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Monday, April 21, 2008

With clock ticking, Rushdie makes careful choices

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Author Salman Rushdie says time is running out, so with only a handful of books left in him he is choosing his subjects carefully.

Having just published his 10th novel, "The Enchantress of Florence", the 60-year-old plans to write a children's story next to keep a promise he made to his younger son Milan.

"I promised my younger son, who is just coming up to 11, that I would write another book for younger readers, because he read 'Haroun and the Sea of Stories' not so long ago and was very fond it," Rushdie told Reuters in a recent interview.

"But he's also well aware of the fact that it's written for his older brother, so he's now begun to say 'Where's my book?' and there's no answer to that except to write it. I had to do a deal with him to be allowed to write this book (Enchantress)."

Rushdie typically takes three to five years to write a book.

"You think 'How many more have I got?' And so the question of which ones ... becomes unusually important when you are no longer immortal.

"When you are 25 you think you can do anything, loads of time, and now there isn't loads of time. Fortunately, I think one of the things you get better at as a writer as you get older is subject selection."

Another advantage of advancing years and a focussed mind, Rushdie believes, is that criticism becomes easier to bear.

"It's always nicer when people get it and like it than when they don't get it and don't like it. But you reach a point ... when you realise how many good working years you've got left?

"When you are asking yourself those questions, which are life and death questions, what a given critic says of you is a very minor thing compared to that.

"I think when you're younger you can actually be deflected by criticism. It can actually get in your way."


What did upset Rushdie was attacks from the "non-Muslim" community in Britain after he was awarded a knighthood last year, which he described as "a carnival of hate".

Politicians in Iran, Pakistan and other Muslim countries criticised Britain's decision to honour the writer who, 20 years ago, sparked fury with his novel "The Satanic Verses" which was deemed to have blasphemed against Islam.

While Rushdie expected such a reaction, which soon petered out, he added: "I did get surprised by the extent to which non-Muslim criticism in this country seemed to use it as a moment to really have a go at me.

"Suddenly it seemed like everybody who had ever had something against me was able to get acres of space in the newspapers to say what a bastard I was, and that my books were lousy and why didn't you give the knighthood to the postman because he wrote better than I did."

The Indian-born writer feels he is judged for what people think he is, not what he writes, the result of fame bordering on celebrity due to nine years in hiding after a death sentence was issued in 1989 by the then supreme religious leader of Iran.

"My general plan at the moment is to simplify my life," he said. "Again that is a sense of the clock ticking. You want to get done things you want to get done and in my mind that's mostly family, work, friends."

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

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