BANGALORE: Much acclaimed Indian-British novelist Salman Rushdie bagged the 2014 PEN Pinter Prize. The award was established in 2009, in memory of British playwright Harold Pinter and each year the prize is awarded to a British writer for their outstanding contribution to literature. The honor has been aptly recognized with Rushdie as in the words of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, the presentee of this award should have an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze upon the world and possess a “fierce intellectual determination to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’’.
This year’s candidature for Salman Rushdie was chosen by judges like Michael Billington, Antonia Fraser, Simon Jenkins, Kamila Shamsie and President of English PEN and Chair of Judges, Maureen Freely.Freely also said that “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. When he sees writers unjustly vilified, prosecuted, or forced into exile, he takes a personal interest. I think he would be the first to say that it was Harold Pinter who set the example in this regard: the engaged writer never sleeps.”
Salman Rushdie’s prize will be jointly received with an International Writer of Courage selected by him in association with English PEN’s Writers at Risk Committee. The writer chosen to share the prize will be someone who has been intimidated for speaking out about their beliefs, creating a charming paradox. The co-winner will be announced at the event and accept their prize alongside Salman Rushdie.
Antonia Fraser, Harold Pinter’s widow, warmly responded to Salman Rushdie winning the award and stated that, “Harold admired Salman Rushdie’s work profoundly long before he met him. This award would have meant a great deal to Harold who respected Salman twice over, both for his work and his great personal courage.”
Rushdie soar to fame with his 1981 novel Midnight’s Children which also received the Booker Prize thrice. The author has constantly been in the news for his outspoken nature and his image as a religious and political aficionado. In 1989 Salman Rushdie was issued a fatwa or sentence to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini for writing a religiously torrid novel—Satanic Verses, which was accused of being against the Islam and the Prophet. So began the ‘unflinching’ journey for Rushdie, who most fittingly suits the criterion for this award.