‘Things that would have seemed utterly improbable now happen on a daily basis,’ Sir Salman Rushdie tells me. ‘The implausible has now become everyday.’ Isn’t this a problem for a writer whose books derive from the fantastical traditions of magic realism and science fiction, where crazy stuff happening is what sets them apart? ‘It is.’
The active threat to Rushdie’s life from radical Islam is two decades behind him. His novels have a way of dealing in sour, sometimes apocalyptic ironies. His latest, the Booker-shortlisted Quichotte, is set in what it describes as ‘the Age of Anything-Can-Happen’. His previous novel, The Golden House, was ‘almost entirely realistic’, he says, but Quichotte uses ‘all the tricks in the book’. Many of his stories have leant on existing myths: Orpheus in The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Scheherazade in Midnight’s Children; and the Quranic apocrypha for The Satanic Verses. For Quichotte (pronounced ‘key-shot’), Rushdie busts out the Knight of La Mancha — and, for good measure, Pinocchio. The result is a postmodern hall of mirrors and Rushdie’s funniest novel yet.