Norwegian publisher William Nygaard shot for publishing The Satanic Verses

Prominent Norwegian publisher William Nygaard was shot thrice outside his house for publishing the Norwegian translation Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

William Nygaard
Oct 11, 1993
Attempted Murder
Accused of:
Publisher, author, board member, chairman
Known For:

serving on the board of Norway's National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design; chairing the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation; chairing Norwegian PEN

Family Members:

Mads Wiel Nygaard (father, publisher), Margrethe Louise Kildal (mother), Mads Nygaard (son, publisher), Kristen Hermine Muhle, Kristen Piene (former wives)

In April 1989, William Nygaard was head of the Norwegian publishing house Aschehoug. In this role, he presided over the publishing of a Norwegian translation of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. This was only two months after Iran’s Supreme Leader issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to find and kill Rushdie and anyone else associated with the book. As a translator, this edict now applied to William.

In October 1993, at least two attackers attempted to fulfill the Supreme Leader’s directive. William, returning from a book fair in Germany, was arriving home in Oslo on an early morning to find one of his car’s tires slashed, its alarm blaring. As he investigated, he was shot twice. He screamed and tried to run away, but he was shot a third time, after which he fell to the ground. Fortunately, his neighbors heard his screams and called for medical help, and William survived the assassination attempt.

“The investigation yields no evidence of any other motive for the attempted killing than the publication of The Satanic Verses in April 1989.” - Norwegian police statement on attackers’ charges, 2018

Police, however, initially refused to treat this case as an assassination attempt. They would not investigate whether the attack was tied to Aschehoug’s publishing of the translated Satanic Verses. It was not until 25 years later that charges were brought against William’s suspected attackers and police expressed their belief that the shooting was linked to the novel.

As chairman of Norwegian PEN, William has remained resolute in his commitment to free expression and says he absolutely no regrets about publishing the translation.

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Norwegian publisher William Nygaard shot for publishing The Satanic Verses