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Joseph Anton [Hardcover]

Salman Rushdie
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
RRP: 25.00
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Book Description

18 Sep 2012

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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Joseph Anton + The Satanic Verses + Midnight's Children
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st Edition edition (18 Sep 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0224093975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224093972
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 15.6 x 6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 119,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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)

Book Description

A compelling and frank account of one of the most extraordinary stories in recent literary history - Salman Rushdie and the fatwa.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Courageous and Cowardly 22 Sep 2012
By s k
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Joseph Anton is a gargantuan memoir that reads like a novel. There are goodies and baddies, and the final prize is the most coveted one of all: freedom of speech. But this structure of extremes isn't the only novelistic flourish. Curiously, it is narrated in the third person, a distancing technique employed to give a little objectivity to the account, a way of having it function as a historical and unbiased document. But it doesn't work, and it's not long before Salman Rushdie's boiling anger explodes at the fatwa's pernicious aftermath. And why shouldn't it?

The book's early pages quickly retrace the years leading up to Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa of 14 February 1989. It is a vibrant account, and one that documents his colourful journey from India to England, Rugby School to Cambridge University, ad work to literary fame. Brutally candid, Rushdie admits his past infidelities and lapses into arrogance, his atheism and Enlightenment values. He investigates his post-fatwa motivations and wavering thoughts with an exemplary ruthlessness, the low point being his ill-conceived affirmation of Islamic faith. This, he insists, may have been his easily avoidable nadir, but it was also the catalyst that brought about his intellectual rebirth.

During this time he still managed to write and undergo love's confusing fluctuations. The gestations of his novels during the fatwa years make for intriguing reading, his admittance to being emotionally and intellectually stumped revealing a fallible side to his perfect poise. His public persona and assured voice may have seemed undimmed, but this was due to a torturous rebuilding of the self. But what of love during these years? Well, who knows what Marianne Wiggins, Rushdie's second wife, will make of her portrayal in this book?
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Anton 21 Sep 2012
By S Riaz HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars overlong and uneven 28 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I can see why some reviewers took SR to task for his approach in this memoir; he often verges on the narcissistic, and there is too much whining about the many people who disapproved of him, or failed to give wholehearted support during his dark years of fatwa. He can be pretty ugly in his assessment of ex-wives and friends who fell short of his expectations. Way too long, too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph 6 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover
First let me say that this is engrossing and reads like a magnificent saga, spanning continents. It might look like something of a dauntingly hefty tome (I had to read with a cushion under it!) and yet it's totally riveting - encompassing as it does such a sobering period of our history. Yes, you can trace a line from the fatwah on Rushdie to the atrocity of 9/11 - and the inexorable rise of Islamofascism. It's very, very chilling. To be honest, reading Joseph Anton made me feel slightly ashamed - that at the time I was not more angry at what this man has to endure just because he wrote a book. Ashamed too at the number of people in the British establishment who said he had it coming to him. Come to think of that - many of the same people said that of the Americans, post 9/11. Disgraceful on all fronts.
I think Rushdie deserves heartfelt congratulation on this achievement. The memoir will last, as his novels will last. He emerges with dignity, despite what the tabloids say about him. His accounts of his protection officers are as affectionate as they are entertaining, and his humour shines through, as well as a shining, intellectually honest, righteous anger. There is a gossipy fascination in the cast of characters which populates the memoir - and the whole things is (no surprise) beautifully written. It's a triumph.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Here are some tips for writing great reviews: Do explain why you...
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Published 4 months ago by Albert Russo
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating, detailed, disturbing and sad insight.
I grew up with the consistent tabloid and news articles regarding the publication of the Satanic Verses; at that time, I didn't really care, it was another consistent, monotone... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Garry Paton
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent defence of literary freedom
In this account of that part of his life spent under threat of death for writing a novel, Salman Rushdie sets the record straight by presenting his version of events for the first... Read more
Published 9 months ago by HarryG
3.0 out of 5 stars typical Rushdie
good book, very informative but in my opinion contains too many references to literary work of other writers of that age, too many subjective but stong opinions of Rushdie, some... Read more
Published 9 months ago by gloxius
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable if a little too long
I really enjoyed reading Joseph Anton. It is entertaining and actually quite gripping. However, it could probably have been edited down by at least 100 pages.
Published 9 months ago by Jo Lincoln
5.0 out of 5 stars Really really good!
No commas in the title on purpose! Rushdie is a real master of the English language and I felt he related the sorry tale of his 'house arrest' (I know it was worse than this) and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Vol De Mort
5.0 out of 5 stars A man of integrity
A well told tale of courage and determination. I have marvelled at the sheer force of character of this man who refuses to give into terror. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mrs. M. Spotswood
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy read but a bit long
Dark & sad BUT to cheat at student auction for a paltry sum is not an okay....what does it say of his character ?. Read more
Published 12 months ago by roshan k tejani
3.0 out of 5 stars A Study in Free Speech
Hard battle to sustain the principle of Free speech against intransigent Islamic fundalmentalism. But though Rushdie acknowledges the substantial UK govt help in protecting him... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive and unwieldly
I have to agree with the other reviews commenting that this book is beautifully written but is massively too long and bordering on indulgently overplayed. Read more
Published 13 months ago by G. Howe
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