Award-winning author Salman Rushdie has said the experience of working on a new book helped him cope with his divorce last year.

Rushdie and his fourth wife, actress and model Padma Lakshmi, were divorced on July 2nd 2007 after three years of marriage.

And in an interview with the Reuters news agency, the controversial author explained that working on his tenth novel, The Enchantress of Florence, was a welcome escape from his private problems.

"It was a good place to go at a time when my private life was in a state of wreckage, and yes it was, I suppose, a bit of a refuge," he said.

"I think in the end what got me through it was the long familiarity of the necessary discipline of writing a novel.

"I found that in the end a lifetime's habit of just going to my desk and doing a day's work and not allowing myself not to do it is what got me back on track."

He added: "I was derailed for a while. I was in bad shape and it brought me back to myself."

Though science-fiction author Ursula Le Guin, reviewing the novel for the Guardian newspaper called it "magnificent" and praised the book for "its glamour and power, its humour and shock, its verve, its glory", the Sunday Times review declared The Enchantress of Florence to be "by a long chalk, the worst thing he has ever written".

Rushdie's 1988 novel The Satanic Verses saw him forced to go into hiding, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the then supreme leader of Iran, issued a fatwa against the author for the book's perceived insult to Islam.

Muslim protests greeted the news of his being awarded a knighthood for services to literature in June last year.

16/04/2008 12:36:02