Salman Rushdie offers his own 1,001 nights | Books | DW | 22.09.2015
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Salman Rushdie offers his own 1,001 nights

In his latest novel, "Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Days," Salman Rushdie shows once again that despite fatwas, he doesn't fear the confrontation between faith and reason.

In "Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Days," Salman Rushdie combines fairy tales and facts. It features the rationalist philosopher Ibn Rushd, who lived in the 12th century in Arab Spain, and his confrontation with the Islamic thinker Ghazali of Iran.

The struggle between faith and reason is told through a series of characters which include people, gods and spirits. It would be impossible to summarize the multiple subplots of this book. This is Rushdie's own version of the "Arabian Nights": If you add up the two years, eight months and 28 days mentioned in the title, you'll get 1,001 nights.

Until now, like Scheherazade, the storyteller has managed to survive, despite numerous death threats.

From Mumbai to life undercover

Born in 1947 in Mumbai - then known as Bombay -, Salman Rushdie became famous with his novel "Midnight's Children," the story of a boy who was also born in 1947 and grew up in India.

Salman Rushdie, Nadine Gordimer and Günter Grass, Copyright: imago / teutopress

Rushdie and Grass, who died in April 2015, were friends. They are pictured here with Nadine Gordimer in 1997.

It was inspired, among others, by "The Tin Drum" written by German Nobel Prize-winner Günter Grass in 1959.

Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses," published in 1988, was highly controversial because of its depiction of a fictional version of the Prophet Muhammad.

It led to protests in the Islamic world. Ayatollah Khomeini, then supreme religious leader of Iran, issued the famous fatwa calling for Rushdie's death.

As a result, Rushdie spent the following years living in secret locations under police protection, using different pseudonyms. The author has been living in New York without any bodyguards since 2002, according to his autobiographical book "Joseph Anton: A Memoir," published in 2012.

Promoting his new novel in Germany, Rushdie told the weekly "Stern" in an interview that he doubts the fatwa will ever be officially lifted. Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, said the threat was "finished" in 1998, but Rushdie doesn't expect anyone to come over and promise him that his life is now "completely safe."

However, he now leads a normal life in New York, he added.

In the same interview, he also calls for a hard stance against the terrorist militia "Islamic State" (IS), as he believes that it poses the worst threat of our time.

A post-Charlie Hebdo campaign

This week, Salman Rushdie wrote an article in the daily "Die Welt" in support of a social media campaign called #JeResteCharlie (I stay Charlie), launched by a group of German journalism students.

Rushdie stressed the importance of fighting for freedom of expression. In the aftermath of the attacks on the French satirical weekly, several people criticized the editorial nature of its content. Yet, Rushdie insists, "If we want to live in an open society, we need to accept such cartoons."

The author will be in Berlin to personally promote his book on November 21.