Joseph Anton: A Memoir By Salman Rushdie

    Joseph

    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. Salman Rushdie 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) Salman Rushdie 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! Salman Rushdie 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. Salman Rushdie
    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. Salman Rushdie

    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. Salman Rushdie “A comfortable prison was still a prison.”



    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 shown above). Especially in the first couple of years, I heard about threats to publishers and booksellers, demonstrations and occasionally updates about Rushdie himself.

    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 his life back 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. Salman Rushdie 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.

    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. Salman Rushdie Joseph Anton. Why such a pseudonym?

    Is it some random name, or does it have any story or reason behind it? This was the question that came to my mind when I saw this book for the first time. If you are someone who has already read some books written by Salman Rushdie, you will understand why I thought like that. The answer to it is mentioned in this book. Joseph Anton was the combination of Rushdie's favorite two authors, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov.

    Rushdie was forced to go into exile when he was sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini. The reason for the fatwa was the alleged blasphemy when his novel Satanic verses hurt the religious sentiments of some people. He was forced to move from homes to homes and hotels to hotels almost every day in the initial few months of 1989. This chilling account tells us how Salman Rushdie lived in exile under a pseudonym for practically a decade.

    This is not just another memoir by a famous writer. This is a compendium that touches almost all the harsh realities that human beings have been suffering in the name of religion, politics, and hatred associated with it. No other memoir in this current era has forced us to think deeply about freedom of speech like this book. It shows us why it is high time for the people in power to ensure that fundamental human rights are protected worldwide.

    It is unfortunate to hear about the recent attack on the writer in New York. It won't be comforting for some readers to read how the author describes the people opposing him expecting such a thing to happen to him in the USA.

    I am a person who read his controversial words in the book, The Satanic Verses. I can't deny that the author was a little harsh in how he wrote the book. But that is his freedom to write whatever he wants to write. The people who don't like it can oppose him and constructively criticize him through book reviews, discussions, debates, talk shows, documentaries, or any other acceptable manner. That is how an ideal world should work. Nobody has the right to try to kill a human being just because he wrote something that hurt their religious sentiments. It is sad to read that many people died after the book was published due to the religious disharmony caused by it. All the events that happened after publishing his book were extremely disturbing and unacceptable if you think from the angle of an ordinary human being.

    What I learned from this book
    1) The complicated relationship between digital permanence and book publishing
    I am trying to interconnect two concepts with their own course of action with an underlying similarity.

    Digital permanence is something that most of you must be familiar with, especially if you are a social media content creator. It says that once on the internet, always on the internet. If you upload or post something on the internet, it will stay there forever. Even if you try to delete it and wipe it out, it won't leave it as you think. Others might download it, and they will reupload it if what you published is controversial. Digital permanence shows us how responsible or careful we should be before posting something on the internet.

    Salman Rushdie says a similar thing about book publishing. The book can only be considered the author's property until it is published. When it is published, then it belongs to the public.. The author can't make any changes to the book after it is published. Even if the author tries to change the subsequent editions, the earlier editions will keep resurfacing, and it is impossible to wipe them out. This is the portion of this book that all young new-generation authors should undeniably read.

    “ 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


    2) What was Rushdie fighting for during the exile?
    Rushdie fought for many things during the decade when he lived under a pseudonym. Freedom of speech was the most important thing he was fighting for. His creative process, personal freedom, marital harmony, and even his own life were at risk because he decided to make this difficult fight. He also met some extraordinary individuals who supported him immensely during these difficult times. We can see multiple conversations between Rusdhie and other great writers like Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Paul Theroux, Umberto Eco, Günter Grass, and many other great personalities in this book
    He was learning that to win a fight like this, it was not enough to know what one was fighting against. That was easy. He was fighting against the view that people could be killed for their ideas, and against the ability of any religion to place a limiting point on thought. But he needed, now, to be clear of what he was fighting for. Freedom of speech, freedom of the imagination, freedom from fear, and the beautiful, ancient art of which he was privileged to be a practitioner. Also skepticism, irreverence, doubt, satire, comedy, and unholy glee. He would never again flinch from the defense of these things.

    Free speech isn't absolute. We have the freedoms we fight for and we lose those we don't defend.


    3) Extraterritoriality
    The author explains extraterritoriality or diplomatic immunity in an interesting way in this book.
    There was another new word he had to learn. Here it was on the radio: extraterritoriality. Also known as state-sponsored terrorism. Voltaire had once said that it was a good idea for a writer to live near an international frontier so that, if he angered powerful men, he could skip across the border and be safe. Voltaire himself left France for England after he gave offense to an aristocrat, the Chevalier de Rohan, and remained in exile for seven years. But to live in a different country from one's persecutors was no longer to be safe. Now there was extraterritorial action. In other words, they came after you.



    4) What does the word, Rusdhie mean?
    I always wondered what the meaning of the word Rushdie is. I even checked it a couple of times a few years ago, and I was not able to find the answer. The author is telling an interesting detail about how he got his name and the meaning hidden behind it in this book. The author tells us that the term Rushdie was his father, Anis's invention.
    The first gift he received from his father, a gift like a message in a time capsule, which he didn't understand until he was an adult, was the family name. Rushdie was Anis's invention; his father's name had been quite a mouthful, Khwaja Muhammad Din Khaliqi Dehlavi, a fine Old Delhi name. Anis renamed himself Rushdie because of his admiration for Ibn Rushd, Averroës to the West, the twelfth-century Spanish-Arab philosopher of Córdoba who rose to become the qadi or judge of Seville, the translator of and acclaimed commentator upon the works of Aristotle. His son bore the name for two decades before he understood that his father, a true scholar of Islam who was also entirely lacking in religious belief, had chosen it because he respected Ibn Rushd for being at the forefront of the rationalist argument against Islamic literalism in his time.

    At least, he told himself when the storm broke over his head, I'm going into this battle bearing the right name. From beyond the grave his father had given him the flag under which he was ready to fight, the flag of Ibn Rushd, which stood for intellect, argument, analysis and progress, for the freedom of philosophy and learning from the shackles of theology, for human reason and against blind faith, submission, acceptance and stagnation. Nobody ever wanted to go to war, but if a war came your way, it might as well be the right war, about the most important things in the world, and you might as well, if you were going to fight it, be called Rushdie, and stand where your father had placed you, in the tradition of the grand Aristotelian, Averroës, Abul Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd.


    5) Security
    Security is one of the important topics discussed in this book. Rushdie tells us about the difficulties of living under the instructions of the people who guard him for his safety.
    There was no such thing as absolute security. There were only varying degrees of insecurity. He would have to learn to live with that.
    He was offered Kevlar bulletproof vests to wear. He refused them. And when he walked from the door of a car to the door of a building or back again, he consciously slowed down. He would not scuttle. He would try to walk with his head held high.
    If you succumb to the security description of the world, he told himself, then you will be its creature forever, its prisoner. The security worldview was based on the so-called worst-case analysis. But the worst-case analysis of crossing a road is that there was a chance you would be hit by a truck, and therefore you should not cross the road. But people crossed roads every day and were not hit by trucks. This was a thing he would have to remember. There were only varying degrees of insecurity. He had to go on crossing roads.



    My favourite three lines from this book
    “The lessons one learns at school are not always the ones the school thinks it's teaching.”


    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.


    Man was the storytelling animal, the only creature on earth that told itself stories to understand what kind of creature it was. The story was his birthright, and nobody could take it away.


    What could have been better?
    This book is trying to discuss an extremely serious topic. The author is trying to discuss the freedom of expression and the prophet's honor. When great authors discuss such an important sensitive topic in memoirs, I usually see them getting into the shoes of those opposing them to explore and dissect their thought process to see the pros and cons of their thinking to understand the problem deeply. Rushdie is trying to do it, but I still feel he could have done it in a better way. He is trying to explain why he wrote the controversial part in The Satanic Verses here, which can again become controversial. Still, we can see the author taking a conservative approach to a certain extent when he explains it without hurting the sentiments of others much in this book.

    Rushdie is a great writer, and we can see his immaculate writing skills when he narrates his own life story. Despite the flaws I mentioned above, he gives a wonderfully detailed account of his daily life and all the difficulties he faced during that time.

    Rating
    5/5 This is a memoir that has a lot of importance in the current era where the freedom of speech is deeply questioned and attacked by people from different phases of life. The author also discusses many other important topics, like Islamophobia and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. If you are an author or planning to become an author, this is a memoir that you should never miss. Salman Rushdie Astonishing, searingly candid.

    The cowardly attack on Salman Rushdie in Chatauqua New York (12 August 2022) sent me this memoir of the fatwa years, which had been on my backlist for some time. It turns out to be a dazzling text. Suddenly one looks up and it’s 4 a.m.

    Rushdie evinces a great sense of humor, at times appropriately black. On 14 February 1989, for example, he was sentenced to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran for his supposedly blasphemous novel, The Satanic Verses. The very day he heard about the fatwa he had to attend travel writer Bruce Chatwin’s funeral. He writes about himself in third person.

    Rushdie and his wife Marianne Wiggins “were seated next to Martin Amis and his wife, Antonia Phillips. ‘We were worried about you,’ Martin said, embracing him. ‘I’m worried about me,’ he replied. . . The novelist Paul Theroux was sitting in the pew behind him. ‘I suppose we’ll be here for you next week, Salman,’ he said.” (p. 9)

    There is much here about how Rushdie wrote – or aspired to write — his novels: Midnight’s Children, Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moors Last Sigh and The Ground Beneath Her Feet. It's not a writer's diary, there isn't much explanation of the writing process, but it offers helpful insight to his themes and style

    What surprised me were the long periods he mentions when nothing was written. Being hunted down by an Iranian death squad will do that to you. Rushdie estimates that his state-sponsored cloistering stole two complete novels from him.

    The account of the refusal of the Thatcher government to plead Rushdie’s case — that of the freedom of the writer to write as he wishes — is appalling. Thatcher’s government said nothing while he twisted in the wind; that is, while he was in isolation. No wonder Elvis Costello sang so fervently of how he longed to “tramp the dirt down.”

    And let’s not forget the hostility of the tabloids too, which sympathized with local homicidal Muslim wack-jobs, and unconscionably called into question the cost of the protection services Rushdie “enjoyed. He didn’t get any traction on the British side until John Major gets into office, but by then he had, with the help of various GMOs, reeled in Bill Clinton and Vaclav Havel.

    President Clinton would not commit in advance to meeting Rushdie, who was ready to settle for cabinet member Warren Christopher. Once in the White House however the two men met and Clinton promised his support. This was a huge breakthrough. America had spoken. Suddenly, the European states couldn’t wait to make some sign of their own support, whereas for the previous three years they had been quaking in their boots at the prospect of being executed by Iranian assassins. But the cowards soon backed down.

    Meanwhile Rushdie couldn’t promote his own books. The first paperback version of The Satanic Verses had to be brought out by a nonprofit consortium because Random House was too afraid to publish.

    His second wife Marianne Wiggins — also a novelist — didn't like living under a sentence of death, and she resented that her husband was taking up all the oxygen in the literary room. Her cruelty takes the breath away and it's a running motif through the first ⅔ of the book. Here’s one example. At one point early on she leaves him still in hiding in UK and returns to America. He calls her.

    He was in a red telephone booth on a Welsh hillside in the rain with a bag of coins in his hand and her voice in his ear. She had had dinner with Derek Walcott and Joseph Brodsky and the two Nobel laureates told her they would not have changed their lives as he had. ‘I would stay home and do exactly as always,’ Brodsky had declared, ‘and let's see what they could do.’ ‘ I explained it to them,’ she said on the phone. ‘I told them, the poor man, he's afraid for his life!”’ Thanks a lot, Marianne, he thought. Joseph Brodsky had given her a foot massage, she said. Hearing that made him feel even better. His wife was with the two alpha males of world poetry getting foot rubs and telling them that her husband was too afraid to live as they would, in the open, courageously. She had been wearing saris everywhere, he said. So, not very low profile, then. He was about to say that perhaps the saris were a little obvious when she dropped her bombshell. She had been approached in her Boston hotel lobby by a CIA agent calling himself Stanley Howard. He had asked to speak with her and they had had a cup of coffee together. ‘They know where we were,’ she said in a heightened voice. ‘They have been inside the house. They took papers from your desk and your wastebasket. They showed them to me as proof that they had entered and looked around. The font and page setup and the work were all definitely yours. The people you live with didn't even know they'd been there. You can't trust the people you have with you now. You need to leave at once. You need to come to America. Mr. Howard Stanley wanted to know if our marriage was real, or if you just wanted to use it as a convenience, to get into America. I stood up for you, so he said then that was ok, you would be allowed to enter. You could live in America like a free man.’” (p. 190)

    Rushdie tells all this to his British security detail who immediately move him, which is a colossal pain in the ass. Since, if the CIA knows, as Wiggins claims, then his cover is blown. Anyway, it turns out she was lying. She lied a lot apparently. He came to feel he could no longer trust her.

    The use of the third person POV is, I think, needed. The story is powerful. There is so much chaos, danger, cruelty, so much grasping for the rational amid despair. The third person insulates the reader a bit from the madness. The reader cannot imagine the emotional contortions and assaults upon Rushdie’s dignity by his so-called peers, not to mention those wanting to murder him.

    “There was an evening at Isabel Fonseca's apartment with Martin Amis, James Fenton, and Daryl Pinckney, and Martin depressed him by telling him that George Steiner believed he had ‘set out to make a lot of trouble,’ and Martin's father, Kingsley Amis, had said that ‘if you set out to make trouble you shouldn't complain when you get it’ and Al Alvarez had said that he had done it because he wanted to be the most famous writer in the world.’ And to Germaine Greer he was a ‘megalomaniac’ and John le Carré had called him a ‘twerp’ and Martin's ex-stepmother Elizabeth Jane Howard and Sybille Bedford thought he had ‘done it to make money.’ His friends were ridiculing these assertions but by the end of the evening he felt very upset and only Elizabeth [West]'s love brought him back.” (p. 396)

    Add to this the ups and down of everyday life; writing, of course, or not writing, but also his long cohabitation with Elizabeth West, who was to become his third wife; the growing up of his first son; the birth of his second; buying the big house on Bishops Avenue which was filled with armed policemen; the bother of doing something as commonplace as seeing a friend, dining out, walking down the street. And of course regular assessments of the “threat level.”

    Though the themes vary between the two books, for sheer punch-you-in-the-mouth impact, Joseph Anton reminds me of Nien Cheng’s astonishing Life and Death in Shanghai. Cheng’s ordeal was more squalorous — she was tossed into a Chinese prison during Mao’s Cultural Revolution —but what she and Rushdie endured is equally beyond conception. That’s really the only parallel between the two books.

    Before you know it he's estranged from Elizabeth West and moves on to Padma Lakshmi. Of course she’s beautiful, but she’s also a narcissist. And so astonishingly icy she might have been a candidate to play the role of The Night King in Game Of Thrones.

    “She was capable of saying things of such majestic narcissism that he didn't know whether to bury his head in his hands or applaud. When the Indian movie star Aishwarya Rai was named the most beautiful Indian woman in the world in some glossy magazine or other, for example, Padma announced, in a room full of people, that she had ‘serious issues with that.’ Her moodiness was unpredictable and extreme. About him, she was guarded. ‘I'm just giving it the summer and then we'll see.’ She blew cold and hot and he was beginning to be unsure if the hot made the cold worthwhile. She was dark and closed off for days at a time and then one morning the sunlight streamed out of her face. His journal was full of his own doubts. ‘How long can I stay with this woman whose selfishness is her most prominent characteristic?’ One night they sat in Washington Square Park after a quarrelsome dinner and he told her, ‘This isn't working for me.’ After that for several days she was her sweetest self and he forgot why he had said what he said. She met some of his women friends and most of them approved. When he told her what they had said the positive remarks about her character mattered less to her than the comment about her perfect breasts. French Playboy found nude photographs of her and ran one on the cover, calling her his ‘fiancée.’ She didn't care about the words and she didn't mind the picture being there, but she wanted to be paid for it, and he had to hire a French lawyer to work for her. This is what I'm doing now, he thought, bewildered. My girlfriend is on the cover of Playboy in the nude and I'm negotiating the fee.” (p. 606)

    The cultural references throughout the book: novels, plays, pop songs, news events, etc. all evoke moments in this reader's own life. It’s a neat feature of the text, if you’re of a certain age. Lastly, and somewhat obliquely, after reading the book one tries to imagine the author’s carbon footprint. It must be vast. He flies everywhere and his books are printed on paper.

    When you’re up and around again, dear Mr. Rushdie, you may want to plant some trees. Salman Rushdie

    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. Joseph Anton: A Memoir

    characters ´ PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook ↠ Salman Rushdie