In 1988, Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” was published. A year later, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a “fatwah,” or death sentence, against the British-Indian author. Now, Rushdie was critically injured after being attacked at a reading.[This documentary was originally released in 2018]
For more than a decade, the author was a fugitive. He had to go into hiding, was under police protection, and had constantly changing identities and homes. The reason was the order to kill Rushdie by Ayatollah Khomeini that came after the publication of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Khomeini declared the work blasphemous, and Rushdie a heretic. At the time, Islamic fundamentalism and its violent and deadly consequences were not on the agenda yet. Rushdie lived in constant fear and survived 20 attempts on his life.
The film is a portrait of a man who uses calmness and humor as weapons of resistance. The portrait includes interviews with Rushdie and also features archive footage that show the violent reaction and mood after The Satanic Verses was published. They show how pop singer Cat Stevens called for Rushdie’s execution – which Cat Stevens would later deny. The film also draws attention to those who should have protected Rushdie, but abandoned him – from Jimmy Carter to Prince Charles. But there are examples of instant support too, like Isabelle Adjani, who read from The Satanic Verses at the César award ceremony. In New York, the author looks back on his life and his most famous novel, which has lost none of its importance. He speaks about his life, his childhood in Mumbai, Donald Trump and literature, of course.