AP Interview: Salman Rushdie mixes fable with video games in new children’s book for his son

By Sylvia Hui, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

AP Interview: Salman Rushdie pens new kids’ book

LONDON — Salman Rushdie, the prize-winning Indian-born writer, has in the past based novels on the politics of India and Pakistan. But his latest book is for teenagers, and the inspiration — at least some of it — came from video games.

In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Rushdie said “Luka and the Fire of Life,” his new novel, was written as a birthday present for his 13-year-old son, Milan.

The book, a fable about a young boy’s adventures as he tries to save his father’s life, is the second novel Rushdie has written for children. His first, “Haroun and the Sea of Stories,” was written for his older son, Zafar, in 1989, as Rushdie was under threat of death.

Earlier that year, Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had issued a religious edict, or fatwah, ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie, saying his novel “The Satanic Verses” had insulted Islam.

The new book, Rushdie said Friday, drew inspiration from elements of computer games — though he admitted that he was terrible at the games and his sons usually beat him.

“Video games are often based on a classical quest format. That fits well with a fable,” he told the AP. “The book is about the value of life, and in video games you can have a thousand lives. So I contrasted those two things.”

Rushdie said much has changed since his first children’s book, which he described as a response to being forced into hiding. The fatwah, which came amid angry protests and book burnings across the Muslim world, put Rushdie under police protection for almost 10 years.

“This was a dark time for me and I tried to fill the novel with light and to give it a happy ending. Happy endings were things I had become very interested in at the time,” he said.

Rushdie said he enjoyed writing the two children’s books, but he doesn’t see himself becoming a children’s author.

He said he is now about a quarter of the way through writing his memoirs, which he has said will describe his years facing the death threats. He also said he will likely return to writing about Indian politics, although he has no concrete plans for another novel yet.

“The writer’s arc doesn’t always go in a straight line,” he said. “But India is always sitting there for me. I always circle back to it.”

Rushdie, who was born in Mumbai, is best known for much more ambitious work that dealt with Indian independence, Pakistani power struggles and Islam. “Midnight’s Children” won Britain’s Booker Prize in 1981, and was selected in 1993 as the best novel in 25 years of Booker Prize winners. Rushdie said he recently finished a screenplay based on that book, and is helping secure financing for a movie version.

He has written 10 novels and four works of nonfiction, and was knighted in 2007 by Queen Elizabeth II. He lives most of the year in Britain, where he is a citizen.

“Luka” was published by The Random House Group Thursday.

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