Joseph Anton

Joseph Anton

Book rating: 04 Hardback

By (author) Salman Rushdie

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  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd
  • Format: Hardback | 656 pages
  • Dimensions: 210mm x 294mm x 12mm | 581g
  • Publication date: 18 September 2012
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0224093975
  • ISBN 13: 9780224093972
  • Sales rank: 54,831

Product description

On 14 February 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 over 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.

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Author information

Salman Rushdie is the author of eleven novels, one collection of short stories, three works of non-fiction, and the co-editor of The Vintage Book of Indian Writing. In 2008 Midnight's Children was judged to be the Best of the Booker, the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its forty year history. The Moor's Last Sigh won the Whitbread Prize in 1995 and the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature in 1996. He is a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres and in 2007 was knighted for his services to literature.

Customer reviews

By Marianne Vincent 08 Dec 2012 4

Joseph Anton is the memoir of controversial Indian author, Salman Rushdie and concentrates on the time in his life during which he was under threat of the fatwa imposed by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini for his novel, The Satanic Verses. From this memoir, the reader gains an understanding of the roots of Rushdie's atheism, as well as the inspiration for and circumstances surrounding the writing of his novels. It is certainly interesting to see how events in his life are linked to his novels: I was especially gratified to learn about the genesis of my favourite Rushdie novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The mechanics of being in hiding, protection by Special Branch, risk and threat are intriguing and occasionally quite amusing. The loyalty and generosity of his true friends ("Friends Without Whom Life Would Have Been Impossible") was nothing short of remarkable; the lack of support and criticism from certain literary figures, politicians and governments was surprising. Well into his years of hiding, he says "I have been given a lesson, in these years, in the worst of human nature, but also the best of it.." While the details of the many trips, dinners, meetings, press conferences and politicking verged on tedious, it is apparent that Rushdie's journals must have been extremely detailed. The matter-of-fact manner in which he describes his infidelity is breathtaking. The soup of famous names began to smack of name dropping yet the funniest part, the interlude in Australia, involved no celebrities, just a bunch of ordinary people helping out: I also loved that because it mentioned my home town and lots of familiar places. His "unsent" letters were clever and often very funny. His strong stand on freedom of speech and imagination is well presented and his comments on what he was battling, "popular irrationalism", succinct: "The unreasoning mind, driven by doubt-free absolutes, could not be convinced by reason." As with most of his major works, Rushdie never uses two words where three will do, more evidence of those detailed journals. Bizarrely, Rushdie has written this memoir in the third person, perhaps because he was writing about his alias, Joseph Anton: mostly, this works, but occasionally it gives rise to some ambiguity: which "he" said or did that? This is a fascinating insight (even if is it rather one-eyed) into this fine writer.

Review quote

"Joseph Anton is a book that makes you laugh. It makes you sympathise. It may even scare you. It should also make you - if you believe that freedom is essential - very, very angry." -- David Aaronovitch The Times "[I]t may be the most important book of our times - comparable, in a sense, to Primo Levi's If This Is a Man." -- Rod Liddle Spectator "Joseph Anton demonstrates Mr. Rushdie's ability as a stylist and storyteller... Defenders of Enlightenment values, regardless of what they think of Mr. Rushdie the novelist, must acknowledge the fact that, when threatened, Salman Rushdie-Joseph Anton-reacted with great bravery and even heroism." -- Michael C Moynihan Wall Street Journal "Funny, painfully moving and absolutely necessary to read." -- Nicholas Shakespeare Daily Telegraph "Started Joseph Anton last night and got annoyed that I eventually had to interrupt it by sleeping. Reads like a thriller... going back in..." -- Dylan Jones (Editor, GQ) Twitter