Author Rushdie and TV host Lakshmi to divorce

NEW YORK Mon Jul 2, 2007 11:44am EDT

Salman Rushdie (R) and wife Padma Lakshmi arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Mortons in West Hollywood, in this file photo from March 5, 2006. Rushdie and his wife Padma Lakshmi, host of the television show ''Top Chef,'' are getting divorced, just two weeks after he was awarded a British knighthood, his spokeswoman said on Monday. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

Salman Rushdie (R) and wife Padma Lakshmi arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Mortons in West Hollywood, in this file photo from March 5, 2006. Rushdie and his wife Padma Lakshmi, host of the television show ''Top Chef,'' are getting divorced, just two weeks after he was awarded a British knighthood, his spokeswoman said on Monday.

Credit: Reuters/Phil McCarten

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - British author Salman Rushdie and his wife Padma Lakshmi, host of TV show "Top Chef," are getting divorced, his spokeswoman said on Monday, just two weeks after he was awarded a controversial knighthood.

Rushdie, 60, is best known for his novel "The Satanic Verses," which outraged many Muslims and sparked death threats that forced him to live in hiding for nine years.

He married Lakshmi, a former model born in 1970 in India, in 2004. She was his fourth wife and the couple had no children.

"Salman Rushdie has agreed to divorce his wife, Padma Lakshmi, because of her desire to end their marriage," spokeswoman Jin Auh said in a statement on his behalf.

"He asks that the media respect his privacy at this difficult time," the statement said.

Rushdie hit the headlines two weeks ago when he was selected for knighthood by Britain's Queen Elizabeth, provoking renewed anger among some Muslims in Iran and Pakistan.

When the Indian-born Rushdie started his romance with the model more than 20 years his junior, the British tabloids made much of their differences in age and intellectual stature.

But Rushdie always defended his wife.

"Anyone who's met Padma knows she's as intelligent as they come," he told The Times of London in a 2005 interview. "But, you know, it's not supposed to be permitted to be gorgeous and really smart and also very nice."

"It feels very odd to see newspaper articles saying 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Why Do Beautiful Women Love Ugly Men?'" he said in the interview. "But at this stage, I'm kind of resigned to it at -- as you say -- pushing 60."

Rushdie shot to fame in 1981 when his second novel, "Midnight's Children," a magic-realist exploration of Indian history, won the Booker Prize.

The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme religious leader, pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict in 1989 that called on Muslims to kill Rushdie because of perceived blasphemy in his fourth novel, "The Satanic Verses."

Lakshmi started her career as a model and has since acted in movies and television shows and written cookbooks. She hosts the U.S. cooking show "Top Chef" on the Bravo cable network.

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