London: Over two decades after 'Satanic Verses' sparked a never-ending controversy and provoked a 'fatwa' for his head, author Salman Rushdie has only one thing to say to his detractors: 'I did not write it for the mullahs'.
The India-born controversial writer who has lived for years under the shadow of his 1988 book, now liberally jokes about the whole issue.
Speaking at the Hay Festival of Literature and the Art in Wales, the 64-year-old author said books were intended for people who like them.
Joking about the 'fatwa' issue during an interaction, he said he did not write it "for the mullahs. I didn't think they were my target audience".
"The only thing worse than a bad review from the Ayatollah Khomeini would be a good review from the Ayatollah Khomeini," he was quoted as saying by the Telegraph newspaper.
The author, who is best known for his memorable Booker winning marvel 'Midnight's Children', said the reason why books endure is not that people dislike them or that there is a controversy around them.
"The reason why books endure is because there are enough people who like them. It's the only reason why books last. It's the people who love books that make them last, not the people who attack them".
'Satanic Verses' sparked widespread outrage among Muslims and even led to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran, issuing a fatwa calling for Rushdie's death in 1989.
However, controversy over the book never died down. In January this year, Rushdie's presence at India's most prestigious literature festival was objected upon by a section of people, preventing him from making it to Jaipur.
The Hay Festival, one of the top items on Britain's cultural calendar, is sponsored by The Telegraph and runs from 31 May to 10 June.