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Rushdie: How Bono annoyed the gardai by taking me for a pint

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DEVILISH: Salman Rushdie on stage with Bono at Wembley
Arena in London in 1993. Photo: Brian Rasic/Rex

DEVILISH: Salman Rushdie on stage with Bono at Wembley Arena in London in 1993. Photo: Brian Rasic/Rex

CULTURE VULTURES: Bono and his wife Ali Hewson attending the Festival of the Urban Art in
Sandyford yesterday. The festival was sponsored by NAMA. Photo: Artur Widak

CULTURE VULTURES: Bono and his wife Ali Hewson attending the Festival of the Urban Art in Sandyford yesterday. The festival was sponsored by NAMA. Photo: Artur Widak

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DEVILISH: Salman Rushdie on stage with Bono at Wembley Arena in London in 1993. Photo: Brian Rasic/Rex

The writer Salman Rushdie reveals some of the high jinks he got up to on his jaunts to Ireland during his notorious fatwa where he and his wife Elizabeth stayed in Killiney with U2 star Bono.

"There was," he writes in a memoir, "a beautiful little guest house at the bottom of the Hewson's garden with CinemaScope views of Killiney Bay. Guests were encouraged to sign their names and scribble messages or drawings on the bathroom wall."

He adds that on that sojourn to Ireland then President Mary Robinson received him in Aras an Uachtarain and "sat twinkly eyed and silent" while Rushdie spoke. "She said little," Rushdie claims, "but murmured: 'It's no sin to listen.'"

The fatwa encouraged Muslims to kill Rushdie because they claimed his book The Satanic Verses was blasphemous.

Later at Trinity College during a small drinks party, after a 'Let In the Light' free-speech conference, a "small sturdy woman" approached Rushdie to say that because he opposed Section 31 "you have removed all danger to yourself from us".

"I see," said Rushdie. "Who's us?"

"You know fockin' well who we are," she answered.

"After being given his free pass by the IRA" -- but not alas by the Ayatollah Khomeini -- two days later Rushdie was smuggled out by Bono to a bar in Killiney without telling the garda protection squad, "and for half an hour" Rushdie was "giddy with the unexpected freedom of it and maybe thanks to the unprotected Guinness too".

When the most infamous author on the planet and the most famous singer in the world returned to the Hewson home later, the gardai looked at the U2 frontman with "mournful accusation but forbore to speak harsh words to their country's favourite son".

In the course of the 636-page Joseph Anton (his nom de plume) Rushdie doesn't refer once to the story printed by the Sunday Independent columnist Terry Keane in 1998 -- a story that was taken up by media all over the world that Bono sheltered the hunted author at his house for five years in secret. In his 2002 book of essays Step Across The Line, Rushdie did, however, mention it: "A couple of years ago, for example, a front-page Irish press report confidently announced that I had been living in the folly -- the guest house with a spectacular view of Killiney Bay that stands in the garden of Bono's Dublin home -- for four whole years!" he writes.

In the new memoir, Salman is expansive about how his relationship with Bono grew. In 1993 when U2's Zooropa tour landed at London's Wembley stadium Bono rang him personally to ask him to make an appearance onstage. "U2 wanted to make a gesture of solidarity," Rushdie writes.

"Amazingly," he recalls, "Special Branch did not." Rushdie took his teenage son, Zafar, who watched the show with him waiting for dad's big moment. When Rushdie stood up to go back stage, Zafar told him: "Dad, don't sing." Rushdie said he didn't see why not. "It's quite a good backing band, this Irish band, and there are 80,000 people out here."

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"You don't understand," said Zafar, "if you sing I'll have to kill myself." He didn't sing but he did tell Bono onstage, dressed as MacPhisto in horns, "real devils don't wear horns".

A few days after the concert in England, Rushdie writes: "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. 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."

Bono, he says, also offered him the use of his house in the south of France. "He offered friendship."

The two ended up collaborating on a song called The Ground Beneath Her Feet. Rushdie had sent Bono his novel of that name and Bono put melodies to it. Rushdie writes that Bono wanted him to go to Dublin so he could play the song for him. A few weeks later Rushdie did go to Ireland: Paul McGuinness's bolthole in Annamoe, Co Wicklow, where Bono apparently "made" Rushdie go and sit in his car and listen to the demo CD there. Rushdie said he liked it but "Bono kept playing it to be sure" Rushdie wasn't "bullshitting".

And when at last Rushdie said he was sure, Bono said: "Let's go in the house and play it to everyone else."

Maybe there's no one better placed than Rushdie to know that you have to suffer for your art.


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