Harold Pinter, my late husband, admired Salman Rushdie’s work enormously, long before he met him. He thought Midnight’s Children was a wonderful book (although his favourite was The Satanic Verses, which he read, incidentally, long before the troubles). We first met Salman in February 1982, at a protest outside the Polish embassy mounted by PEN in favour of Solidarity. Afterwards, we all went to the pub and a real friendship grew, which was very important to Harold.
Shortly after the fatwa was issued in 1989, Harold was honoured when Salman asked him to deliver a lecture on his behalf at the ICA, because, of course, Salman couldn’t do it. It was an extremely tense occasion with masses of police, television and so on. When Harold had finished, a member of staff at the ICA drew Harold aside and took him to a call box where an undisclosed number was dialled and he spoke to Salman. He was characteristically jolly under the circumstances and said: “I know Harold, next time you write the lecture and I’ll deliver it.” Which Harold thought was terrifically cool.