News Article

Super Mario World Was The Perfect Escape For a Novelist in Hiding

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Salman Rushdie's inner gamer is revealed

In literary circles Salman Rushdie is a much admired award-winning writer, and also one of the biggest names in the book industry. He's also courted great controversy during his career, notably when his novel The Satanic Verses outraged extremist groups and regimes to the point that there was a fatwa issued for his execution by the Iranian leadership in 1989. There was violence around the world, collapsing diplomatic relations and a genuine threat to Rushdie, who subsequently spent many years hiding under protective custody.

It's an extraordinary tale, but what on earth has it got to do with Nintendo? In his third-person memoir, Joseph Anton, Rushdie outlines how Super Mario World provided valuable escapism from the stresses of being in hiding, with producing an extract that shows just how absorbing the game was for the author.

Marianne came around and scolded him for playing video games. Thanks to Zafar, he had grown fond of Mario the plumber and his brother Luigi and sometimes Super Mario World felt like a happy alternative to the one he lived in the rest of the time. “Read a good book,” his wife told him scornfully. “Give it up.” He lost his temper. “Don’t tell me how to live my life,” he exploded, and she made a grand exit.

...Alone at Hermitage Lane he reached the end of his Super Mario game, defeating the big bad Bowser himself and rescuing the insufferably pink Princess Toadstool. He was glad Marianne was not there to witness his triumph.

Trying to play games with disapproving friends and family looking over a shoulder may be familiar to quite a few gamers, but it's clear that Rushdie's enjoyment of Mario games carried across into his writing. Similarities with Mario's adventures were particularly evident in a book written for Rushdie's son, Luka and the Fire of Life. Luka must navigate platformer-style levels to rescue his comatose father, working through increasingly difficult stages with 999 lives and fighting through “bouncing, burning, twisting, bubbling levels”. Oh, and the hero is called "Super Luka".

Video games have been more than a fun distraction for the author, with the very sincere statement that the looser, non-linear structure of a game compared to a book inspires him creatively; "I think that really interests me as a storyteller…To tell the story sideways."

Ultimately, this story is all about how a world-renowned author, in hiding and fearing for his life, surprisingly found the escapism he needed in, arguably, the best Super Mario game.


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User Comments (19)



AVahne said:

Very nice read. I'm glad video games made a difference in someone's life.



Boo_Buster said:

I prefer the escape rather than being trapped inside a mostly no good reality. Say what you want! Life is but a dream



Adam said:

I knew he liked games but didn't know this one in particular. I saw him speak once, and the man could have been a comedian as easily as a novelist. To grossly understate matters, it sucks that he had to live in hiding. Midnight's Children is one of my favorites, though probably his only book I like much.



Jaco said:

@Boo_Buster Completely agree! I would much rather spend my days in Hyrule than in reality, but I think that's what makes the escape so nice, we don't stay in it long enough for it to become the norm.



NintyMan said:

Wow, this is awesome, thanks for the article!

I'm a writer myself, so It's wonderful to see that there's fellow writers out there that have been inspired by video games and Nintendo in particular. It's also funny that Super Mario World, along with Super Mario Bros. 3, is one of my favorite Mario games too.




Very wrong what he's been put under but can I just give a resounding and huge "MEH" to him. Good article from our NL man though of course.



Capt_N said:

Interesting story of escapism (into video games, or Videoland, as the Captain N cartoons of the late 1980's/early 90's called it).



SuperMinusWorld said:

The fun factor and immersion, in a sense, can't be disputed about Mario games (I'm referring more to the original sidescrollers and the 3D series, as opposed to the New titles). The world is so well-designed and imagined that one can't help but forget about reality for a second. They allow one to feel like there's an adventure wherever you go.



sinalefa said:

His wife sounds like Roger Ebert, as in "don't waste your time with this crap, go do something useful, enjoy real art".

The most ironic thing is his wife's name, of course.

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