Rushdie receives Mailer Prize for lifetime achievement

NEW YORK: Salman Rushdie is this year’s recipient of the Mailer Prize for lifetime achievement.

The author of Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses and other novels was presented this award by Laurie Anderson at a ceremony on December 10 night at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, the New York City borough where Norman Mailer was raised and lived off and on until his death in 2007.

“It’s kind of great to be standing here in Norman Mailer’s shadow,” Rushdie said.

Rushdie, like Mailer, is a former president of the American chapter of PEN, the literary and human rights organisation. He said Mailer had inspired him to help found the PEN World Voices Festival, an annual gathering of writers from around the world.

The 68-year-old Rushdie first encountered Mailer in the mid-1980s, when Mailer organised a famously contentious PEN congress. Rushdie said he remembered “how badly everybody behaved” and “how wonderful it was to see writers in

the raw.”

“To my great disappointment,” he added, “writers have changed now and everybody behaves really well.”

In her introductory remarks, Anderson read excerpts from Rushdie’s current novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. She said she has known Rushdie around 25 years, first meeting him at a secret location in London, when he was forced into hiding after The Satanic Verses led to Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini calling for his death.

“As a person, Salman is extraordinary. He’s a hilarious person of great good cheer — a wonderful, devoted parent, a serious defender of human rights,” she said. “But it’s really his writing we’re talking about now and how he puts words together on a page.”