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On February 14, 1989, Valentine’s Day, Salman Rushdie received a telephone call from a BBC journalist who told the author that he had been “sentenced to death” by the Ayatollah Khomeini. It was the first time Rushdie 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 On February 14, 1989, Valentine’s Day, Salman Rushdie received a telephone call from a BBC journalist who told the author that he had been “sentenced to death” by the Ayatollah Khomeini. It was the first time Rushdie 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. Rushdie was asked to choose an alias that the police could call him by. He thought of writers he loved and various 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, and how does he learn to fight back? In this remarkable memoir, Rushdie tells that story for the first time; the story of the crucial battle for freedom of speech. He shares the sometimes grim, sometimes comic realities of living with armed policemen, and 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. Compelling, provocative, and moving, Joseph Anton is a book of exceptional frankness, honesty, and 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.


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On February 14, 1989, Valentine’s Day, Salman Rushdie received a telephone call from a BBC journalist who told the author that he had been “sentenced to death” by the Ayatollah Khomeini. It was the first time Rushdie 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 On February 14, 1989, Valentine’s Day, Salman Rushdie received a telephone call from a BBC journalist who told the author that he had been “sentenced to death” by the Ayatollah Khomeini. It was the first time Rushdie 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. Rushdie was asked to choose an alias that the police could call him by. He thought of writers he loved and various 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, and how does he learn to fight back? In this remarkable memoir, Rushdie tells that story for the first time; the story of the crucial battle for freedom of speech. He shares the sometimes grim, sometimes comic realities of living with armed policemen, and 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. Compelling, provocative, and moving, Joseph Anton is a book of exceptional frankness, honesty, and 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.

30 review for Joseph Anton: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X

    He didn't need the publicity, he didn't need the money, he knew as a highly-educated man brought up as a Muslim, exactly what he was doing and still he did it and brought death and destruction in the wake of his book, The Satanic Verses. It was a kind of Pyrrhic victory, being morally in the right but impossible to justify when weighed against the many deaths that resulted. Those fundamentalist Muslims were determined to enforce at least outward respect for their 'values' just as he knew they wo He didn't need the publicity, he didn't need the money, he knew as a highly-educated man brought up as a Muslim, exactly what he was doing and still he did it and brought death and destruction in the wake of his book, The Satanic Verses. It was a kind of Pyrrhic victory, being morally in the right but impossible to justify when weighed against the many deaths that resulted. Those fundamentalist Muslims were determined to enforce at least outward respect for their 'values' just as he knew they would. They were all, to a man, completely wrong. It was a book, it was a popular book, not great literature destined to live forever. So it trod on religious sensibilities, was it worth all the killings and burnings just so the perpetrators could feel they had avenged themselves, saying it was their prophet they were avenging? Islam, the word itself has the root 'peace' (the consonants SLM, salaam, shalom) yet the more fervent fundamentalist interpreters of that religion practise anything but that. Would Mohammed himself have rejoiced or condemned all the killings just because of his depiction in such a piece of ephemera? If he would have rejoiced in all those killings, wouldn't it give anyone pause for thought that this leader might not be showing the right path through life? Or, much, much more probable, that they had (mis)interpreted Mohammed in such a violent and wicked way because that was their natures, their intentions projected on to him to justify their own disgusting actions. (view spoiler)[Nothing to do with this, but I want to read American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon on the same sort of moulding and interpreting according to cultural norms rather than the reality of the man himself. (hide spoiler)] The book is quite a good read, Rushdie writes well and his life is not-uninteresting, but as with all his books with the possible exception of Shame, he does go on and he is so full of himself. In the end, with the Satanic Verses, he swapped fame for notoriety and this autobiography isn't going to help put him back on his literary pedestal.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    I’m going to review this book without actually talking about it, though I don’t think it really matters. I read a lot, though I also write a lot. I write short stories, poetry and essays. I write reviews every day to practice writing and to capture my thoughts on certain topics. I even have a 1st draft of a fantasy novel that is some weird hybrid of Avatar and A Game of Thrones that I wrote when I was nineteen. It’s garbage, full of clichés and driven by a lack of imagination. My point is, I rea I’m going to review this book without actually talking about it, though I don’t think it really matters. I read a lot, though I also write a lot. I write short stories, poetry and essays. I write reviews every day to practice writing and to capture my thoughts on certain topics. I even have a 1st draft of a fantasy novel that is some weird hybrid of Avatar and A Game of Thrones that I wrote when I was nineteen. It’s garbage, full of clichés and driven by a lack of imagination. My point is, I read to write and I am always trying to get better. I am mainly a critic, though the more I read the more creative ideas I get. Somewhere around half way through Joseph Anton I stopped reading and I started writing, really writing. There was a line in the text that stood out to me; I have lost in since, though Rushdie emphasised the use of personal experience combined with representations of the contemporary in order to create successful fiction: fiction that is relevant and driven by real human emotion. I found myself agreeing and began pouring my thoughts into a notepad. I don’t know what will become of my writing. I may grow board and never finish. I may reach the end and burn it out of disgust or I may actually start to edit it and go from there. What I am trying to say with this review, is that hearing the literary experience of another writer inspired me to start taking things a little more seriously. I have been less active on here for the last few months because I have been busy. I am now writing a novel again, for the first time in five years. What will be will be.

  3. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton: A Memoir is an engaging account of Rushdie’s life in the aftermath of the fatwa issued against him in 1989 (in effect, the Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced him to death for blasphemy against the Prophet for his novel, The Satanic Verses). As a literature major at college, I followed the news of the fatwa (but I wasn't the only one as evidenced by the Seinfeld episode). Especially in the first couple of years, I heard about threats to publishers and booksellers, demonst Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton: A Memoir is an engaging account of Rushdie’s life in the aftermath of the fatwa issued against him in 1989 (in effect, the Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced him to death for blasphemy against the Prophet for his novel, The Satanic Verses). As a literature major at college, I followed the news of the fatwa (but I wasn't the only one as evidenced by the Seinfeld episode). Especially in the first couple of years, I heard about threats to publishers and booksellers, demonstrations and occasionally updates about Rushdie himself. I had wondered what it was like to be ‘in hiding’ for the nine years of the fatwa. Joseph Anton was the alias Rushdie used, a combination of the first names of two of his favorite writers: Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. Written in the third person, Rusdhie’s describes life under police protection, relationships with family and friends and ways he attempted both to write and stay engaged in the bigger fight against censorship. There were interesting stages in how he tried to get back his life after the initial shock of the fatwa. From wanting to be safe to appearing at public events to show the terrorists he wouldn’t be cowed to all the backroom negotiations with the UK, US and European governments who were reluctant to stand up to Iran because it might hurt their specific interests, I found Joseph Anton a fascinating account of a very talented writer. Several years ago, I took some students from my creative writing class to meet Rushdie at an event in Wyoming promoting his new book, The Enchantress of Florence. I had started each semester with a reading from The Satanic Verses.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jafar

    I couldn’t get through The Satanic Verses. I found it unreadable in spite of my immense curiosity for the book. But I picked up this book with great interest to see what Rushdie went through and how he coped with the aftermath of that infamous fatwa. This book is probably twice larger than it should be, and methinks it’s commensurate with Rushdie’s ego. To read the account of this struggle from Rushdie himself is be annoyed by the man. He comes from a Muslim background. I found his knowledge of I couldn’t get through The Satanic Verses. I found it unreadable in spite of my immense curiosity for the book. But I picked up this book with great interest to see what Rushdie went through and how he coped with the aftermath of that infamous fatwa. This book is probably twice larger than it should be, and methinks it’s commensurate with Rushdie’s ego. To read the account of this struggle from Rushdie himself is be annoyed by the man. He comes from a Muslim background. I found his knowledge of Islam and its history and its thinkers (and classical Persian literature!) quite impressive. He knew what he was doing, and he did it. Fine. But then he goes around acting like he’s owed support and solidarity from every person and every government and every organization and every publisher. He doesn’t care that a lot of people had to go through a lot of risk and danger because of that book. He’s on the right side of the argument, dammit, and everyone should stand by him. He’s even written this memoir in third person, as if talking about some great hero standing up to the evil. He was accused by a lot of people of being ungrateful and egotistical. This book doesn’t help much to dispel those accusations. Lots of self-righteous anger and vengeful score-settling with publishers, journalists, friends, ex-wives, security personnel, politicians, etc. He does his best, but at the end he still comes off as self-centered. He can’t help it. Rushdie is a fine writer, but I like him less as a person after reading his memoir.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    I was pondering the reviews of this book on Goodreads the other day, as I was almost finished and just wondering what other people think. A lot of people seem to find Rushdie coming across as arrogant or pompous. This is something I totally disagree with and in fact I think one of the issues he actually covers in this book. As the media saw and treated him as arrogant for quite a long time. To me he honestly doesn't come across as arrogant. Something else people were critical about is the way th I was pondering the reviews of this book on Goodreads the other day, as I was almost finished and just wondering what other people think. A lot of people seem to find Rushdie coming across as arrogant or pompous. This is something I totally disagree with and in fact I think one of the issues he actually covers in this book. As the media saw and treated him as arrogant for quite a long time. To me he honestly doesn't come across as arrogant. Something else people were critical about is the way the book is written in third person. I thought this strange at the beginning. But looking back, after finishing the book, I think it might have helped him through writing the memoir. It gives him the opportunity to take a step back from his life and look at it from a bird eye view. So for me it actually felt like quite an interesting way to write your auto-biography. I actually started reading the book to help me with an essay on Midnight's Children. I didn't finish before I finished the essay, but I just got so pulled into Rushdie's story that I couldn't put it own after finishing the essay. Also I find it very difficult to leave a book unfinished. After Midnight's Children this was obviously very different, but there are definitely similarities in writing style. I found the whole book very compelling and it reads very smoothly. When reading Rushdie I just want to write down quotes all the time. He comes up with some of the most beautiful sentences/paragraphs. Sometimes I just have to read one sentence over and over again because it's so beautiful. I have to say I think I've become a fan. I don't think many of my study buddies will agree with me, but I like Mr. Rushdie, I really do!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    As you are fighting a battle that may cost you your life, is the thing for which you are fighting worth loosing your life for? (p. 285) So why is it that I feel I have to defend liking this book? Almost all reviews I’ve read – from New York Times to Goodreads – have been rather negative, attacking and blaming Rushdie. So I will just come right out and say that I really liked this book. Yes, he namedrops on every page. Yes, he of course paints a (mostly) positive picture of himself (but who would As you are fighting a battle that may cost you your life, is the thing for which you are fighting worth loosing your life for? (p. 285) So why is it that I feel I have to defend liking this book? Almost all reviews I’ve read – from New York Times to Goodreads – have been rather negative, attacking and blaming Rushdie. So I will just come right out and say that I really liked this book. Yes, he namedrops on every page. Yes, he of course paints a (mostly) positive picture of himself (but who wouldn’t?). Yes he knows his own worth and uses this opportunity to settle a few scores. But still, I enjoyed every page of this and read and read and read. This of course is the story of the famous fatwa. On February 14th, 1989, Rushdie receives a phone call, informing him that Ayatollah Khomeini has sentenced him to death because of his novel, The Satanic Verses . This book details then his life for the next 12 years, trying to live as normal as possible while being under constant police protection, moving from house to house, relying on the kindness of his friends, driving bulletproof cars and trying to survive, both mentally and physically. He writes about his private life, his childhood, his years in school, his marriages, his children, his attempt to be a father in these most extraordinary circumstances. He constantly struggles against people – both official people and the public – believing he doesn’t deserve to be protected because he has brought this on himself. He doesn’t agree with this – and neither do I. A leader of a state does not have to right to condemn the citizen of another state to death. So Rushdie struggles with Government officials, ministers and the leaders of his protection service to get them to continue to protect him and to allow him to live as free a life as possible so he can be a father, be a man and a writer, and do the publicity necessary to promote his books. A strange thing with this book is that even though it is a memoir, it is written in the third person. Rushdie never writes I but writes he, even when writing about his own thoughts. I actually really liked this because for me, it felt like Rushdie was standing outside his life, looking in, trying to make sense of what happened to him. For me, it worked! He is also juggling with various identities through this – there’s Salman, the private man his friends knows; there’s Rushdie, the hated man, the demonstrators are renouncing on the streets; and there’s Joseph Anton, his alias, created out of the names of his two favorite writers, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. So in some ways, it must be hard to see these years living like this, split into three, as his life instead of someone else’s life, a fictional life. The book really shows what kind of man he is. Intelligent, well-read, knowledgeable about both the classics and modern (pop) culture (JK Rowling, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Super Mario, various sci-fi etc). He writes about his process when writing books, about getting ideas and using things from his real life experience in his books. And he writes about all his books in a way which makes me want to read them. And I love that while he shares all the famous writers, actors, politicians etc he meets, he also writes about how proud he is to complete his Super Mario game and how he thinks Birkenstocks is the uncoolest footwear, except for Crocs (p. 342). I really enjoyed how he shows his humor throughout the book even though he battles depression throughout these years, living with a constant death sentence over his head. ‘Who shall have control over the story? Who has, who should have, the power not only to tell the stories within which, we all lived, but also to say in what manner those stories may be told? For everyone lived by and inside stories, the so-called grand narratives. The nation was a story, and the family was another, and religion was a third. As a creative artist he knew that the only answer to the question was: Everyone and anyone has, or should have that power.’ (p. 360) Of particular interest to me, was of course the times he mentioned Denmark and the Danish reaction to the fatwa. Overall, it seems his Danish publisher wasn’t afraid and not only published the paperback – which was a big deal – but also compared the risk of publishing it to crossing the street. It is sobering to read about how hard it was for him to get the paperback published in UK and US because if that paperback hadn’t come out, his attackers would have won. When I began reading this novel, I had to come to terms with something. I was 12 years old when the fatwa was issued and I don’t remember anything about it from back then. But I’ve always believed that he was in the right to publish that book and that no one had the right to attack him for that. But at the same time, I was against the so called ‘Danish Cartoons’, the caricatures of Muhammad posted by Jyllands-Posten back in 2005. Of course I didn’t want anyone attacking Kurt Westergaard, one of the drawers, but I didn’t like the idea of these drawings. Now, how could I reconcile supporting Rushdie and believing him to be in the right while not supporting these drawings? I thought about that for a while and for me, the answer is, that Jyllands-Posten did it intentionally to cause a disturbance while Rushdie didn’t set out to do anything but write a novel. Whether you agree or disagree with someone, they should always be allowed to talk, to say their mind. You have to use words to defeat words, not guns or bombs or knives. In Denmark, we have just had another case of a journalist known for criticizing Islam being attacked and attempted assassinated. Now I disagree with this man but you can’t go around shooting at people you disagree with. But what this shows is that Rushdie’s case is still current. We still have to fight for freedom of speech. Rushdie survived the fatwa and lived to see it being put to rest. He views his case as a prologue to all that happened after 9-11 and even though we all should have become wiser, we haven’t really. Unfortunately. The value of art lies in the love it engenders, not the hatred. It is love that makes books last. (p. 316)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Correen

    It took a commitment to finish this book but I was pleased to have done it. Rushdie's manner is sometimes arrogant and seemingly self-involved but he is wonderfully talented and unafraid to let the reader judge him. He analyzes his circumstances and his own thinking and he challenges his reader to understand Salmon's predicament. His story of threat and exile should not be lost as it is significant to our future freedom of speech and artistic expression, our quality of life and even our survival It took a commitment to finish this book but I was pleased to have done it. Rushdie's manner is sometimes arrogant and seemingly self-involved but he is wonderfully talented and unafraid to let the reader judge him. He analyzes his circumstances and his own thinking and he challenges his reader to understand Salmon's predicament. His story of threat and exile should not be lost as it is significant to our future freedom of speech and artistic expression, our quality of life and even our survival. Rushdie's tell-all provides insight into societal fears, courage and cowardice of leaders, instability and unreliability of media, and the importance of personal involvement in maintaining our civil rights. I was impressed that Rushdie did not hide his personal foibles, anger, infidelity, and self-centered behavior as he recounted his talents, connections, and successes.

  8. 5 out of 5

    umang

    In the first few chapters, I was a bit surprised at the gossipy, somewhat catty tone, and figured it would be chatty and light and fun, but alas: petty grievances aired, endless names dropped, revenge exacted for real or perceived insults of either the author's conduct or writing, ex-wives trashed. The treatment of these unfortunate women is surprisingly childish; he sounded like a preteen talking about how victimized he was by Padma Lakshmi (and his second wife). He also reveals himself to be s In the first few chapters, I was a bit surprised at the gossipy, somewhat catty tone, and figured it would be chatty and light and fun, but alas: petty grievances aired, endless names dropped, revenge exacted for real or perceived insults of either the author's conduct or writing, ex-wives trashed. The treatment of these unfortunate women is surprisingly childish; he sounded like a preteen talking about how victimized he was by Padma Lakshmi (and his second wife). He also reveals himself to be something of a misogynist when he details how crazy yet another ex-wife is. All personal responsibility is absolved when he says he felt guilty about treating someone badly, or that they manipulated him into it. (And maybe by writing a memoir in the third person.) But most disappointing of all is the way the author speaks of religion. He was obviously tremendously wronged by the fatwa, but the views he expressed here sounded recidivist and strikingly intolerant. He lumps together Islamic fundamentalists and (most) other Muslims, possibly offering a brief and unmemorable disclaimer. He also condemns individuals for practicing religion of any kind (but Islam most resoundingly). I saw him at readings several times, and he was engaging and well-spoken. I also love his work, so all in all, this is a very sad view into someone who comes across as talented author making a fool of himself pursuing celebrity during a cliched midlife crisis. I was somewhat bewildered by his shift into pop culture over recent years, but didn't really pay much attention, so this was somewhat jarring. Going to be hard to expunge the memory of this sufficiently to continue to read or re-read and enjoy his work. Those of you who love him and find it hard to appreciate literary work of those who irk you (you know who you are), beware.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Moira Russell

    I don't even know what to think about this thing. About the first half is really great - even written in the Bob Dole-ish autobiographical third person - gripping, suspenseful, detailed. But the book just dies about halfway through - he starts eliding weeks, months and years, and then disastrously starts flashing forward at the same time as if he thinks he's writing a late Lost episode (near the very end he calls attention to "his Dickensian, let's-tie-up-the-loose-strings seat in the future" wh I don't even know what to think about this thing. About the first half is really great - even written in the Bob Dole-ish autobiographical third person - gripping, suspenseful, detailed. But the book just dies about halfway through - he starts eliding weeks, months and years, and then disastrously starts flashing forward at the same time as if he thinks he's writing a late Lost episode (near the very end he calls attention to "his Dickensian, let's-tie-up-the-loose-strings seat in the future" which is obviously 2011, when he's writing the book, except its action ends pretty much in 2001) so it just becomes really hard to tell what's even happening when. And he turns terribly sexist, shallow and obsessed with celebrities to boot. You would think, since his own ordeal essentially was (as he calls it) "prologue" to the changed world after 9/11, and this memoir was written not only at the ten-year anniversary of that event but also after both the Arab Spring and a resurgence of protests, these chronological markers would help him organize his thoughts or at least his narrative somewhat, even if only emotionally. But no, we wind up hearing a lot about Bono and Hitchens and Padma. (Oh, do we ever hear about Padma. Eight years of relationship are compressed into an insultingly small number of pages, and yet the second-hand embarrassment -- dare I say, shame? -- I felt on reading his vengeful invective dragged out the subjective mental reading-time horribly.) It's obvious he feels people got sick of his story (even while it was still happening to him, his family, his friends and protectors), and that it's been told and retold so many times in such distorted ways that this fancy-ass attempt at depicting himself unstuck in time is how he's trying to make it new. (And, possibly, describe the great disconnected swathe of time in his life when he was really not himself.) But the best parts of the book are when he simply and directly presents his own emotions. When he writes about literature, his thoughts aren't that novel (and at times teeter on cliche) but are given force and power by his actual lived experience; when he writes about politics it's just disastrous. Usually when a book is this thin it's because the author's tried to write it too quickly after the actual events; but he's had ten years since the willed happy ending, when his protection is removed by mutual consent and he hails a cab, and it's hard to think any more time would deepen his reflections. Perhaps the unintentional point is that some experiences are so huge and shattering you don't ever really move on past them, digest them, contain them. When people go nuts or get addicted or suffer some other near-unendurable trauma of the spirit, what they, and their families and loved ones, always want is my old life back. I want him back. I want her back. I want what we had. But you don't get to go back; if you're lucky, you get to go forward, but it's really not at all the same thing. -- Just go read this review, it's great. Just remember: 'And William Styron's genitalia are unexpectedly on display one convivial evening at Martha's Vineyard.'

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amar Pai

    Update 9/21/12: now that I'm reading this... it's kind of tedious. I don't think Rushdie's 3rd person affectation works well at all. It made me remember, I don't actually like Rushdie's writing all that much. Gave up on The Satanic Verses after 20 pages. I guess I got caught up in his life story and forgot about his qualities as a writer (which is ironic cos it's precisely the condition he so deplores, his literary qualities getting eclipsed by his status as a current event) I think his crazy lif Update 9/21/12: now that I'm reading this... it's kind of tedious. I don't think Rushdie's 3rd person affectation works well at all. It made me remember, I don't actually like Rushdie's writing all that much. Gave up on The Satanic Verses after 20 pages. I guess I got caught up in his life story and forgot about his qualities as a writer (which is ironic cos it's precisely the condition he so deplores, his literary qualities getting eclipsed by his status as a current event) I think his crazy life does merit a biography. I just wish someone else had written this. A disinterested third party would have been useful cos as it stands this book comes across as a lot of score-settling, vindictive gossiping and not-being-above-it-all...ing. *** Looking forward to this, especially after reading his essay that just came out in the New Yorker: The Disappeared: How the fatwa changed a writer's life It really bugs me that religious nuts can incite people to murder over a cartoon, a book or a YouTube movie. I want to live in a world where you can draw Mohammed without getting threatened with death. I mean what century are we living in? I'm glad Rushdie hasn't given up the fight.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paul E. Morph

    Joseph Anton is the pseudonym Salman Rushdie had to adopt for security reasons during the decade or so he spent in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini placed a fatwa on him after the publication of The Satanic Verses, which Khomeini deemed to be blasphemous. This memoir deals primarily with Rushdie’s life during this period of hiding but also touches upon his life before and after this time. Rushdie makes the interesting choice to write this memoir in the third person and there are many times in Joseph Anton is the pseudonym Salman Rushdie had to adopt for security reasons during the decade or so he spent in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini placed a fatwa on him after the publication of The Satanic Verses, which Khomeini deemed to be blasphemous. This memoir deals primarily with Rushdie’s life during this period of hiding but also touches upon his life before and after this time. Rushdie makes the interesting choice to write this memoir in the third person and there are many times in the book where it feels like he is telling a tale of somebody’s life other than his own. Rushdie claims he did this in order to maintain a degree of separation during the writing process, without which he would have been unable to tackle such a daunting project. Whatever the reason, I found it leant the book a rather disjointed feeling; at times I even felt like the events described in this way took on an almost fairy tale-like aspect, as though they couldn’t possibly be real. I think what I’m trying to say is that this third person narrative approach actually bestowed upon this book a feeling of inauthenticity that I’m sure Rushdie did not intend. This is a shame, as this is without a shadow of a doubt a memoir that needed to be written. Rushdie’s plight was a very significant event both personally and politically and his story needed to be told. I can only imagine what it must be like to have to go into hiding for such an extended period of time; to be constantly in fear of not only one’s own life but the lives of all your family and friends as well. Rushdie tells his story warts-and-all, never shying away from retelling events which show him in an unfavourable light. To be fair, he doesn’t hesitate to show others in a bad light either and some of the verbal attacks on him by other authors, some of whom are favourites of mine, were upsetting to read. I was particularly upset by how Roald Dahl treated Rushdie; it jarred with my (probably rose-tinted) view of this much beloved author. Still, for all its faults and discomforts, I’m glad I read this book. It makes for upsetting reading at times but I feel like I’m better for having walked a mile in Rushdie’s shoes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniela

    4.5. I admire Salman Rushdie. It appears some reviewers found him arrogant and conceited, too preoccupied with his own version of events, too insensible even, to the feelings of others. However, in answer to some of these criticisms, I would argue that a memoir isn’t an exercise in history but a version of events by one individual. It is not supposed to be impartial or objective. What is so refreshing about Rushdie is that he is so very normal. He is a very good writer, a highly intelligent man. 4.5. I admire Salman Rushdie. It appears some reviewers found him arrogant and conceited, too preoccupied with his own version of events, too insensible even, to the feelings of others. However, in answer to some of these criticisms, I would argue that a memoir isn’t an exercise in history but a version of events by one individual. It is not supposed to be impartial or objective. What is so refreshing about Rushdie is that he is so very normal. He is a very good writer, a highly intelligent man. But he has nothing of the damaged genius in him. He has tons of friends, he likes parties, he has girlfriends and affairs, he is a father, he is a man of the world, he likes to travel, he is flawed and he likes the attention he’s getting because you know, most people would. And then the unthinkable happens: he is placed in a situation where he is actively being hunted down by religious extremists for having written a book. A book of fiction. And then hell is unleashed. He is forced to go into hiding, surrounded by security and armed men, he gets divorced, he can’t see his son whenever he wishes to, he’s constantly afraid for his life, he can’t go anywhere he likes, his freedom is severely restricted for years and then! as if all this wasn’t enough, he was treated by the press and even by the police and the government as a troublemaker who brought it all upon himself. The parts of the book where he describes people’s attitudes towards him were even more infuriating than the ravings of the fundamentalists. There’s no doubt that had Rushdie been a blonde, blue-eyed born British man the tune would have been quite different. I agree with every moral stand that Rushdie took. There are values that are truly universal, that can’t be up to discussion. Everything that safeguards human life and dignity is far more important than any idea, than any religion. And you can only have dignity when you’re free to think, say, write and believe whatever you want, without being threatened or killed for it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Krishna

    Salman Rushdie once again comes with another masterpiece work of art in which he recounts dispassionately his fatwa years in hiding and many interesting ,delectable experiences after the publication of a classic Satanic Verses, tragically and stupidly banned in the country of his birth!

  14. 5 out of 5

    J.

    … a reception at Tina Brown’s house, where he found himself standing in a small circle of guests whose other members were Martin Amis, Martin Scorsese, David Bowie, Iman, Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart and Jerry Seinfeld… For some reason this seemed like it would be an unnerving and paranoiac modernist turn on memoir-writing, with some swashbuckling-special-branch derring-do on the side. In the end you know a lot more about a typically fretful middle-aged writer and not so much about the e … a reception at Tina Brown’s house, where he found himself standing in a small circle of guests whose other members were Martin Amis, Martin Scorsese, David Bowie, Iman, Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart and Jerry Seinfeld… For some reason this seemed like it would be an unnerving and paranoiac modernist turn on memoir-writing, with some swashbuckling-special-branch derring-do on the side. In the end you know a lot more about a typically fretful middle-aged writer and not so much about the extraordinary circumstances he lived; funny how that could be, but I think that possibly the truly exotic parts couldn't yet be printed. (That's being kind. Odds point to yet another variation on this same theme, from the same author, perhaps ten or fifteen years hence; a director's cut, so to speak. It shouldn't feel mercenary like that, but it does.) Seems to me there are four reasons this was not to be much of a book, and the same four reasons add up to a recipe for a fairly dissappointing outing. First and most ship-sinkingly, Mr. Rushdie uses this occasion to settle scores, to talk back, to set the record straight according to his lights. His call, of course, and surely those messages find their way to their intended audiences. Unlike famous authors, the rest of us think of the witty retorts only by the next morning-- and chalk it up as experience. But no snippet of anything, carefully cut and preserved for later comment, escapes Rushdie's infinitely acute hindsight. Which starts to wear on the reader who doesn't care about every last slight or rebuff, and certainly doesn't need imaginary revisions; a years-later "here's how it should have been" adds up to not much. Second, there is nothing so dismal as a middle aged man, no matter how intricate his afterthoughts, or how elegant his talent at description may be, commenting on his marriages, affairs and offspring once they have all moved on. That's your own book, Salman, the one no one should really want to be caught reading. Third, they call it the Special Branch, the Secret Intelligence Service, because they don't want you knowing what sort of tricks they get up to. When Rushdie avers his undying respect for the men not-in-uniform, you believe him; and yet, you have to think that because of it you won't be getting the inside game, the slew of deception & camouflage that you wanted to know about. And that was the public tease, the premise of the book, as promoted in its release. Fourth, the deeper aspect of the book is somehow wasted on trying to balance the secret jet-setting & womanizing with the holier-than-holy duty to produce High Art at his scrivener's desk all the while. Rushdie is no slouch, but judging by what's here, this is no easy needle to thread. Too much contemplative whirling-around is wasted on worrying about those questions, I'm afraid. So, zero in the Ars Longa Vita Brevis column. Once a chapter or so, we get a nice, curve-free emotional pitch from the man we used to know as Salman Rushdie, and it makes it worthwhile again, if only for that moment in time : In Kerala he watched a famous oral storyteller work his magic. The interesting thing about this performance was that it broke all the rules. “Begin at the beginning,” the King of Hearts had instructed the flustered White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “and go on until you come to the end; then stop.” And this was how stories were meant to be told, according to whichever king of hearts had made up the rules, but this was not what happened in that open-air Keralan theater. The storyteller stirred stories into one another, digressed frequently from the main narrative, told jokes, sang songs, connected his political story to the ancient tales, made personal asides, and generally misbehaved. And yet the audience did not get up and walk out in disgust. It did not hiss or boo or throw vegetables or benches at the performer. Instead, it roared with laughter, wept in despair, and remained on the edge of its seat until he was done. Did it do so in spite of the storyteller’s complicated story-juggling act, or because of it ? Might it be that this pyrotechnic way of telling might in fact be more engrossing than the King of Hearts’ preferred version— that the oral story, the most ancient of narrative forms, had survived because of its adoption of complexity and playfulness and its rejection of start-to-finish linearity? If so, then here in this warm Keralan night, all of his own thoughts about writing were being amply confirmed… Everyone will read this, everyone will feel that there was a lot more there, still going unsaid, and my wager is that Rushdie himself hasn't had his last say on l'affaire Joseph Anton.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ananthu

    Salman Rushdie in Joseph Anton says that that there’s no such thing as ‘ordinary life’. He tells us that he had always liked the idea of the surrealists that the miraculous nature of life on earth was dulled by habituation. The humdrum of daily life prevented people from experiencing the wonders of the world by forming a layer of dust obscuring their vision. It’s the artists who should wipe this layer and make the people aware of the amazement and beauty of the world. This was before he borrowed Salman Rushdie in Joseph Anton says that that there’s no such thing as ‘ordinary life’. He tells us that he had always liked the idea of the surrealists that the miraculous nature of life on earth was dulled by habituation. The humdrum of daily life prevented people from experiencing the wonders of the world by forming a layer of dust obscuring their vision. It’s the artists who should wipe this layer and make the people aware of the amazement and beauty of the world. This was before he borrowed the first names of Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov and became Joseph Anton. Little he did know about the exterminating angel waiting impatiently, above the thick darkening clouds, to pluck him from his reality and hurl him to another life overwhelmed with fear, vehemence, and death threats.It was the quotidian he yearned for during those darker times and not the days of glory. The mundane life suddenly became something precious; something worth fighting for; something to die for. My six month wait was over and it was with great intrigue and delight that I read the exemplary first chapter. With writing so masterful, Salman Rushdie describes his younger self, his family, his childhood home, and what it is like to live in a secular family. He talks about the story of satanic verses and Anis Rushdie, his father, without whom The Satanic Verses would not have been born. The first chapter definitely ups the ante and ends with a moving account of the death of his father and with this brilliant thought- “When a book leaves its author's desk it changes. Even before anyone has read it, before eyes other than its creator's have looked upon a single phrase, it is irretrievably altered. It has become a book that can be read, that no longer belongs to its maker. It has acquired, in a sense, free will. It will make its journey through the world and there is no longer anything the author can do about it. Even he, as he looks at its sentences, reads them differently now that they can be read by others. They look like different sentences. The book has gone out into the world and the world has remade it.” The momentum wavers a little with the advent of the fatwa. Every detail is dished out richly and even the monotonous days make for a gripping read under Salman’s pen and the memoir never gets tiring at any point. It’s indeed a page turner. There are instances too at which I was quite moved - his father’s death, his transient delusion that he almost lost his wife and child, the death of his first wife et al. He employs simple words and yet I was deeply touched. The third person narrative works and fits with absolute perfection. Joseph Anton tells the tale of a man robbed of freedom; a man succumbed to the harsh reality enforced by a contingent of religious fanatics, a man who’s flawed, a man who’s made some grave mistakes, a man whose greatest joy lies in art and in telling stories, a man who fought bravely for the freedom of speech. And to tell that tale, ‘I’ isn't apt, ‘he’ is. One would expect Salman, in this 630 page long memoir, to tell us about his writing process and since I am an ardent Rushdie devotee I was waiting impatiently to read those parts. But it seems we aren’t invited to see his creative self fully; all we get is a peek at it. That is my only complaint. But it’s his memoir; maybe he did not want us to get more than a peek. Joseph Anton celebrates the joy of the thing that most of us take for granted – freedom. To go for a walk, he had to request permission from his security guards and to at least play outdoors with his young son, he found it difficult. He couldn't even get his newspaper in the morning. Even that freedom was curtailed. Most of the reviewers called the book ‘a bit too long’. But I closed it insatiably. I wanted more.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Rumbles

    Joseph Anton is the story of Salman Rushdie’s life during the fatwa, as defined by the years in which the British Police insisted his life needed Special Branch protection. The name Joseph Anton is one the police forced him to invent and use for his own protection. To be addressed as Joe in his own home always disconcerted him. A memoir can be a dry piece of self-centred writing or in Rushdie’s case, a reason to write beautifully and poetically. Like me, you may never have read Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton is the story of Salman Rushdie’s life during the fatwa, as defined by the years in which the British Police insisted his life needed Special Branch protection. The name Joseph Anton is one the police forced him to invent and use for his own protection. To be addressed as Joe in his own home always disconcerted him. A memoir can be a dry piece of self-centred writing or in Rushdie’s case, a reason to write beautifully and poetically. Like me, you may never have read Salman Rushdie’s writing and wonder why The Satanic Verses caused so much trouble for him. Now many years later, Rushdie reflects on his life and specifically the years that he spent in hiding because of the fatwa. He has an ability to unselfconsciously explore his own childhood and student days and takes an unflinching look at his own warts and all life as an adult and writer. He takes us to the India and Pakistan he didn’t grow up in. We learn of his irreligious family and his difficult father with his invented name. As a young person who found life unfair in how he as “other” was treated, Rushdie finds it now is his nature to fight and not back down. He was someone different to the others at school in England and singled out. For the adult Salman, this meant he was determined to no longer be ashamed of who he is and where he comes from. This inflexibility with regards to pride and identity, which would be both a good and a bad thing in the fatwa years. In The Satanic Verses, Rushdie created a fictional story which included looking at what Muhammad actually meant to say and what his motivations were for declaring his recitation had erred and was not angelic but actually of Satan. In this novel where believers are persecuted, some characters had to be seen to persecute. It is these parts of the story that are held against him. However the curious fact is that the Imam who issued the ban, never actually even read the book. It seems to Rushdie that interpreting or reflecting upon Islam is itself deemed to be a sin. Good Muslims’ simply do what Islam states without any thinking at all. Like the Bible, the Quran is not a historically accurate record of what a man actually said, but a committee decision on what the best historical record might be. Therefore there is much uncertainty of what Muhammad and his Suras really meant in his own time let alone what they mean for people today. In the Fatwa fall out from fanatical Muslims in Britain and around the world Rushdie felt he saw a new direction of Islam. What had begun as Saudi funded fundamentalism was becoming a widespread anti-west movement, which the West itself did not want to acknowledge was happening. This is a memoir about the difficulty of writing, the freedom to be able to write and publish, enjoying and appreciating family and friends and in Rushdie’s case, the joy of receiving great generosity from friends and acquaintances when his days looked to be the most difficult they could ever be. People died and were injured because of the reaction to what he had written. This is Rushdie’s remembrance and celebration of the triumph of the goodness of humanity over the ignorant and bad. I was forever drawn to read more of this evocative book. It teaches us a lot about the world of recent years.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shonna Froebel

    This memoir was an eye-opening look at living under threat. Whether it is the actual fear from the threats by Muslim extremists, the restrictions placed on his movements by the police and security officials, the reaction of media, the public reaction or his own family member's reaction, we see the effects on Rushdie's life. Joseph Anton was the pseudonym he chose for the police to use for him during most of this time, initiated once they realized this was not a short term situation. Salman Rushdi This memoir was an eye-opening look at living under threat. Whether it is the actual fear from the threats by Muslim extremists, the restrictions placed on his movements by the police and security officials, the reaction of media, the public reaction or his own family member's reaction, we see the effects on Rushdie's life. Joseph Anton was the pseudonym he chose for the police to use for him during most of this time, initiated once they realized this was not a short term situation. Salman Rushdie lays out his life before the reader, both good and bad, embarrassing and uplifting, to show that he is a person just like the rest of us. Being a writer meant that he was still able to work during this time, but his circumstances also limited in his work in terms of doing research, promoting his work, and dealing with publishers. He had a core group of friends and family that helped keep him going, supported him intellectually, emotionally, and through physical means like offering temporary homes. During his time under security restrictions, the life of Joseph Anton, Rushdie had one marriage end, another begin and end, a son grow up, and another son born. It was years before he was allowed to return to the country of his birth, and his restrictions cost him a great deal both financially and emotionally. With support, he found ways to deal with and work around these restrictions as he tried to lead as normal a life as he could under the circumstances. This memoir is revealing and open about his own feelings and reactions, with moments of sadness and humour. A joy to read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Satish Bagal

    I have just finished reading memoirs of "Joseph Anton" written by Salman Rushdie and released last week. A remarkable book that is an autobiographical account of the days when the Ayatolla Khomenie issued a "Fatwah" to kill him for blasphemy of the religion and the Quran. It's a fantastic story of what hell and suffering he underwent and how he spent a long period condemned in isolation, humiliation, with death constantly hanging over his head. One wonders how strange the world of writing and th I have just finished reading memoirs of "Joseph Anton" written by Salman Rushdie and released last week. A remarkable book that is an autobiographical account of the days when the Ayatolla Khomenie issued a "Fatwah" to kill him for blasphemy of the religion and the Quran. It's a fantastic story of what hell and suffering he underwent and how he spent a long period condemned in isolation, humiliation, with death constantly hanging over his head. One wonders how strange the world of writing and the writers is and how the convoluted and fierce battles for controlling the story and the narrative are fought among various institutions, political, religious, social and others and and how fragile is the freedom of expression to which we do our lip service from time to time. Rushdie's book is an important part of the twentieth century history of struggle for Freedom of Expression. Having said this, however, I would add that although his memoirs are brilliant and scintillating, yet I am not sure whether he is able to rise above himself.He has not been able to hide bitterness, animosity and some times loud and strong passions against his tormentors. This is understandable. However, what is not understandable is that he has not been able to show enough gratitude towards his protectors and all those who stood behind him. There is lot of story telling here; but not adequate reflection on events that are more than a decade old. He comes off in these memoirs more as a Roman warrior obsessed with only two states, victory and defeat. Literature is, however, much more than this. True and great art is born of the magical touch of love, healing and forgiving which need to come with such a long telescopic vision. Rushdie may be a brilliant writer, a great craftsman of words, a great fighter; but I am afraid, his memoirs still fall a little short of what we might call Great Work of Art.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Asmita Das

    I had pre-ordered this book even before its release and finished in less than a fortnight. It is a page turner -- Rushdie gives a personal account of the nightmarish decade of the fatwa as he fought battles at various ends. Some of the pre-release reviews said that the book provides the reader the required tools of understanding and the urge to go back to his books once again and take another look. However, for me, as I made my way deeper and deeper into the world that became less Rushdie and mo I had pre-ordered this book even before its release and finished in less than a fortnight. It is a page turner -- Rushdie gives a personal account of the nightmarish decade of the fatwa as he fought battles at various ends. Some of the pre-release reviews said that the book provides the reader the required tools of understanding and the urge to go back to his books once again and take another look. However, for me, as I made my way deeper and deeper into the world that became less Rushdie and more Joe, it let inside the head of not Salman but any 'Joe' whose right of expression is curbed by the narrowed vision of a clique of fundamentalists, powerful enough to force the British intelligence to assess and rate the risk factor at Level 2. The book is an honest account of an author who has mostly been misunderstood. The author however never cries out so but the note of honesty rings loud and clear in every page that provokes in the reader a sense of respect and adoration. Writing in third person under the identity that rancorously stuck to him for an entire decade or more, this book was more of an exercise to shed the last shreds of that fake identity and his return to the world as the Salman he always wanted to be.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I was entranced by the fatwa and Salman Rushdie's situation back in 1989. I was a college freshman and I couldn't get my hands on a copy of The Satanic Verses, so I read a mass-market copy of Midnight's Children and then Shame that summer (finally reading the Verses when the Consortium edition was published a few years later). In the 1990s I found myself surprised as Rushdie turned to more pop-culture themes and when his later novels were poorly-reviewed. I haven't read him since Moor's Last Sig I was entranced by the fatwa and Salman Rushdie's situation back in 1989. I was a college freshman and I couldn't get my hands on a copy of The Satanic Verses, so I read a mass-market copy of Midnight's Children and then Shame that summer (finally reading the Verses when the Consortium edition was published a few years later). In the 1990s I found myself surprised as Rushdie turned to more pop-culture themes and when his later novels were poorly-reviewed. I haven't read him since Moor's Last Sigh, but yeah, I was interested in reading this memoir. I borrowed an e-book and hadn't initially noticed the length of the book. Oh, but it's long, as in I've been reading for the last ten minutes and I'm still at 7%?-long! - I read the first 52% (the equivalent of 300+ pages) with sedulous attention and then the rest (300+ pages) I had to skim. Yet if I skimmed too fast I wouldn't get to gloat at how awful the book was, so I resorted to a kind of attenuated skimming interspersed with close reading. And I found: An awesome display of ego. This is little more than a celebrity-memoir replete with score-settling and self-aggrandizement. Rushdie appears to name every incident in which he ever felt betrayed or given the cold-shoulder - he names names and it's unseemly. It's also full of sycophantic name-dropping that is so shameless it's embarrassing to read ("Everything felt intensely exciting. Willie Nelson was there! And Matthew Modine!" Matthew Modine, eh?). The Madonna incident was inadvertently amusing: a comp copy of The Ground Beneath Her Feet had been sent to her in hopes of getting a favorable comment. Madonna doesn't deign to speak to Rushdie when he appears, and when her personal assistant is asked whether "the great lady" read his novel the assistant replies that Madonna shredded it. Rushdie dismisses his literary critics when/if they don't like a particular work, saying that his is an "intellectual, linguistic, formal, and emotional journey" - and if the critics don't approve then it means they "were unable to go down the road he'd taken." I'm sure the early days of the fatwa were frightening and difficult and changed him: he gives pages and pages of this, with the result that he turned into an icon - "the symbolic icon-Salman his supporters had constructed, an idealized Salman of Liberty who stood flawlessly and unwaveringly for the highest values ..." Thing is, he seems to believe that. Includes exchanges that Rushdie presumably thinks make him look good but in fact do the opposite. E.g., the John le Carré exchange that he quotes at length, which left me thinking le Carré sounded pretty sensible and Rushdie not. I don't think it was that well written; it was not "literature" in any way I understand the concept. Contradictory grand statements about "happiness" appearing in sequential paragraphs. The tedious name-dropping and catty comments. A bewilderingly inaccurate remark about female reproduction: "She was pregnant. He at once began to fear the worst. If one his faulty chromosomes had been selected then the fetus would not form and she would miscarry very soon, probably at the end of the next menstrual cycle." ?? If she's pregnant then she's not HAVING menstrual cycles. Which brings me to: Rushdie on women and his "need for love": He cheats on first wife. He makes his soon-to-be second wife jealous by flaunting his relationship with Robyn (Tracks) Davidson. He later portrays this second wife, the novelist Marianne Wiggins, as deranged. When he cheats on his third wife (Elizabeth something?) he faux-innocently tosses his infidelity off:One other thing happened in Paris. Caroline Lang, Jack Lang's brilliant and beautiful daughter, [me: needless name-dropping] came to keep him company at the Hotel de 'Abbaye one afternoon, and because of her beauty, and the wine, and the difficulties with Elizabeth, they became lovers; and immediately afterward decided not to do that again, but to remain friends.Elizabeth finds out: at some point she "did what people always did and read his journal when he wasn't there and found out about his day in Paris with Caroline Lang and then they had the painful conversation people always had ..." Did what people always did? What a pompous jerk. Then there is Padma, aka "the Illusion" - as Rushdie calls her, because he seems to hate her so much he can't write her name. His depictions of Padma Lakshmi are weird: a woman he spent 7-8 years with and marries, but here calls shallow, self-obsessed, stupid, and more-or-less a whore (seeing her being photographed at a Vanity Fair Oscars party"he looked at the expression on her face and suddenly thought, She's having sex, sex with hundreds of men at the same time, and they don't even get to touch her, there's no way any actual man can compete with that." [italics in the original].There is this bizarrely bile-filled and nonsensical passage recounting when Padma/Illusion "stabbed him in the heart" nd something I couldn't follow about ancient Scrooge McDuck and his pleasure dome in Duckburg, USA with a tame tyrannosaurus flanked by his loyal velociraptors and ... - I have no idea but it was just ugly to read. Amazing. Now I look forward to reading some other reviews of Joseph Anton on Goodreads and elsewhere. I will probably never re-read Midnight's Children now, which is too bad.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tony61

    I've never been a fan of Salman Rushdie's genre of magical realism and I've never been able to finish one of his novels, yet I found his memoir "Joseph Anton" compelling. It's a memoir emphasizing Rushdie's plight as an object of a fatwa called by Muslim leaders and supported by the Iranian government because of his alleged disparaging portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad and his wives in the novel The Satanic Verses. Critics have argued that Rushdie was careless and should have known that fundament I've never been a fan of Salman Rushdie's genre of magical realism and I've never been able to finish one of his novels, yet I found his memoir "Joseph Anton" compelling. It's a memoir emphasizing Rushdie's plight as an object of a fatwa called by Muslim leaders and supported by the Iranian government because of his alleged disparaging portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad and his wives in the novel The Satanic Verses. Critics have argued that Rushdie was careless and should have known that fundamentalist Muslims would take issue with his work, The Satanic Verses, or that Rushdie intended to purposely insult Islam for publicity. Rushdie argues against these ideas very convincingly, but more importantly, so what if he "should have known"? Western enlightened society is built on the foundation of personal civil liberties, and paramount is the protection of everyone's right to express ideas, no matter how disagreeable. Rushdie is an excellent writer but the 600+ pages is lengthy. I frequently thought as I listened--I borrowed the Audiobook from the library-- Does his publisher employ editors? Twenty-two hours of audio! But now, having finished, I can say that the length of the book is necessary to truly understand the complexity of the person Salman Rushdie and the events he endured. He effectively portrays his weaknesses as he honestly admits to heavy alcohol use that damaged his relationships, among other shortcomings. Another criticism is that Rushdie put publishers, book store clerks and other personnel at risk by insisting that his right to free speech was upheld. Bullshit. Nobody entered into their interactions with Rushdie and The Satanic Verses against their will, and it was Muslim leaders who instigated violence. The publishing industry is the true guardian of such freedom and their professionalism is praised by Rushdie throughout the book. Rushdie mentions the sorrow he felt when translators of The Satanic Verses were attacked, one killed and another injured, by Islamic fundamentalists, but we must all remember who are the criminals in this situation, and it's not the novelist. Further critics argue that Rushdie has not shown proper gratitude for the protection and expense put forth on his behalf by the British government and the agents involved. Again, bullshit. Rushdie exhibits gushing praise for the "prot" agents who ensured his safety, although he often voices frustration with the Bureaucracy of Scotland Yard. An example of supreme frustration is that the British government had anti-blasphemy laws on the books until very recently, and these laws, while originally enacted centuries ago to protect Anglicanism, the laws were expanded to prohibit negative opinion of any religion. These laws have been expunged following, and perhaps because of, the Rushdie fatwa. Like others I found Rushdie's use of the third person confusing at times, but who am I to argue with an accomplished award winning author? Hillary Mantel uses the same literary device in her historical novel Wolf Hall about Thomas Cromwell. Rushdie exhibits traits of self-confidence, what others might call narcissism, but there is a distinction between pathology and mere personality traits. I cannot imagine any interesting and successful writer lacking such high opinion of himself or herself; detractors should get over it. Rushdie has lived an interesting life which he has explored with effective introspection. As memoirs go this one is very, very good. He gives a clear impression of his emotions and motivations, his anger and frustration as well as the love and gratitude he feels. moreover, Rushdie educates the reader on the events of the day and how they are affected by religious ideology and the political and personal ramifications. More recently, Salman Rushdie has been interviewed and while he quickly cops to his lack of god-belief, he has a nuanced respectful view of Islam: while he may not agree with the tenets of the faith, he recognizes that it's the leaders of Islam who have made the grievous violent overtures for political purposes. Followers of Islam need to be more vigilant of the true meaning of their religion and not allow it to be co-opted by mullahs for political motives. Rushdie never apologizes for writing The Satanic Verses, never expresses regret. That is the true message of this story: we have a choice to make as members of a free society, we can stand with the fundamentals of freedom of expression or we can allow assholes to steal our freedoms. The choice is ours. No matter how much or how little we may enjoy a particular writer's work it is our imperative duty to defend his right to express the art. Joseph Anton is a well-written account of the life of a writer enduring a harrowing assault on his freedom and threats to the life of himself, his family and his colleagues. Rushdie provides an introspective and sometimes humorous (parts are very funny, especially his close encounter with a Playboy Bunny!) rendering of the experience. He addresses detractors (John Le Carre comes across as a willful moron) and supporters very effectively and makes the case for the unabridged freedoms of an open society.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lena

    When Salman Rushdie was abruptly forced into hiding by the declaration of a fatwa against him for his novel, The Satanic Verses, he he combined the fist names of Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov to create his code name. Joseph Anton is Rushdie's memoir of those years and the struggles he faced not just to stay alive, but also to have some kind of life behind the wall of protection officers who became his constant companions. The first third of this book is utterly fascinating. Rushdie faced the wra When Salman Rushdie was abruptly forced into hiding by the declaration of a fatwa against him for his novel, The Satanic Verses, he he combined the fist names of Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov to create his code name. Joseph Anton is Rushdie's memoir of those years and the struggles he faced not just to stay alive, but also to have some kind of life behind the wall of protection officers who became his constant companions. The first third of this book is utterly fascinating. Rushdie faced the wrath of fanatical Muslims long before the rest of us had any idea what was brewing on the horizon, and his own personal experience of how society struggles to navigate the territory between respecting others' beliefs and the right to freedom of expression is still very relevant today. His point that cowardice in the face of terrorism often masquerades as "respect" is articulately expressed, and his detailed accounts of how the publishing industry and various governments responded to the situation makes his case very well. By the middle of the book, however, I found myself wishing that Mr. Rushdie did not feel the need to include every single detail of every single encounter in his post-fatwa journey. While the political machinations surrounding his attempt to meet with a US President in order to force his own government to make a public statement of support for him are interesting, I really didn't need to know about the petty squabbles between members of his entourage over who was going to get to meet the president with him. Nor did I need a list of every single famous person who attended every single event he went to during those years. And while I eventually adjusted to the 3rd person narrative, I disliked the removal of immediacy it cast over the narrative. There is no question that what Rushdie has lived through is unique in human history. And while I agree with some of the other reviews that he is very full of himself in this book, I'm not quite sure how it would be possible for most humans to be otherwise in that bizarro situation. His talent as a writer covers many of his sins in this regard; this is one of the only memoirs I've read where I wasn't bored out of my mind by the author's obligatory digression into his childhood. He also does a moderate job of addressing his failings during this time - his bowing to pressure and signing of a conciliatory statement that he didn't believe and ultimately didn't work, his betrayal of his third wife to chase a fantasy of freedom embodied by Padma Lakshmi. But he is substantially less reserved when it comes to criticizing the failures of others, be it publishers who blinked, other authors who came out against him, or Lakshmi's leaving him for a billionaire. While the first two are at least relevant to the wider story, the third just seems like bitter venting. Rushdie's inability to edit himself is the book's biggest problem, and made for slow going in the second half. Still, though, I'm really glad I read it. The story it tells is even more critical now than it was when it started, and it was genuinely fascinating to read about what actually happened during those years. So I would definitely recommend it if you have the patience to find the global story wrapped up within the personal one of a man who was thrust into history in a way none of us could ever expect to be.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    On February 14 1989, Salman Rushdie got a call asking how he felt about being sentenced to death. The call was from a journalist who told him that the Ayatollah Khomeini has put a fatwa on him. His novel The Satanic Verses was accused of being “against Islam, the Prophet, and the Quran.” This is a memoir of the 10 years he went into hiding and was under police protection because of this fatwa. When they asked Rushdie to pick an alias the first thing he did was think of the writers he respected, i On February 14 1989, Salman Rushdie got a call asking how he felt about being sentenced to death. The call was from a journalist who told him that the Ayatollah Khomeini has put a fatwa on him. His novel The Satanic Verses was accused of being “against Islam, the Prophet, and the Quran.” This is a memoir of the 10 years he went into hiding and was under police protection because of this fatwa. When they asked Rushdie to pick an alias the first thing he did was think of the writers he respected, in this case Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. This is a memoir of complete honesty about the effect his novel The Satanic Verses had on his life. I found Rushdie to be very honest about the whole situation, from the bonds formed, the struggles, the fears and the idea of freedom of speech. One thing that really stood out to me was the use of a third person narrator; a rarity in a memoir but it seemed to really work. It was like Salman Rushdie was telling a story of someone else. I’m not sure if Rushdie was trying to look at the situation from another perspective or if he felt like the situation changed who he was, but it really worked. I remember The Satanic Verses and I know I had to research Islam to understand the book, but I never thought of it as a religious insult; I always viewed the book as one man’s struggle to make sense of his religion in a culture completely different. The importance of this book and its literary achievements really was out shadowed by the controversy. In Joseph Anton, Rushdie really does try to look at the entire situation in a unique way. Salman Rushdie’s healing process is displayed on the page for everyone to see, but you can still see the bitterness and animosity in his narrative. This is what I found made this book so great; the author never held back and never tried to hide his emotions. It would have been a scary time of his life and I’m glad to understand what he went through a lot more than I expected. This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    This was a chore to read. I wanted to quit over and over again, but I felt like I had to persist and finish it anyway. The book could have been 400 pages thinner. It is filled with name dropping, receiving awards and dinner parties. Just when I was about to give up, a good page or two would pop up and keep me going through the next thicket of dreariness. The book is informative as to just how pathetically the West kowtowed to Iranian terrorism from the late 80's onward. Governments bent over bac This was a chore to read. I wanted to quit over and over again, but I felt like I had to persist and finish it anyway. The book could have been 400 pages thinner. It is filled with name dropping, receiving awards and dinner parties. Just when I was about to give up, a good page or two would pop up and keep me going through the next thicket of dreariness. The book is informative as to just how pathetically the West kowtowed to Iranian terrorism from the late 80's onward. Governments bent over backwards to Islamic opinion and did not defend free speech in the way we might think they would. I was surprised to learn of the associated casualties related to the publication of The Satanic Verses. As Wikipedia says, "Hitoshi Igarashi, his Japanese translator, was stabbed to death on 11 July 1991. Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator, was seriously injured in a stabbing in Milan on 3 July 1991. William Nygaard, the publisher in Norway, was shot three times in an attempted assassination in Oslo in October 1993, but survived. Aziz Nesin, the Turkish translator, was the intended target in the events that led to the Sivas massacre on 2 July 1993 in Sivas, Turkey, which resulted in the deaths of thirty seven people." Rushdie ends the book with the events of 9/11, and it does seem fitting as this ordeal stretched from the late 80's through the 90's and were a prelude to 9/11 and the endless war that followed. To Rushdie, this all boils down to artistic freedom vs. religious zealotry, and so many important questions go unanswered or glanced at only in stereotypes. He doesn't strike me as a deep thinker, but rather as emblematic of the thin cultural elite that our present oligarchy imposes on us.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    Probably not a 5-star book, but one that I got 5-stars' worth of pleasure listening to--all 27 hours of it. Rushdie knows how to tell a terrific story. He is sensitive and funny, sympathetic, outraged and outrageous, ironic and sardonic, pompous, petulant, sweet, sometimes unreasonable, often understanding, always sparkling with knowledge and intelligence. And hearing the tales of his youth and early adulthood, the reader senses that he had all these qualities well before Iran's fatwa forced him Probably not a 5-star book, but one that I got 5-stars' worth of pleasure listening to--all 27 hours of it. Rushdie knows how to tell a terrific story. He is sensitive and funny, sympathetic, outraged and outrageous, ironic and sardonic, pompous, petulant, sweet, sometimes unreasonable, often understanding, always sparkling with knowledge and intelligence. And hearing the tales of his youth and early adulthood, the reader senses that he had all these qualities well before Iran's fatwa forced him into his nine years in semi-hiding, which are the central focus of the book. Rushdie entertains the reader with stories of his early life in India and Pakistan, his parents, his boarding school years in England, his early literary career (successes and failures), his wives (a succession of four of them), his sons, his views of Islam and other religions, his writing of The Satanic Verses and the disastrous fallout, his "prot" (protection) teams, and his many celebrity friends and acquaintances (whose names he drops continually and about whom he gossips, complains, and waxes adoringly). Sam Dastor’s audio narration is perfect. I loved this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

    Salman Rushdie's memoir of his time in hiding during the Ayatollah's fatwa started out very promising - a real life cloak and dagger story! - but became just as tedious as his life probably was during that long, 13 year period. There was a lot of name-dropping of well-known authors, actors and politicians, some who supported him and some who resented him, and a lot of ruminating about the importance of his own work. I skipped a lot of pages just to get through the book. Really can't recommend it Salman Rushdie's memoir of his time in hiding during the Ayatollah's fatwa started out very promising - a real life cloak and dagger story! - but became just as tedious as his life probably was during that long, 13 year period. There was a lot of name-dropping of well-known authors, actors and politicians, some who supported him and some who resented him, and a lot of ruminating about the importance of his own work. I skipped a lot of pages just to get through the book. Really can't recommend it, despite the fact that I have always admired his sacrifice for freedom of speech.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I'm glad I read this book, but... wow, what an asshole. And not just because he talks about himself in the third person. I was curious to understand how Rushdie's life changed after the fatwa, his thoughts on free speech and questioning religious doctrine. Unfortunately this book is mostly about dropping names and trying to get the last word. And there's way too much time spent detailing real estate transactions. The most disappointing part of the book is his decision to apologize for The Satanic I'm glad I read this book, but... wow, what an asshole. And not just because he talks about himself in the third person. I was curious to understand how Rushdie's life changed after the fatwa, his thoughts on free speech and questioning religious doctrine. Unfortunately this book is mostly about dropping names and trying to get the last word. And there's way too much time spent detailing real estate transactions. The most disappointing part of the book is his decision to apologize for The Satanic Verses and pretend to be a true believer in the Islamic faith. The apology itself was obviously really disappointing—of course he was desperate to escape the fatwa, and that's understandable—but I wished for a more satisfying explanation of his mindset and reasoning as he disavowed everything he stood for. Also flabbergasting is his treatment of women as disposable accessories, like they only exist to provide comfort to the brilliant besieged author. Poor Elizabeth! Rushie (I learned it's pronounced "Rooshdie") was in SF promoting his new book, The Golden House a couple weeks ago and Steph, Alex, and I saw him talk. Hearing him in person softened me to him a great deal. But it was telling at the end of the night when an audience member commented that out of the dozen or more authors he cited as inspiration, there were no women. His response? "I did mention The Age of Innocence." I'm still going to read The Golden House, and I'm super curious to read The Satanic Verses now, too.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Georgia Roybal

    This book is a detailed description of Salman Rushdie's life during the time he was in hiding due to the fatwa. Many of us after 9/11 can better understand what caused his life to be a nightmare. And a nightmare it was. He details his ups and downs, his tragedies and triumphs with great detail and honesty. At first I had a hard time getting used to the third person, but I really understand why he used third person: it would have been very painful to think of that as yourself. In one section, he This book is a detailed description of Salman Rushdie's life during the time he was in hiding due to the fatwa. Many of us after 9/11 can better understand what caused his life to be a nightmare. And a nightmare it was. He details his ups and downs, his tragedies and triumphs with great detail and honesty. At first I had a hard time getting used to the third person, but I really understand why he used third person: it would have been very painful to think of that as yourself. In one section, he chronicles one night when he couldn't get in contact with his son by telephone. I trembled along with him. Some things I can't begin to imagine: four policemen sleeping in your house for 9 years, riding constantly in bulletproof cars, maintaining any sense of normalcy for so long. In a strange way, this book was a help to me at this time in my life. I am going through personal and professional trials. The book helped me realize that it could be worse and that, eventually, it will all pass. The one thing I fault Salman Rushdie for in his suffering is sticking with a couple of his wives through different parts of it. Especially given that he hurt nicer women in the process. I think the book needs to be read by many to help us understand some of the forces that are currently holding us hostage and resulting in eroding freedoms. Some quotes I loved: "What was he, after all, but a huddled mass yearning to breathe free?" when in New York. "People also suffered from a form of chosen blindness. People pretended that there was such a thing as ordinary, such a thing as normal, and that was the public fantasy, far more escapist than the most escapist fiction, inside which they cocooned themselves." This echoes feelings I have had for a long time; people waste a lot of effort and pain trying to be normal when there is no such thing. Octavio Paz opined that something as complex as human being cannot be reduced to mere statistical tendencies. *Life was lived forward but was judged in reverse." Good thought for all of us to consider when we beat up on ourselves for our past actions. "Rage made you the creature of those who enraged you, it gave them too much power. Rage killed the mind, and now more than ever the mind needed to live, to find a way of rising above the mindlessness." Again wonderful thoughts to help us all when we feel rage. "All writers and readers knew that human being had broad identities, not narrow ones." and to follow the thought a little father "You could support different football teams but vote the same way. You could vote for different parties but agree about the best way to raise your children. You could disagree about child rearing but share a fear of the dark. You could be afraid of different things but love the same music. You could detest each other's musical taste but worship the same God. You could differ strongly on the question of religion but support the same football team." Again, we humans are infinitely variable, and definitely not normal. "Great literature went to the edges of the known and pushed against the boundaries of language, form, and possibility, to make the world feel larger, wider, than before." I think this is a good description of all art.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Everyday eBook

    I met Salman Rushdie once at a party. I was reluctantly pulled toward him, while my captor belted out, "SALMAN, YOU ARE HER FAVORITE AUTHOR!" He and I both blinked at each other, aware of the awkwardness of the situation. I stammered out, "Yes, you're my favorite author," and Mr. Rushdie said, "Oh, that's nice. Thank you." Then we both walked away, not wanting to prolong the forced moment. Afterward, I was annoyed with my captor for thrusting me into the meeting so abruptly, without giving me ti I met Salman Rushdie once at a party. I was reluctantly pulled toward him, while my captor belted out, "SALMAN, YOU ARE HER FAVORITE AUTHOR!" He and I both blinked at each other, aware of the awkwardness of the situation. I stammered out, "Yes, you're my favorite author," and Mr. Rushdie said, "Oh, that's nice. Thank you." Then we both walked away, not wanting to prolong the forced moment. Afterward, I was annoyed with my captor for thrusting me into the meeting so abruptly, without giving me time to prepare. If I had been able to collect my thoughts, I imagine the scene would have played out similarly to one in Rushdie's new memoir, Joseph Anton: A Memoir. He recalls a reading of Midnight's Children in which an Indian lady stood up and told him, "Thank you, Mr. Rushdie, because you have told my story." Rushdie remembers this moment emotionally, recalling a "lump rise in his throat." What a moment we would have had then! Because he told my hyphenated story so well, in different forms, over the years, I was thrilled to finally be able to read his story. Joseph Anton is written in the third person, as a novel might be, with the kind of flowing narrative only Rushdie can create. The title is taken from his protective moniker used during the fatwa years, which are the main focus of the memoir: Joseph, for Joseph Conrad, and Anton for Anton Chekov. The decision to cobble together an identity from two favorite authors speaks as much to Rushdie's story as does the story itself. His fight was not, as certain parties have suggested, born out of arrogance or attention-seeking. His fight was always for the art of literature, the art of the word. Throughout Rushdie's memoir this is what he seeks to stress, and what comes through clearly: Words have driven his life and fed his soul, and he was, and will always be, dedicated to their cause. His struggles boiled down to a simple belief: Without freedom of words, what is life? In Joseph Anton, Rushdie mentions a few instances where, upon the publication of a new book, the reviews were centered more around his political life than the book itself. I would like not to make the same mistake, though it becomes difficult when the book is about his political life. But, at the end of the day, what this book is really about is books themselves: the beauty of books, the freedom to write books, and the freedom to read books. So again, though he is telling his own story, Rushdie has deftly managed to tell mine. Thank you, Mr. Rushdie, for telling our story. Head to www.EverydayeBook.com for more eBook reviews

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mala

    What a damning damning review: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archi... Waiting for some fireworks from Sir Rushdie! What a damning damning review: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archi... Waiting for some fireworks from Sir Rushdie!

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