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Masterpiece Special – Salman Rushdie (1996)


Andrea Stretton interviews Salman Rushdie, whose then latest book The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) was written under the threat of a fatwa, or death sentence. The fatwa was issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran because of comments about Islam made by Rushdie in a previous work, The Satanic Verses (1988). The interview ranges across his life, his books and his political passions.

Curator’s notes

Andrea Stretton is both well prepared and well read, and Salman Rushdie responds with a relaxed and thoughtful interview. It’s a wide-ranging conversation, with Stretton encouraging Rushdie to talk about his work, his politics and the effect of the fatwa on his life.

At the time of the interview, Rushdie was in Australia to promote his latest book. The book that catapulted him to fame was Midnight’s Children (1981) about the partitioning of India, an event that was happening at the moment of his birth. The book won the Booker Prize in 1981, and then the 'Booker of Bookers’ Prize in 1993 for the best book from the first 25 years of Booker prizes.

Salman Rushdie was born Ahmed Salman Rushdie on 19 June 1947 in Bombay, India, into a Muslim family. He’s a British-Indian writer whose works are mostly set on the Indian subcontinent. He grew up in Bombay, and moved with his family to Pakistan when he was 14. He later attended Kings College in Cambridge, England.

The interviewer is the arts journalist and television presenter Andrea Stretton who died in 2007. The Masterpiece Specials were an extension of the Masterpiece series she presented for SBS. Andrea Stretton began working for SBS as a journalist and producer in 1986. She co-presented The Book Show with Dinny O’Hearn until his death in 1993 then presented alone for many years. In 1998, she moved to the ABC as the presenter of Sunday Afternoon, staying until 2001. She was the artistic director of the 1998 and 1999 Olympic Arts festivals and was chosen by Prime Minister Keating to work on the Creative Nation cultural policy statement. Audiences loved her natural on-camera presence and interviewing style, at once conversational, knowledgeable and challenging. One of the things she was most proud of was her award from the French Government of the award of Arts and Letters for her contribution to arts and culture and for fostering French-Australian relations.