemous and offensive even as literary critics extolled the work to lofty heights. The work's detractors included the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who promptly put a fatwa on Rushdie's head, forcing the author to go into hiding in early 1989. His exile lasted around ten years, but he remained fervently active as a novelist during that time, and emerged on occasion to do talk show appearances.
Following the official cancellation of the fatwa in the late '90s, Rushdie emerged in public and began to make appearances in films -- usually cameos as himself. These included Bridget Jones' Diary (2001), The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch, and Helen Hunt's directorial debut, Then She Found Me (2008). He also participated in the PBS miniseries Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason (2007). ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi