British novelist Salman Rushdie, called a blasphemer and sentenced to death by Iran for his book "The Satanic Verses," said in an interview published Sunday that after 21 months in hiding he believes someday it will be safe for him to emerge.
Rushdie, who has been under guard by Scotland Yard since Iran issued the death sentence, told The New York Times Magazine that despite nearly two years of furtive movements from one safehouse to another, he remains unaccustomed to life in hiding.The 43-year-old author, who gave the interview prior to the publication in the United States of his new novel, "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," also discussed his life in hiding. The book has been published in Britain.
A fugitive from Moslem fundamentalists offended by "the Satanic Verses," which they said blasphemed Islam, he is given "grade one" protection by Scotland Yard's Special Branch - the highest level usually accorded visiting dignitaries.
"It requires an enormous amount of energy each day to keep yourself going," said Rushdie, who was interviewed at a secret location outside London. " . . . Still some days there is simply not the energy. One feels how the solitude is not of one's own making. But I have survived."
The novelist said he spends much of his time reading, writing and talking on the telephone.
He said he has spoken with Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel, whom he described as a strong supporter. Havel organized an unsuccessful petition of the Iranian government to have the death sentence lifted.
Asked whether he thought the death sentence would become, in effect, a sentence of life in hiding, Rushdie said:
"No. No, I don't - I cannot - think that's true.
"No, I think the most extreme voices that have been raised against me - I know this is the case in England, for example - are increasingly being perceived as unproductive and unlikeable."