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on 24 March 2013
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. I've given up halfway through as I felt I was reading the same chapter over and over again. A good editor could have cut this in half, but something about Rushdie in this book tells me he wouldn't have allowed that to happen anyway,
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on 5 December 2012
I have a confession, I haven't yet read any of Rushdie's other books, although I do have 'Midnight's Children' on my Kindle waiting for me, so I cannot be counted a fan. However, the fatwah and his ten years of hiding makes for a fascinating, if uncomfortable, story.

He writes very well but there is an annoying affectation in how he has written the book, it is in the third party as if Josef Anton were someone else. I can understand Rushdie wanting it to be so but it wasn't and at times, for instance when he is relaying conversations, it can be difficult to work out which 'he' or 'him' is meant.

It is an important tale and I would recommend everyone read this.
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on 22 December 2012
For starters, I am a great fan of Salman Rushdie's books (with the exception of Fury). They have always dragged me into different worlds where in amazing ways a myriad of storylines that seems to constantly diverge in the end harmoniously converge.
Therefore, I was also very much interested in what Rushdie had to go through during the years he has been in hiding because of Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa. This book gives some insight into it and provides a look into Rushdie's private life as well. The most interesting part I found the autobiography of everything that led up to him writing The Satanic Verses.
However, in what followed, there was simply too much name dropping: one "brilliant author" hasn't left the story yet and the next "eminent writer" shows up. After 250 pages or so I promised myself that if another literary hero would be mentioned, I'd give up.
And I did give up. Not only because of the continual name dropping, but also because of the way in which Rushdie describes his experiences. All the minute details of his life in hiding are just not interesting enough to fill six hundred pages. Worse, it seems that the only way of dealing with the events, no matter how gruesome it must have been to live through them, was to rationalise them to the extreme. Never ever do we hear about what he feels, about the fear that he must have experienced. Instead, he seems to be more concerned about whether Penguin will release the paperback version of the book or not and where to publish his next book.
Finally, he seems to have a complete lack of empathy: everyone who does not defend him publicly is a coward and no sympathy can be given to those who have come under attack because of his book, such as bookshopkeepers.
This is a well-written book, because Rushdie is simply one of the greatest English authors alive, but the contents make this book hard to get through and eventually simply extremely annoying to read.
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on 20 April 2014
This book gave me an insight into how restrictive being under constant protection from Special Branch was. Even airlines wouldn't take Rushdie on board for fear of reprisals. However, there seemed to be a lot of name dropping, which I found boring.
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on 21 March 2013
On Valentine's Day, 14 February 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwā against Rushdie for his "Satanic Verses". Salman Rushdie called it his Unfunny Valentine. He published Joseph Anton in 2012. A book based on the journals he kept while in hiding.

When the fatwa was declared it did not take the Muslim world long to rise up in in favour of it - Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Venezuela, all joined in. Muslims in India, Britain and America too thrust themselves into the wave of hate and violence, and joined the frenzy: rioting, burning and demanding Rushdie's death, not having read the Satanic Verses nor fully knowing what it was about. Several bounties too were placed on his head throughout the years he was in hiding.

Salman Rushdie was born in India. He grew up there before going to the UK to study. His father Anis, "a godless man who knew and thought a great deal about God" taught his son to think for himself. He passed down to him "an unwavering insistence on human reason and intellect against religious faith."

As a student in Cambridge Rushdie became interested in the "the rise of Islam". He was fascinated with the culture and he treated the prophet Muhammad with much respect as a man. It is from the Qur'an he got the title for his book: The Satanic Verses. It confused him as to why he was misunderstood by so many, especially by the Muslims. The Satanic Verses of the Qur'an refer to the time when Muhammad, the prophet, came down from the mountain and reported the apparition of Archangel "Gibreel" who had revealed to him three angels. This led the people of Mecca to include the angels in their religion and worship them as goddesses. Later when Muhammad realized their religion was moving to a monotheistic one he changed his story saying it was Satan who had told him about the three angels.

Joseph Anton, the name Rushdie took for himself while in hiding, is related in the third person. The journal spans ten years from the time the fatwa was issued to it being lifted, though not completely lifted. It is still in existence and there is still a bounty on his head. On 24 September 1998, Mohammad Khatami from the Iranian government issued a statement that he neither supported the fatwa nor would he stop anyone else carrying it out.

Rushdie writes of the fear of death, loneliness and pain and the heartache of being separated from his wife and son, Zafar, and not being able to see his friends and the rest of his family. He lived in hiding and endured constant threat of death. Much of the book reads like a thriller. His Japanese editor was murdered, his Norwegian publisher shot, his Italian translator stabbed, many died in riots protesting against the Satanic verses, his effigy and his books burned.

Freedom loving people all over the world took up the cause freedom of thought and the freedom of the written word. Names influential politicians, well-known writers, publishers, famous film and theatre celebrities are generously interwoven into his story of life in hiding. Majority of them tried to help him and spoke for the need to uphold freedom of speech. But The British Government remained on the fence never officially denouncing the fatwa. But it gave him protection.

It hurt him that some writers he greatly admired were against him. The Guardian attacked him for not withdrawing the novel. Once in 1990 Rushdie met with Muslim leaders offering to proclaim his faith in Islam but he would not withdraw the paperback "Satanic Verses" nor apologize for writing it. The meeting solved nothing and later he was ashamed that he had even offered to meet with them. Rushdie tells us his mother, then living in Pakistan, received support and comfort and were never threatened. Neither were any members of family and friends in India and England.

During this time of his hiding he also went through personal problems. He had "no one to fulfill his deepest needs." His first wife Clarissa died of cancer, his second and third marriages broke up, his fourth to a model-actress, and TV host fell apart. Reading about the behavior of the wives I feel he had a capacity to attract some of the worst women.

In 16 June 2007 Rushdie was knighted by Queen for his great contribution to English literature: Sir Salman Rushdie. Many of the Muslim countries were outraged. Al-Qaeda condemned the Rushdie honour. "An insult to Islam" they screamed.

Rushdie tells us exactly what he was feeling and doing throughout his long banishment from normal life. But this work does not have the imagination and the wonderful style his writing is famous for, nor does it contain much humour. At times it is as if there is too much name-dropping. He is also quite annoyed with the pressure of twenty-four-hour security service, he found it restricting, I felt this annoyance for his own safety arrangements unreasonable, a little lacking in gratitude. I was not comfortable reading this book in the third person. The author, Salman Rushdie, whom I greatly admire, and for whose life I feared while reading the book, loomed up before me ever present and I found it disconcerting, and confusing each time he referred to himself in the third person "He".

This hardcover of 636 pages of purple, almost suede like cover is pleasure to hold and feel, and pages well laid out and good font size makes it a comfortable read.

Leela Panikar ©
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on 12 February 2014
A pure masterpiece. I had read some bad reviews, specifically in The Guardian. I just do not understand. The book is beautifully written. It stongly recommend everybody to read it. Salman Rushdie at his VERY BEST.
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on 11 November 2013
No-one with an interest in current affairs and recent history could fail to find this account interesting, especially as, with hindsight, we are now able to see the "Rushdie Affair" as a prelude to 9-11 and everything that came after that. For those who are fans of Salman Rushdie, this is also a treat, filled with lots of revealing insights, although it's important to note that the fatwa and its effects on his life are given far more coverage than his novels themselves. Towards the end of the book, as he regretfully describes his own destruction of his loving relationship with Elizabeth West for the "Illusion" of Padma Lakshmi, you suddenly find yourself, with surprise, reading a poignantly sad personal memoir rather than the account of politics, religion and literature that you had bargained for. Overall, a fascinating read.
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on 24 September 2015
Slightly irritated by the use of the third person narration but otherwise fascinated by Salman Rushdie's own description of his life following the fatwa issued by the Ayatollah. I remember some of the headlines he writes about. At the time I had read the Satanic Verses and couldn't understand the rantings from the opponents of the book. To me it gave insight into the origins of Islam. Good luck to Salman Rushdie in the future.
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on 15 September 2013
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 dull item of news. I decided to read this book as I became older, as it became apparent how limited and restricted our view of what it means to be 'free' means. This book was necessary; it was necessary to finally illuminate the following when the Satanic Verses was written:

1. How deceitful the tabloids were - i.e. a character reference was always provided by the newspapers that actually seemed to the absolute opposite of the author himself.
2. How much abstract 'crap' was written in the newspapers and their reluctance to approach and accept the fact that the author actually lived in a democracy and performed a normal act of only writing a novel.
3. How utterly incompetent and deceitful the particular government at that time was in dealing with the fact that a foreign state had decided to pass a decision whereby a citizen of another country could be 'rightfully' murdered.
4. To clarify in detail the utter hell the author and his family had to endure for several years.
5. Finally, to emphasise the true value of friendship and humanity in assisting him through such a terrible time.

To all those who at the time had the audacity to cry out, 'he brought it upon himself', please read, how much it costs to preserve freedom in today's world and what a limited luxury it is.
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on 25 July 2013
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 time . The book is both a gripping account of his life under the fatwa, and a ringing defence of the importance of creative literature, and its need to be free of political or religious censorship.

Rushdie (justifiably) settles a number of scores. While fulsome in his praise of the rank and file protection officers who kept him safe, he is outspoken about the behaviour of their seniors who insisted on his virtual imprisonment as the price for continuing to protect him. All the while, of course, we all assumed (assisted by a mendacious and hostile press) that it was his own faint-heartedness that kept him in hiding.

He is highly critical of politicians, both Tory (Douglas Hurd, as I think was no secret anyway, wouldn't recognise a principle if it hit him in the face) and many on the left, who were already starting their hideous love affair with far-right Islamism. Also of religious leaders of all persuasions, who closed ranks against a secular writer who had the temerity to offend some of their number.

He is also unsparing of his own behaviour, and this gives credibility to the book.

There are heroes too, however. Michael Foot and Jill Craigie, Neil Kinnock (all representing an older, more principled leftism), and many of Rushdie's fellow writers (though with some sad exceptions, such as Roald Dahl and John Le Carre).

Mainly, however, this is a beautifully-written and gripping story, whose overall impression is one of the eventual triumph of art over bigotry. Read it.
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