LONDON (Reuters) - Salman Rushdie is working on a memoir of his years in hiding after Iran’s then supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death edict against him in 1989 for writing “The Satanic Verses,” deemed blasphemous to Islam.
The British author has also just published a children’s book called “Luka and the Fire of Life,” which he wrote for his younger son Milan, and has almost completed the screenplay for a movie version of acclaimed 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children.”
The 63-year-old said of the memoir that there was an “information vacuum” to fill, and that he finally felt it was time to confront a difficult period in his life.
“I’m beginning to write this memoir,” Rushdie told Reuters in an interview. “I’ve written about ... 100 pages of book and I reckon very roughly that feels like a quarter of the story. I’m aiming, in my mind, for the end of next year (to finish it).
“So far I feel that I’m right — I’m not getting churned up and upset, I’m just writing it and I’m feeling quite pleased to be writing it.”
He said he hoped to finish the memoir by the end of 2011, although timing would depend on whether the movie of Midnight’s Children, to be directed by Indian-born filmmaker Deepa Mehta, was made next year.
The Satanic Verses, which appeared in 1988, was Rushdie’s fourth novel.
The allegorical fantasy about the struggle between good and evil was seen by many Muslims as blasphemous, leading to riots and calls for the novel to be banned.
In 1989, a fatwa was proclaimed forcing the writer into hiding which he only fully emerged from nine years later, despite occasional public appearances between 1989 and 1998.
“A lot of people don’t know what happened under that shroud of secrecy,” Rushdie said.
He added that while the broader context of the fatwa would be part of his book, its main strength would lie in the fact that it was “essentially a human story.
“It’s about what it was like, not just for me, but for my children, people who were close to me, my mother.”
The memoir would also help him put the record straight.
“It’s true that there being a kind of information vacuum allows people to speculate or to invent maliciously and that has been a little frustrating, but the truth is that until quite recently I was not ready to write this book.”
It was during his years under the shadow of the fatwa that Rushdie wrote the acclaimed children’s novel “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” for his elder son Zafar.
His younger son Milan, now 13, repeatedly reminded Rushdie that he had not done the same for him, prompting the author to write Luka and the Fire of Life, published this month by Jonathan Cape, part of the Random House Group.
The story follows Luka on a dangerous journey into the World of Magic, where he must steal the Fire of Life to prevent his father, Rashid the “Shah of Blah,” from disappearing.
Animals and mythical figures populate the action-packed, video game-inspired pages, and while written for a child the story tackles issues including intolerance and mortality.
“He (Milan) insistently says to me ‘you’re not old, you’re going to live for a long time’,” Rushdie said. “But at the same time he knows I’m 50 years older than him.
“The subject of mortality is clearly a big thing, or bigger anyway than it would be if you were 25 when you had a child.”
Reporting by Mike Collett-White