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Joseph Anton Paperback – 1 Aug 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099563444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099563440
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 230,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Joseph Anton is a splendid book, the finest new memoir to cross my desk in many a year" (Jonathan Yardley Washington Post)

"Funny, painfully moving and absolutely necessary to read" (Nicholas Shakespeare Daily Telegraph)

"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 Times)

"Frank and…more gripping than any spy story…the prose makes for powerful reading... He is a great writer who has been brave." (Margaret Drabble Observer)

"An intimate tale of fathers and sons, of the beginnings and ends of marriages, of friendships and betrayals. At the same time, Joseph Anton is a large-scale spectacle of political and cultural conflicts." (New York Times Book Review)

Book Description

A frank and compelling account of one of the most extraordinary stories in recent history, from the author of Midnight’s Children.

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By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Sept. 2012
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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
Salman Rushdie's memoir of, predominantly, the fatwa years is completely gripping - albeit not necessarily in the way the author intended I suspect. For any lover of literature it's a fascinating insight into the man. People write memoirs largely to put their side of the story. Rushdie is of course supremely intelligent and a gifted wordsmith and yet while aspects of the story remain shocking and induce both anger and incredulity that the situation was allowed to go as far as it did and for so long, it's probably not a book that will change your views of Rushdie the man, not least as he displays many of the traits that the press ascribed to him. Oh why do our heroes always have to be so imperfect?

Usually people referring to themselves in the third person is guaranteed to irritate me, although here the story is told entirely in the third person. The title "Joseph Anton" is the name he chose when asked to provide a pseudonym for the security services. As a result the book reads as much more like a novel and it works well.

To try to impose some structure on this review of what is a lengthy tome, let's look at three key elements: the "crime", the "punishment" and the "perpetrator".

He fails to address any intent or otherwise in the apparently inflammatory content of "The Satanic Verses". If you have read the book in question, you'll know that the allegedly offending content is minimal to the overall book's structure. It's not much more than a dream sequence. Certainly it would be hard to argue that the book as a whole is an attack on Islam. And yet of course, this is exactly what happened. Did he know what sort of reaction this might evoke? Perhaps as that oxymoronic thing, a secular Muslim, he ought to have done but we never really get to the bottom of this.
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