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Salman Rushdie urges Italy premier Giorgia Meloni to 'grow up'

Writer defends Saviano at Salone del Libro in Turin.

The Indian-born British author Salman Rushdie on Thursday said that Italy's prime minister Giorgia Meloni should "be less childish and grow up" in relation to criticism.

Rusdhie, speaking at the Salone del Libro book fair in Turin, was referring to a libel conviction that Meloni secured against Italian writer and journalist Roberto Saviano who called the right-wing leader a "bastard" over her hardline immigration views.

Saviano made the remark during a television interview in December 2020, when Meloni was still in opposition, in relation to the death of a six-month-old baby from Guinea who drowned in a shipwreck on the way to Italy.

Saviano was handed a "symbolic" €1,000 suspended fine by a court in Rome last year for libelling Meloni.

"At my personal risk I have to say that politicians should grow a thicker skin because a politician today, as well as having great power, also has great authority" - Rusdhie said in response to a question in Turin - "So it is normal that some of the people should speak about them directly, even badly, also using a bad word like the one Roberto used."

On Friday evening Rusdhie is due to appear on stage in Turin alongside Saviano who has been under police protection since 2006 after his book Gommorah exposed the dealings of the Neapolitan Camorra.

Rushdie has faced years of death threats for his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims see as blasphemous, and two years ago he was stabbed on stage at a cultural event in New York.

He sustained serious wounds to his neck, face, hand and abdomen, ultimately losing sight in one eye.

Rushdie is in Turin to promote his new memoir, Coltello (Knife), in which he reflects on the attack and his brush with death.

Established in 1988, the Salone del Libro is one of the largest book fairs in Europe. The 2024 edition of the annual literary event runs from 9-13 May.

Photo credit: Markus Wissmann /

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