The PEN/Pinter Prize, awarded annually to a writer who shows a "fierce intellectual determination ... to define the real truth of our lives and our societies," will go to Salman Rushdie, the organization announced Friday. Rushdie will be presented with the prize in London in October.
Rushdie is the author of more than a dozen books of fiction and nonfiction and an active advocate for free speech. His 1981 novel "Midnight's Children" won the Booker Prize, but it was his novel "The Satanic Verses" that brought him international fame.
After its publication, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini declared a fatwa against the novelist, saying that the book was an insult to Islam, and called for his death. Rushdie went into hiding and lived in seclusion for almost a decade, an experience he chronicled in his 2012 memoir "Joseph Anton," which was his code name with the British forced that guarded him.
“This prize is English PEN’s way of thanking Salman Rushdie not just for his books and his many years of speaking out for freedom of expression, but also for his countless private acts of kindness," Maureen Freely, chair of the judging committee, said in the announcement. "When he sees writers unjustly vilified, prosecuted, or forced into exile, he takes a personal interest."
Antonia Fraser, Pinter's widow and a judge, added, “Harold admired Salman Rushdie’s work profoundly long before he met him. When we did all meet, a friendship grew up which was very important to Harold; he was honored to deliver Salman’s own lecture at the Institute of Contemporary Arts shortly after the fatwa. This award would have meant a great deal to Harold who respected Salman twice over, both for his work and his great personal courage.”
The PEN/Pinter prize will be presented Oct. 9. Previous recipients of the award include David Hare, Hanif Kureishi, Tom Stoppard and Carol Ann Duffy.
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