Being beastly to Salman

In what seemed like a campaign against the author, who has moved from Britain to the United States, the novel was met in advance by a chorus of premature dispraise.

There had been word of mouth about Fury for months. It was, gossip declared, about his latest divorce and the new love in his life, the delectable Padma Lakshmi. So that was why he had his eyelids fixed and lost 15kg! And, of course, he had deserted London for New York on the grounds that its reviewers were “provincial” and “bitchy”. He’ll pay for that, one prophesied. And he has.

The first big review of Fury came out in the Times on August 15: three full weeks before the book was supposed to hit the stores. This led to other papers jumping the gun, which in turn led to bookshops trying to get ahead of each other and putting the book on the shelves before the official launch date.

The Times review, by the paper’s literary editor, Erica Wagner, set the pattern. It was embellished with a picture of “Rushdie and his girlfriend” and was, from beginning to end, an assault. “Ah, to be a woman at the sharp end of Salman Rushdie’s compliments,” Wagner sighed.

On August 20, in came George Walden in the London Evening Standard. He had been sniping at Rushdie ever since The Ground Beneath Her Feet, a novel which allegedly betrayed the high culture he (Walden) stands for. Nor, one might think, was a former Tory minister an ideal choice of reviewer. Another lead, another showbiz pic, another hatchet job (“unsatisfying at every level”).

The broadsheets came in two weeks early, on the weekend of August 25. With one exception (this reviewer in The Guardian) their judgement was stridently hostile. Reviewers vied with each other in condescension and nastiness.

Typical was Matt Thorne’s verdict in the Independent on Sunday: “Rushdie has long been overrated as a novelist, but after three major duds in a row, it must be time for his relegation from the premier league.”

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Just transition could secure access to cleaner energy sources in...

A researcher says Africa’s huge renewable energy potential could save lives from air pollution

South African entrepreneur seeks to turn caterpillars into tasty snacks

For many people, particularly from western European backgrounds, the idea of eating insects is still riddled with fear and inhibition

No shucks given at the Knysna Oyster Festival

The world of Knysna’s shores is everyone’s oyster this week. There is something for everyone: arts; entertainment; trail running; wining and dining; and chocolate making

What is reconciliation in the South African context?

In 2021, there were 16 different understandings of the concept. At the top of the list is the understanding of reconciliation as forgiveness. This is understandable but problematic.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…