I met Salman Rushdie at a prearranged location on 4 February, the week before he published his essay ‘In Good Faith’ in the Independent on Sunday and delivered his lecture ‘Is Nothing Sacred?’ (or rather had it delivered for him by Harold Pinter) at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. It was the first interview he had given in person since 14 February last year, when he spoke to CBS News immediately after Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa. In the circumstances, he seemed remarkably relaxed, resilient, even jokey: after a year’s silence, broken with his essay, his lecture and this interview, he seemed eager to talk. Outside the curtained window I could hear the rain falling heavily on the street; inside, we drank tea and ate Italian bread and salad. We sat on the sofa next to each other and let the tape run for nearly an hour and a half.
Salman Rushdie: This is a strange experience. I can’t remember the last interview I gave, with a journalist sitting in the room.
Blake Morrison: You’ve chosen to break your silence over The Satanic Verses with a long explanatory essay. Why?