Controversial writer Salman Rushdie of Satanic Verses infamy has lots of A-list pals, including Bono, as his new memoir Joseph Anton makes clear. The U2 frontman and Rushdie go back many years, and Bono offered shelter and support to Rushdie while he was under a fatwa issued in 1989 by conservative Muslims angry over his portrayal of them.
Rushdie recalls one incident back in the 1990s when he was a houseguest at Bono and his wife Ali’s mansion in Killiney, Dublin. Bono managed to smuggle Rushdie out of the house, without telling Rushdie’s police minders, and into a local bar for some drinks.
The half hour of being free at last in an Irish pub was intoxicating in more ways than one, with Rushdie remembering that he was "giddy with the unexpected freedom of it and maybe thanks to the unprotected Guinness too."
When the pair arrived back to Bono’s home, the police were none too pleased with the secret outing. They treated Bono with "mournful accusation, but forbore to speak harsh words to their country's favorite son,” Rushdie wrote.
Bono and U2 wanted to publicly show support for the embattled Rushdie, and invited him onstage during a Zooropa tour stop in London in 1993. The friendship blossomed from there, and a few days after the concert Bono reached out to Rushdie again.
"Bono called, talking about wanting to grow as a writer. In a rock group the writer just became a sort of conduit for the feelings in the air, the words didn't drive the work, the music did, unless you came from a folk tradition like Dylan, but he wanted to change,” Rushdie writes.
“Would you sit down and talk about how you work? He sounded hungry for mind food and for what he called just a good row."
They did collaborate on music together – Bono wrote the song “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” based on Rushdie’s novel of the same name – and they’ve kept in contact ever since. Earlier this month Bono traveled to London to present Rushdie with GQ magazine’s Inspiration of the Year award.