NEW YORKSalman Rushdie is remembering Margaret Thatcher with the same complicated feelings he had for her while she was alive: disagreement with her politics, but gratitude for her support when he was forced into hiding in 1989 after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini called for his death.
"She had a great life, and offered protection for me when I needed it," said Rushdie, interviewed Monday morning during a promotional tour for the film adaptation of his Booker Prize-winning novel "Midnight's Children."
Politically, he was far to the left of Thatcher and mocked her before 1989, naming one character "Mrs. Torture" in his novel "The Satanic Verses" and at times using unprintable language when referring to her. But when "The Satanic Verses" led to accusations of anti-Muslim blasphemy and to the Ayatollah's decree, Thatcher's government gave Rushdie round-the-clock supervision.
Rushdie, 65, said he met Thatcher just once, at an annual Scotland Yard gathering held for those being protected.
"She was very considerate, and, surprisingly, touchy-feely," Rushdie said. "She would tap you on the arm and say, `Everything OK?' I hadn't expected that touch of tenderness."