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Joseph Anton: A Memoir Hardcover – September 18, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 280 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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*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


“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
“A splendid book, the finest . . . memoir to cross my desk in many a year.”—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
“Thoughtful and astute . . . an important book.”—USA Today
“Compelling, affecting . . . demonstrates Mr. Rushdie’s ability as a stylist and storytelle. . . . [He] reacted with great bravery and even heroism.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Gripping, moving and entertaining . . . nothing like it has ever been written.”—The Independent (UK)
“A thriller, an epic, a political essay, a love story, an ode to liberty.”—Le Point (France)
“Action-packed . . . in a literary class by itself . . . Like Isherwood, Rushdie’s eye is a camera lens —firmly placed in one perspective and never out of focus.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Unflinchingly honest . . . an engrossing, exciting, revealing and often shocking book.”de Volkskrant (The Netherlands)
“One of the best memoirs you may ever read.”DNA (India)
“Extraordinary . . . Joseph Anton beautifully modulates between . . . moments of accidental hilarity, and the higher purpose Rushdie saw in opposing—at all costs—any curtailment on a writer’s freedom.”The Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812992784
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812992786
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (280 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #699,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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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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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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