Joseph Anton

Joseph Anton

A Memoir

eBook - 2012
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On February 14, 1986, Valentine's Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been "sentenced to death" by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a voice reaching across the world from Iran to kill him in his own country. For the first time he heard the word fatwa . His crime? To have written a novel called The Satanic Verses , which was accused of being "against Islam, the Prophet, and the Quran."

So begins the extraordinary, often harrowing story--filled too with surreal and funny moments--of how a writer was forced underground, moved from house to house, an armed police protection team living with him at all times for more than nine years. He was asked to choose an alias that the police could call him by. He thought of writers he loved and combinations of their names; then it came to him: Conrad and Chekhov-- Joseph Anton . He became "Joe."

How do a writer and his young family live day by day with the threat of murder for so long? How do you go on working? How do you keep love and joy alive? How does despair shape your thoughts and actions, how and why do you stumble, how do you learn to fight for survival? In this remarkable memoir, Rushdie tells that story for the first time. He talks about the sometimes grim, sometimes comic realities of living with armed policemen, and of the close bonds he formed with his protectors; of his struggle for support and understanding from governments, intelligence chiefs, publishers, journalists, and fellow writers; of friendships (literary and otherwise) and love; and of how he regained his freedom.

This is a book of exceptional frankness and honesty, compelling, moving, provocative, not only captivating as a revelatory memoir but of vital importance in its political insight and wisdom. Because it is also a story of today's battle for intellectual liberty; of why literature matters; and of a man's refusal to be silenced in the face of state-sponsored terrorism. And because we now know that what happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that would rock the whole world on September 11th and is still unfolding somewhere every day.

Publisher: New York : Random House, 2012
ISBN: 9780307401380
Characteristics: 1 online resource : xii, 636 p


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Feb 27, 2020

The beauty of this book is, it let's us understand the person of Salman Rushidie through the difficult years of the fatwa. It's a long read but worth it.

Mar 17, 2018

There was never before, as far as I know, a writer threatened with a fatwa, an assassination, for one book that he wrote, which was "The Satanic Verses". "Joseph Anton" is a detailed memoir of Rushdie's life during those years. Now much 0f the furor has died down (although there is still someone fairly high on the Google search who claims the current Salman Rushdie is not the real person). Others look back and say that the threat was exaggerated. They seem to forget that not just the author, but publishers and bookstores were also threatened, while translators were seriously wounded and killed. The moving security box in which Rushdie had to live his personal, social, and professional lives is brought to life. In the first few hundred pages I could not put down this unique chronicle. The beginning is a memoir of the writer's early life, including many inspirations that became elements of the book. That portion is especially intriguing. However, when the fatwa is reached, it of course dominates events, and is so detailed and the events often become oppressive and repetitive. The last third of the book took me a while to finish. The details of the fatwa no doubt made the time a long grind for the author. However, we also get detailed gossip of the literary scene at the time. In addition, Rushdie is self-admittedly excited by media stars, especially from music and film. Add to that he is a bit of a name dropper, and we get a chronicle of many of the famous from those years. This includes political figures because the fatwa pushed his life into politics. This book really needs an index, which would be long and amazing, running from Duckburg to Edith Wharton and everything in between. It is helpful but not necessary to read "Satanic Verses" as well. Of course the irony exists that probably only those in literary reading circles would have taken much notice of the book without the fatwa. Many of the angriest attackers of the work would have probably been bewildered if they had just sat down and read it. So, even though it slammed his life, it also made him much more famous than he would have been. He has his attackers because of this, and he takes those on, always pointing out particularly those from the world of writing that slammed him, as well as those who supported him. He does say himself, "Were there no limits to the shamelessness of the literary imagination? No. There were no limits." The time period covered in the memoir includes the beginning of the significant changes the Internet brought with it. He wrote of himself (in third person as he sometimes does), "If "Google" had existed in 1989 the attack on him would have spread so much faster and wider that he would not have stood a chance." Rushdie is very human so we see the ups-and-down of his family life, which of course was affected by the fatwa. We now know how singularly beautiful one of his wives was. But we also read what his mother said about a new book he was working on: "This time, write a nice book." I love that line, but Mr. Rushdie does not play that game. Not nice, because as he writes, "freedom was always taken, never given." He gains his freedom through practicing his art, so he can write: "The value of art lies in the love it engenders, not the hatred. It's love that makes books last. Please keep reading." My personal favorite of his is "The Ground Beneath Her Feet", but this is an amazing primary source of history. Just the same - it really needs a complete index.

athompson10 Jul 22, 2015

Wow. It's long and wordy in places, but Rushdie draws well the fear, boredom, frustration and claustrophobia experienced during the fatwa years. The book is replete with what makes Rushdie a great writer: thoughtfulness, beautiful use of words, penetrating and incisive insights, black comedy and some true cutting wit. He's pretty brutal in his treatment of Wives #2 and 4, both in the relationships and in print, but pretty brutal in his dissection of himself as well.

Jul 22, 2015

I am so glad Rushdie wrote this memoir of his years in hiding. All those years I (among millions no doubt) felt real sympathy for his predicament. The reality of living like that was way beyond anything I could have imagined. Some commenters have criticized his soft-pedaling of some of his own behavior. I'd like to see an autobiography or memoir that *doesn't* do that to some extent, and I think Rushdie was fairly honest compared to many. I love his non-fiction writing and this was a treat.

Aug 29, 2013

Complex, tediously detailed, thrillingly complete; you must read this for insight into the concept of personal freedom and freedom of expression.

Salman I am so glad you explained your character on screen in Bridget Jones.

Jun 13, 2013

Engaging tale of Rushdie's life, including the 9 years he spent under Special Branch protection and hiding from Iranian assassins because of a book he wrote. A testament to the importance of standing up for our freedom to think, speak and write independently and creatively, and in uniting against terrorism in any form. Rushdie is an excellent storyteller, portrays himself in the 3rd person (perhaps to get some distance?) which seems odd at first, and is at times unflinchingly honest in his self-portrait. He also seems to be settling some scores with those who made his years under the fatwa even more difficult, yet after having others who don't necessarily like, know, or understand you define who you are in the media, it's understandable that he'd want to have his say, at last. Most powerful are his words on the power of literature to help us find common ground with one another, even when we may disagree politically, religiously, artistically.

Nov 30, 2012

I want to cancel a hold on Joseph Anton. I'm asked if I really want to cancel. I do. Please help me cancel it.

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