Photo: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
When someone doesn’t want you to read a particular book, that’s a pretty good sign that you should. After the brutal attack on Salman Rushdie last Friday, readers took to social media and magazines to say they sought out his work, especially his controversial 1988 magic-realist novel satanic verses which led to a fatwa calling for his murder.
From Wednesday morning, satanic verses was the #2 seller in “Contemporary Literature and Fiction” on Amazon and the #50 best-selling book overall. “I just bought this book in response to extremists trying to silence people. You won’t win,” read a recent five-star review. “Let’s put this one back on the charts,” said another. even, Rushdie’s 1981 Booker Prize-winning novel The Midnight Children sits at No. 3 on the “Asian Myth & Legend” chart. Steph Opitz, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Bookshop.org, reports that “the search for satanic verses and Salman Rushdie jumped over 10,000% in the past week, with satanic verses reaching our top 10 most wanted books and #8 on our bestseller list.
Rushdie was assaulted at a conference in Chautauqua, New York, on Friday, suffering stab wounds to his neck, face, liver and chest. The author’s condition is now stable and he is “on the road to recovery”. Her attacker, Hadi Matar, 24, was arrested at the scene.
Although no explicit motive for the attack was provided, Rushdie has had a death warrant hanging over his head for more than 30 years due to alleged blasphemy in satanic verses. Upon publication, the novel was banned in many countries, including Rushdie’s native India. In 1989, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s murder. As the fatwa received international condemnation both within the Islamic world and outside, Rushdie was forced into hiding.
After Khomeini’s death, the Iranian government tried to backtrack on the fatwa… sort of: in the late 1990s, the government said it would “not support or hinder assassination operations against Rushdie” . But despite Iranian organizations still offering a bounty of over $3 million even as of this year, Rushdie has long been out of hiding. Indeed, the fatwa seemed so far in the rearview mirror that Rushdie joked about it in the 2017 season of Calm your enthusiasmcentered around Larry David promoting a musical titled Fatwa!
If the attack of August 12 was indeed linked to satanic verses, it would not be the first attack of this kind. The novel’s Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, was fatally stabbed in Tokyo in 1991, while the Norwegian publisher, William Nygaard, was shot several times in 1993 but survived. Rushdie recounted his experiences living under death warrant in his 2012 memoir Joseph Anthony, who was named after the alias Rushdie used while in hiding. This book? Now the #3 seller on Amazon in the “Religious Intolerance and Persecution” category.