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Joseph Anton: A Memoir [Kindle Edition]

Salman Rushdie
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (262 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Book Description

On February 14, 1989, Valentine’s Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been “sentenced to death” by the Ayatollah Khomeini. For the first time he heard the word fatwa. His crime? To have written a novel called The Satanic Verses, which was accused of being “against Islam, the Prophet and the Quran.”
 
So begins the extraordinary story of how a writer was forced underground, moving from house to house, with the constant presence of an armed police protection team. He was asked to choose an alias that the police could call him by. He thought of writers he loved and combinations of their names; then it came to him: Conrad and Chekhov—Joseph Anton.
 
How do a writer and his family live with the threat of murder for more than nine years? How does he go on working? How does he fall in and out of love? How does despair shape his thoughts and actions, how and why does he stumble, how does he learn to fight back? In this remarkable memoir Rushdie tells that story for the first time; the story of one of the crucial battles, in our time, for freedom of speech. He talks about the sometimes grim, sometimes comic realities of living with armed policemen, and of the close bonds he formed with his protectors; of his struggle for support and understanding from governments, intelligence chiefs, publishers, journalists, and fellow writers; and of how he regained his freedom.
 
It is a book of exceptional frankness and honesty, compelling, provocative, moving, and of vital importance. Because what happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that is still unfolding somewhere in the world every day.

“A harrowing, deeply felt and revealing document: an autobiographical mirror of the big, philosophical preoccupations that have animated Mr. Rushdie’s work throughout his career.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“Thoughtful and astute . . . This is an important book not only because of what it has to say about a man of principle who, under the threat of violence and death, stood firm for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also because of its implications about our times and fanatical religious intolerance in a frighteningly fragile world.”—USA Today (4 out of 4 stars)


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Rushdie accomplishes many wondrous and momentous feats in this profound and galvanizing memoir. He shares the now strangely foreshadowing fact that his ardent storyteller father invented their last name, paying tribute to Ibn Rushd, a twelfth-century Spanish Arab philosopher who argued for rationalism over Islamic literalism. He explains how, decades later, when British protection officers asked him to come up with an alias, really a nom de guerre, Rushdie concocted Joseph Anton in homage to Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. His first fictions, he observes, were the upbeat letters he sent to his parents in India, concealing his boarding-school miseries in cold and racist 1960s England. He learned to focus on his inner life, cherish kindred spirits, and navigate adversity, skills that served him well after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa, sentencing Rushdie to death for writing The Satanic Verses (1988). Rushdie tells the full, astonishing, and necessary story of his 13 hellish years of threats, risk, and protective isolation in a passionately detailed, sardonically witty, and intensely dramatic third-person chronicle of a landmark battle in the war for liberty in the Muslim world. Forthright about his personal struggles and immensely grateful to all who championed his cause, Rushdie elucidates what literature does for us and why artistic and intellectual freedoms truly are matters of life and death. --Donna Seaman

Review

Praise for Salman Rushdie
 
“Joseph Anton is a splendid book, the finest new memoir to cross my desk in many a year.”—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

“Rushdie’s ideas—about society, about culture, about politics—are embedded in his stories and in the interlocking momentum with which he tells them. . . . All of Rushdie’s synthesizing energy, the way he brings together ancient myth and old story, contemporary incident and archetypal emotion, transfigures reason into a waking dream.”Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
“Everywhere [Rushdie] takes us there is both love and war, in strange and terrifying combinations, painted in swaying, swirling, world-eating prose that annihilates the borders between East and West, love and hate, private lives and the history they make.”Time
 
“Swift in Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire in Candide, Sterne in Tristram Shandy . . . Salman Rushdie, it seems to me, is very much a latter-day member of their company.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“The most original imagination writing today.”—Nadine Gordimer

Product Details


Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
(262)
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
118 of 130 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Anton September 20, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Joseph Anton was the alias that Salman Rushdie chose (a combination taken from Conrad and Chekhov) when he was in hiding, after being 'sentenced to death' after publication of "The Satanic Verses". On a sunny morning in London in 1989, a few months after the book had been published, a call from a BBC reporter changed his life. "How does it feel to know that you have been sentenced to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini?" she asked. With those few words, everything changed for him forever. In his Islington house, Salman Rushdie, understandably, shuttered the windows and locked the door. When he later left for an interview, he had no idea that he would not sit foot in the house again for many years...

This memoir is always totally honest and never less than gripping, especially in the first half of this enormous book. The author discusses his education, family, relationships and his behaviour during those incredibly stressful years with immense openness. During the first two or three years of the fatwa, Rushdie was constantly on the move, reliant on his friends for places to stay. His second marriage was less than a year old at the time and already in trouble, so the stress and intrusion certainly did not help that situation either. The author was criticised, even at the time his life was in danger, by press articles claiming he was costing the country huge amounts of money, the government were imposing limits on what he was allowed to do (including how and when he could see his beloved son) and he was accused of selfishness for wanting to publish a paperback version of "The Satanic Verses" when the lives of hostages, such as Terry Waite, hung in the balance. Eventually, he would almost be blamed for being an author, for writing, for opening his mouth or putting pen to paper.
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75 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It had been about something important" September 21, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
At a Salman Rushdie lecture that I attended a couple of years ago, a well-intentioned member of the audience asked him to contrast his life during the years when the Iranian fatwa loomed over his head and his now time of freedom. If I recall Mr. Rushdie's words , there were only two: "bad" and "good." This author, beloved by many and still hated by others, has finally told us what his life was like during the decade or so-- the Ayatollah Khomeini issued the fatwa on February 14, 1989 for Rushdie having published THE SATANIC VERSES-- when there was a price on his head by Islamic fundamentalists in his memoir JOSEPH ANTON. (Forced to live in hiding, he chose the two first names of two of his favorite authors Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov for his pseudonym.) His one word answer has stretched to over six hundred pages. He has a lot to say.

Mr. Rushdie seems to omit nothing. At times he is angry-- although from where I sit he usually shows remarkable control-- but always honest (about both himself and others, even telling the reader about some of the most intimate details of his marriages) and he never loses his sense of humor, as anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing him speak knows. But what Mr. Rushdie says over and over and what makes his story so important is that freedom of speech, i.e., the freedom both to write and to read is something worth dying for. In his own instance Professor Hitoshi Igarashi, the translator of THE SATANIC VERSES into Japanese was murdered and did pay the ultimate price. Dr. Ettore Capriolo was stabbed; William Nygaard, THE SATANIC VERSES Norwegian publisher, was shot. Both these men survived.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
By Rubens
Format:Hardcover
In 1989 I was in the last year of high school in Tehran. After a break and before the "religion study" (of course), a student wrote in English "Satanic Verses" on the blackboard, since that was the news the night before, and since the phrase sounded cool. I still remember the handwriting. For weeks to come, he wet his pants why he did that. For entering university in Iran, you needed to be cleared by the school that you have pure thoughts and strong islamic belief (definitely not satanic).

Fast forward to 1998, I was a student in Europe enjoying a scholarship to study Science. I started reading the Satanic Verses, just to find out why the grand Ayatollah and the Iranian regime is so keen to kill its author. It took me one non-interrupted year for the first reading (thanks to my full scholarship to do Science). For a science conference I needed to get a visa to Britain (having Iranian passport, you are only qualified to enter Heaven, but pretty much no place in Earth). I am sitting in the British consulate reading my book. I turned back and saw two Pakistanis with long beard (an old and a young guy) sitting behind me. The type who wanted to kill the author. I freaked out having the book Satanic Verses in my hand. I changed my seat so that they can't see what I am reading. Then I realised the British behind the counter now can see an Iranian guy reading the book, wanting to enter the United Kingdom (and probably is familiarising himself with his target).

That was my thought: if a student in Iran wetting his pants for just writing the name of the book and an average guy wetting his pants (both ways) by just having the book in his hand, what would the writer himself must go through?

The book Joseph Anton answers that.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great
Published 9 days ago by Mark Bourret
2.0 out of 5 stars Arrogant and vapid
One of the Amazon reviewers says he likes Rushdie as a cultural figure but not as a writer. I'm in the opposite camp; I love Rushdie as a novelist but not as the fatwa victim he is... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Sarah B
5.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable Reminder
This book was recommended to me by my niece, and I began reading her copy during a visit. Although she offered to loan her copy to me, I left it behind at the close of our visit... Read more
Published 1 month ago by L. Fenwick
4.0 out of 5 stars This book can be pretty dry at times
This book can be pretty dry at times, and certainly pushes a lot of buttons, such as the way he was treated and the root cause of all of it: he was being condemned by people who... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Chris
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting perspective. Relevant to the times and very ...
Very interesting perspective. Relevant to the times and very detailed.
Published 2 months ago by Anne Hodson
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed, but ultimately worth the effort.
I've been a fan of Rushdie's fiction forever, but not that impressed by his nonfiction. Using 'The Jaguar's Smile' as typical, his insights are rather predictable right-of-center... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Stepan Spoonwalla
2.0 out of 5 stars Writing with reckless abandon
Salman Rushdie has, indeed, moments of supreme lucidity in his writing. He has great ability when it comes to illustrating scenes. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ea
3.0 out of 5 stars An Informative and Mult-dimensional Read
I benefited from this book.

I found it to be, first, a readable and comprehensive account of the years-long 'Satanic Verses' controversy (or, at least, Mr. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Aaron
4.0 out of 5 stars How free are we really?
Well worth reading as an insight into the enormous stress Rushdie, his family and friends experienced during the many years he spent under the shadow of the so-called... Read more
Published 5 months ago by bookworm
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the story and am impressed with Rushdie's courage and ...
I enjoyed the story and am impressed with Rushdie's courage and talent but I hated reading a third person memoir. I was often confused and frustrated. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bama Belle
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More About the Author

Sir Salman Rushdie is the author of many novels including Grimus, Midnight's Children, Shame, The Satanic Verses, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence. He has also published works of non-fiction including, The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands, The Wizard of Oz and, as co-editor, The Vintage Book of Short Stories.

He has received many awards for his writing including the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. In 1993 Midnight's Children was judged to be the 'Booker of Bookers', the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. In June 2007 he received a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

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