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Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
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Joseph Anton

by Salman Rushdie

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6321815,341 (3.66)62
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Title:Joseph Anton
Authors:Salman Rushdie
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Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

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    Assassins of the Turquoise Palace by Roya Hakakian (srdr)
    srdr: This is another exploration of the effect a fatwa has on the lives of those named and those who love them.
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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
One of the Amazon reviewers says he likes Rushdie as a cultural figure but not as a writer. I'm in the opposite camp; I love Rushdie as a novelist but not as the fatwa victim he is in his memoir.

He's been accused of arrogance, ungratefulness, and of simply being a whiner, all accusations that ring true throughout this endless mundane description of what it's like to live in hiding. Yes, he does examine (too briefly, in my opinion) his reaction to being castigated on a global stage for his views, and being forced to defend freedom of speech instead of taking it for granted as most of us can, and fighting with people who lack the courage to stand up for him, but his reaction at every turn is simplistic and predictable: righteous indignation and more righteous indignation.

Instead of unraveling a beautiful, complicated, (or heaven forbid conflicted) insight from all of these experiences as I expected him to do, he spends little time on Satanic Verses, the book that caused the uproar, and even less on introspection. 40% finished, I forget exactly what it was in the Satanic Verses that catalyzed the hatred of Islamic leaders, other than a few vague descriptions of certain characters and events in the novel that were interpreted as allegorical criticism of Islam. Come on! People were lighting this book on fire! They wanted to kill him for it! A book as powerful as that deserves some dissection, a few theories at least! All he says is that while he was aware of the connections he was making in the book, he didn't think they'd cause such a stir. That's true, I'm sure, but when your head went on a wanted poster for it, might you take a step back and really analyze what it was in the book, in the global atmosphere, in the butterfly wing reactions of world events that caused the pot to boil over? Might you put the book into its complicated context, and yourself and your own history as a migrant between cultures at the heart of this firestorm, and really paint a bigger picture for us? He talks so much about the shame of hiding in the countryside with a bevy of police protectors, so much about various friends who lent him places to stay, so much about the chronic frustration engendered by such a lifestyle, so much about the sordid problems with his publishers and his women.

It's smooth reading, as you'd expect from Rushdie, but you get to know the man very little. Or maybe I'm finding (can it really be true?) that this literary genius is, in real life, a shallow man not worth getting to know? The other astonishing hole in the book is the lack of substance about how such a life in hiding and a global uproar might change him as a person, might unearth strengths and insecurities, might cause him to reflect. Nope. Zero humility, faltering, guilt, imperfection, or self-examination. He focused instead upon the "crazy" women who pursued him, on how expensive it was to keep finding new houses to rent.

2 stars because in spite of all this I'm enjoying the read, for Rushdie's style and for the glimpse, however limited, into that period in time. I just wish someone other than Rushdie had written this book. Then, his arrogance might have been portrayed alongside some loveable stumbling. We might have watched the whole world light on fire with the omniscient perspective of history, the same exhilarating view you're awarded when you read Rushdie's novels. The stories he tells are marvelous, so long as they're not his own. ( )
  Sarah_Beaudette | Apr 13, 2015 |
One of the Amazon reviewers says he likes Rushdie as a cultural figure but not as a writer. I'm in the opposite camp; I love Rushdie as a novelist but not as the fatwa victim he is in his memoir.

He's been accused of arrogance, ungratefulness, and of simply being a whiner, all accusations that ring true throughout this endless mundane description of what it's like to live in hiding. Yes, he does examine (too briefly, in my opinion) his reaction to being castigated on a global stage for his views, and being forced to defend freedom of speech instead of taking it for granted as most of us can, and fighting with people who lack the courage to stand up for him, but his reaction at every turn is simplistic and predictable: righteous indignation and more righteous indignation.

Instead of unraveling a beautiful, complicated, (or heaven forbid conflicted) insight from all of these experiences as I expected him to do, he spends little time on Satanic Verses, the book that caused the uproar, and even less on introspection. 40% finished, I forget exactly what it was in the Satanic Verses that catalyzed the hatred of Islamic leaders, other than a few vague descriptions of certain characters and events in the novel that were interpreted as allegorical criticism of Islam. Come on! People were lighting this book on fire! They wanted to kill him for it! A book as powerful as that deserves some dissection, a few theories at least! All he says is that while he was aware of the connections he was making in the book, he didn't think they'd cause such a stir. That's true, I'm sure, but when your head went on a wanted poster for it, might you take a step back and really analyze what it was in the book, in the global atmosphere, in the butterfly wing reactions of world events that caused the pot to boil over? Might you put the book into its complicated context, and yourself and your own history as a migrant between cultures at the heart of this firestorm, and really paint a bigger picture for us? He talks so much about the shame of hiding in the countryside with a bevy of police protectors, so much about various friends who lent him places to stay, so much about the chronic frustration engendered by such a lifestyle, so much about the sordid problems with his publishers and his women.

It's smooth reading, as you'd expect from Rushdie, but you get to know the man very little. Or maybe I'm finding (can it really be true?) that this literary genius is, in real life, a shallow man not worth getting to know? The other astonishing hole in the book is the lack of substance about how such a life in hiding and a global uproar might change him as a person, might unearth strengths and insecurities, might cause him to reflect. Nope. Zero humility, faltering, guilt, imperfection, or self-examination. He focused instead upon the "crazy" women who pursued him, on how expensive it was to keep finding new houses to rent.

2 stars because in spite of all this I'm enjoying the read, for Rushdie's style and for the glimpse, however limited, into that period in time. I just wish someone other than Rushdie had written this book. Then, his arrogance might have been portrayed alongside some loveable stumbling. We might have watched the whole world light on fire with the omniscient perspective of history, the same exhilarating view you're awarded when you read Rushdie's novels. The stories he tells are marvelous, so long as they're not his own. ( )
  Sarah_Beaudette | Apr 13, 2015 |
One of the Amazon reviewers says he likes Rushdie as a cultural figure but not as a writer. I'm in the opposite camp; I love Rushdie as a novelist but not as the fatwa victim he is in his memoir.

He's been accused of arrogance, ungratefulness, and of simply being a whiner, all accusations that ring true throughout this endless mundane description of what it's like to live in hiding. Yes, he does examine (too briefly, in my opinion) his reaction to being castigated on a global stage for his views, and being forced to defend freedom of speech instead of taking it for granted as most of us can, and fighting with people who lack the courage to stand up for him, but his reaction at every turn is simplistic and predictable: righteous indignation and more righteous indignation.

Instead of unraveling a beautiful, complicated, (or heaven forbid conflicted) insight from all of these experiences as I expected him to do, he spends little time on Satanic Verses, the book that caused the uproar, and even less on introspection. 40% finished, I forget exactly what it was in the Satanic Verses that catalyzed the hatred of Islamic leaders, other than a few vague descriptions of certain characters and events in the novel that were interpreted as allegorical criticism of Islam. Come on! People were lighting this book on fire! They wanted to kill him for it! A book as powerful as that deserves some dissection, a few theories at least! All he says is that while he was aware of the connections he was making in the book, he didn't think they'd cause such a stir. That's true, I'm sure, but when your head went on a wanted poster for it, might you take a step back and really analyze what it was in the book, in the global atmosphere, in the butterfly wing reactions of world events that caused the pot to boil over? Might you put the book into its complicated context, and yourself and your own history as a migrant between cultures at the heart of this firestorm, and really paint a bigger picture for us? He talks so much about the shame of hiding in the countryside with a bevy of police protectors, so much about various friends who lent him places to stay, so much about the chronic frustration engendered by such a lifestyle, so much about the sordid problems with his publishers and his women.

It's smooth reading, as you'd expect from Rushdie, but you get to know the man very little. Or maybe I'm finding (can it really be true?) that this literary genius is, in real life, a shallow man not worth getting to know? The other astonishing hole in the book is the lack of substance about how such a life in hiding and a global uproar might change him as a person, might unearth strengths and insecurities, might cause him to reflect. Nope. Zero humility, faltering, guilt, imperfection, or self-examination. He focused instead upon the "crazy" women who pursued him, on how expensive it was to keep finding new houses to rent.

2 stars because in spite of all this I'm enjoying the read, for Rushdie's style and for the glimpse, however limited, into that period in time. I just wish someone other than Rushdie had written this book. Then, his arrogance might have been portrayed alongside some loveable stumbling. We might have watched the whole world light on fire with the omniscient perspective of history, the same exhilarating view you're awarded when you read Rushdie's novels. The stories he tells are marvelous, so long as they're not his own. ( )
  Sarah_Beaudette | Apr 13, 2015 |
The first part of this book is really interesting, a 4 out of 5 stars, but as I continued to read, it got worse. Much worse. The incessant name-dropping, the persistent self-promotion, the monolithic Islamist community, the blind spots to his character weaknesses and lack of introspection, the misogyny, chasing after 'crazy' women, the cliched "all I needed to see was the smile from my son's face", and did I mention the name dropping? UGH. I give it a 2 1/2 stars because although it only deserves two stars, I did learn a lot from this book. DO NOT BE LIKE THIS MAN. ( )
  nabeelar | Dec 7, 2014 |
There is a story in this book. There should be: Rushdie is a talented writer, and his memoir is not just about his time in hiding during the fatwa declared against him; it is also about the publishing world's response to political turmoil, and the international response to literary turmoil.

But it became too hard to keep track of that story; the book is stuffed, overstuffed, with dropped names. Only some of the many, many influential people Rushdie names connect to his survival of the fatwa -by writing in his support, or providing him with safe places to stay- and only a very few others were referenced as good friends. Most of the rest were just names, seemingly mentioned for the sake of being well-known people, never given personality (and often not even speaking parts), just accorded a moment in time and a setting. Maybe it reflects more on me than this book, but it became too frustrating to focus on dissolving marriages, loose-tongued security, and compromised safe houses, when every page was sprinkled with "These six people went to this chichi place, and so did I."

I think I would have finished, and bought, and read this book dog-eared had it been half its length, with the balance of size being the removal of most of the name-dropping. Maybe I will pick it up again in the future.
( )
  eaterofwords | Nov 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Mr. Rushdie has written a memoir that chronicles those years in hiding — a memoir, coming after several disappointing novels, that reminds us of his fecund gift for language and his talent for explicating the psychological complexities of family and identity. Although this volume can be long-winded and self-important at times, it is also 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, from the collision of the private and the political in today’s interconnected world to the permeable boundaries between life and art, reality and the imagination.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rushdie, Salmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Häilä, ArtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
And by that destiny to perform an act / Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come / In yours and my discharge. - William Shakespeare, The Tempest
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To my children Zafar and Milan and their mothers Clarissa and Elizabeth and to everyone who helped
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Afterwards, when the world was exploding around him and the lethal blackbirds were massing on the climbing frame in the school playground, he felt annoyed with himself for forgetting the name of the BBC reporter, a woman, who had told him that his old life was over and a new, darker existence was about to begin.
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On February 14, 1989, Salman Rushdie received a call from a journalist informing him that he had been "sentenced to death" by the Ayatollah Khomeini. It was the first time Rushdie heard the word fatwa. His crime? Writing a novel, 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 for more than nine years, moving from house to house, with the constant presence of an armed police protection team. Asked to choose an alias that the police could use, he thought of combinations of the names of writers he loved: 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 despair shape his thoughts and actions, and how does he learn to fight back? In this memoir, Rushdie tells for the first time the story of his crucial battle for freedom of speech. He shares the sometimes grim, sometimes comic realities of living with armed policemen, and 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. What happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that is still unfolding.--From publisher description.… (more)

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