The Inventory: Salman Rushdie

What was your earliest ambition?

What I really liked doing as a child was acting.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

I went to a fee-paying day school, the Cathedral School in Bombay, and then to Rugby. I have a strong memory of having been very well taught. My years at Cambridge were the most valuable of my life in many ways. It really puts you on your mettle if you go to college as one of the smart kids in your school and discover that everyone else is as smart as you, if not smarter.

Who was your mentor?

I was lucky enough to study history at Cambridge at a time of great historians.

How physically fit are you?

The only bit of me that’s really fit is my right hand and wrist, entirely the result of book-signing sessions.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

No question but that it’s talent. Ambition suggests desire for great worldly success. What you need is determination.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

Yes, but I can’t remember the score.

How politically committed are you?

Very committed to particular issues. Freedom of speech has been paramount in my mind for the last 20 years or so. But party politics is too boring.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Not enough. The kind of life I have would be impossible without the jet aeroplane.

Do you have more than one home?

One in London and one in New York.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

The family joke is that I want a plane. Going through airports is not what it was. But I’m a novelist, so the likelihood is nil.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Going out to nice restaurants.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

A pen smashing a sword: not very elegant, but it represents what I think

In what place are you happiest?

Any place that contains my children.

What ambitions do you have?

I’ve never written a play, I’ve never written anything for television. I’d like to do that.

What drives you on?

Writing is my way of expressing my relationship with the times that I live in. It’s the place where the world inside you meets the world outside and that’s still a conversation worth having.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

My sons.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

The thing that happened to my novel The Satanic Verses. I’m not talking about the violence of the attack, but the ease with which people seemed to believe I was a reprehensible individual who had done something terrible.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

He’d be very relieved that it worked out. Midnight’s Children didn’t come out until I was 34, so I spent many years not getting anywhere. Looking back at that 20-year-old self, it’s remarkable he had that gumption to go on.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I’d get a job.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

If I knew someone who wanted it to happen, I would try to persuade them not to. Life is the most valuable thing we have and I’m not a great advocate of giving it away.

Do you believe in an afterlife?


If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

Somewhere in the middle. It’s a question of mood.

Salman Rushdie’s latest book ‘Luka and the Fire of Life’ (Jonathan Cape) was published on September 30

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