Synopses & Reviews
On February 14, 1989, Valentine’s Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been “sentenced to death” by the Ayatollah Khomeini. 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 story of how a writer was forced underground, moving from house to house, with the constant presence of an armed police protection team. 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.
How do a writer and his family live with the threat of murder for more than nine years? How does he go on working? How does he fall in and out of love? How does despair shape his thoughts and actions, how and why does he stumble, how does he learn to fight back? In this remarkable memoir Rushdie tells that story for the first time; the story of one of the crucial battles, in our time, for freedom of speech. 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; and of how he regained his freedom.
It is a book of exceptional frankness and honesty, compelling, provocative, moving, and of vital importance. Because what happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that is still unfolding somewhere in the world every day.
"Hailed as a literary martyr and derided as a prima donna, Rushdie emerges as both inspiring and insufferable in this memoir of his life following the 1989 fatwa issued against him by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. The British-Indian novelist's third-person account of the firestorm surrounding The Satanic Verses is harrowing as he's hounded, under the pseudonym 'Joseph Anton,' and moved from one hiding place to another under constant police guard while Islamists everywhere call for his death, and the British government treats him as an undeserving troublemaker. (Bookstore bombings and murderous attacks on a publisher and translators, he notes, show how serious the threat was.) But once Rushdie regains his nerve, his fetters accommodate much jet-setting lionization as he travels the world, collects awards and ovations, and parties with glitterati at the Playboy Mansion. Rushdie mixes stirring defenses of free speech with piquant observations on the subculture of maniacal high-level security, ripostes to detractors and ex-wives 'when he mentioned a pre-nup, the conversation became a quarrel' sex gossip and incessant name-dropping ('Willie Nelson was there! And Matthew Modine!'). There's preening self-dramatization by the celebrity author but a persistent edge of real drama, and fear, makes Rushdie's story absorbing. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Rushdie's ideas — about society, about culture, about politics — are embedded in his stories and in the interlocking momentum with which he tells them....All of Rushdie's synthesizing energy, the way he brings together ancient myth and old story, contemporary incident and archetypal emotion, transfigures reason into a waking dream." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Everywhere [Rushdie] takes us there is both love and war, in strange and terrifying combinations, painted in swaying, swirling, world-eating prose that annihilates the borders between East and West, love and hate, private lives and the history they make." Time
"Swift in Gulliver's Travels, Voltaire in Candide, Sterne in Tristram Shandy...Salman Rushdie, it seems to me, is very much a latter-day member of their company." The New York Times Book Review
"Joseph Anton is a splendid book, the finest new memoir to cross my desk in many a year." Jonathan Yardley, the Washington Post
"Thoughtful and astute....This is an important book not only because of what it has to say about a man of principle who, under the threat of violence and death, stood firm for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also because of its implications about our times and fanatical religious intolerance in a frighteningly fragile world." USA Today (starred review)
"Compelling, affecting....Joseph Anton demonstrates Mr. Rushdie's ability as a stylist and storyteller....[He] reacted with great bravery and even heroism." The Wall Street Journal
"Joseph Anton beautifully modulates between such moments of accidental hilarity and the higher purpose Rushdie saw in opposing — at all costs — any curtailment on a writer's freedom to say what he or she wants." The Boston Globe
About the Author
Salman Rushdie is the author of eleven novels — Grimus, Midnight’s Children (for which he won the Booker Prize and the Best of the Booker), Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown, The Enchantress of Florence, and Luka and the Fire of Life — and one collection of short stories: East, West. He has also published three works of nonfiction: The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991, and Step Across This Line, and coedited two anthologies, Mirrorwork and Best American Short Stories 2008. He is a former president of American PEN.