On February 14, 1986, Valentine’s Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been “sentenced to death” by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a voice reaching across the world from Iran to kill him in his own country. 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, often harrowing story—filled too with surreal and funny moments—of how a writer was forced underground, moved from house to house, an armed police protection team living with him at all times for more than nine years. 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. He became “Joe.”
How do a writer and his young family live day by day with the threat of murder for so long? How do you go on working? How do you keep love and joy alive? How does despair shape your thoughts and actions, how and why do you stumble, how do you learn to fight for survival? In this remarkable memoir, Rushdie tells that story for the first time. 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; of friendships (literary and otherwise) and love; and of how he regained his freedom.
This is a book of exceptional frankness and honesty, compelling, moving, provocative, not only captivating as a revelatory memoir but of vital importance in its political insight and wisdom. Because it is also a story of today’s battle for intellectual liberty; of why literature matters; and of a man’s refusal to be silenced in the face of state-sponsored terrorism. And because we now know that what happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that would rock the whole world on September 11th and is still unfolding somewhere every day.
SALMAN RUSHDIE is the author of eleven previous novels--Luka and the Fire of Life, Grimus, Midnight's Children (for which he won the Booker Prize and the Best of the Booker), Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown, and The Enchantress of Florence--and one collection of short stories, East, West. He has also published three works of nonfiction: The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991, and Step Across This Line, and coedited two anthologies, Mirrorwork and Best American Short Stories 2008. He is a former president of American PEN.
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER NOMINEE 2012 – Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction
“An often-gripping account of a life turned upside down, and of a writer forced to confront the unintended consequences of his life’s work.” —National Post
“A memoir…that reminds us of his fecund gift for language and his talent for explicating the psychological complexities of family and identity…. 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 Book Review
“A fast-paced…monument so impressive it threatens to overshadow all the mere fictions on which his considerable reputation currently rests…. In the spectacular collision that is Joseph Anton…a great writer treats great events with unmatchable authority. And zest…. [Joseph Anton] could well prove to be the masterwork that survives long after the mere fictions have faded, as most are fated to do.” —The Globe and Mail
“Joseph Anton is wonderful: as much a meditation on life, liberty and the pursuit of truth as an engrossing memoir.” —Maclean’s
“Brutally honest and profound.” —The Guardian
“Joseph Anton is a splendid book, the finest new memoir to cross my desk in many a year.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
Twenty years ago tomorrow, Salman Rushdie made a surprise visit to Canada while living in hiding under the fatwa decreed by Ayatollah Khomeini. It was an historic occasion—not just an opportunity for the embattled author of The Satanic Verses to enjoy the rare company of his fellow authors, but for an entire country to unite in support of free expression.