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Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

Joseph Anton

by Salman Rushdie

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6031516,217 (3.68)59
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 13 (next | show all)
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 |
I enjoy the way Salman Rushdie writes. I find him very funny even when talking about serious subjects like the fatwah. My only criticism of this book was that I thought that he was "name-dropping" a bit much. I did not really care about how many famous authors he knows or who was at the parties he attended. None of this was important to the message of the book which was the difficulty of being hunted and threatened for ten years. ( )
  padmajoy | Sep 8, 2014 |
Thank you Goodreads and Random House for this giveaway!

What does feta cheese have anything to do with the fatwa? You'll find out, if you read this book.

This is a long book. It is all about Salman Rushdie and Joseph Anton. It is a memoir of the years the author/father/husband/lover/"infidel" lived under the threat of the fatwa that ordered his assassination.

So, if you do not like Rushdie, do not like detailed accounts of how books are published, lives are lived under the daily monotony of hiding out under security details, and how a man, a pretty well known writer, lives, writes, gets married, divorces, raised children, cheats on his wife, argues with Scotland Yard, politicians, journalists, other writers... Well, this book is not for you, I am afraid. Stay away.

Rushdie does Rushdie well, and if you like that, you will enjoy this book. He names names, he gives away lots of gossip, as most memoirs do, and perhaps should (otherwise, why not a biography instead?). He rants, writes imaginary (to religion, god, etc.) and real (to friends, MPs, etc.) letters, criticizes people, criticizes himself, makes excuses for his behavior, accepts his mistakes, argues that in certain things he was not wrong, thanks many people, and does all that the Rushdie way. As someone who is interested in publishing as an industry, and in writing and the lives of writers, I found Rushdie's account of the saga of the publication of the Satanic Verses and his following books fascinating. His account of the securities given in person by politicians and fellow writers, and the complete reversal of promises in public is fascinating. His account of the ramifications of the fatwa, his continued career, and his troublesome travels on international politics is fascinating.

For those interested in Indian, Turkish, British, and American politics, the events of the fatwa years have many interesting intersections with the major events of the political lives of these countries and beyond.

For those interested in freedom of speech and the right of artists and writers and anyone, really, to create works that question, criticize, scrutinize, and speculate about religion (and leaders of religions), politics (and politicians), and human actions, this is perhaps one of the must-reads of the century. If you have read things about Rushdie and the Satanic Verses from news sources, essays written by others, and other books, you should give the author a chance to argue his freedom and creation. Especially if you are aware that most news sources distort the truth and many who speak out have agendas of their own, and obtaining an unbiased opinion about people and even books is, well, impossible, then you should hear the biased opinions and arguments of Rushdie to get a better picture of what happened and why.

For me, perhaps the most interesting parts of the book were those in which Rushdie argues how the practice of a religion cannot be thought of as a separate entity from the religion itself. Having had this argument with strong believers of religions myself, I can say that it is good to hear an eloquent voice arguing on my side. I can also say that it is a losing battle. I am glad Joseph Anton is finally dead, but there will be many others who live/die for the same reasons. ( )
2 vote bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie's memoir of the years under the fatwa is remarkable for a number of reasons and one of these is - how long ago this all seems. How much the terrorist threat has moved on from individual threats to individual writers to the situation today. Mr Rushdie's fatwa almost seems a reminder of gentler times - although not of course to Mr Rushdie

Mr Rushdie has four main aims in his memoir. The first is to lionise those of his friends, associates, and members of the public who behaved generously and well when he needed help. This he achieves. The second is to excoriate heavy handed and authoritarian security services that imposed draconian and expensive security regimes on him, and the lily livered governments refusing to defend citizens under threat. This he also achieves, although its probable that this heavy handedness was caused by over caution rather than malevolence; and Mr Rushdie seems to forget sometimes that governments have a duty to all citizens and not just him. The third is to rage against those who he thinks overtly or subconsciously, supported the would be murderers. This is understandable, and there are a number of public figures (such as John Le Carre) who don't come out of this looking very good

His fourth objective is to talk about the impact on his various marriages over the fatwa. For sure the fatwa would have placed enormous pressures on all concerned, but in truth Mr Rushdie doesn't come out of this very well. Its not necessary to like an author personally to admire his work, or to support his right to free speech and a normal life. However it has to be said that Mr Rushdie comes across as a less than likeable person. He comes across as self absorbed, arrogant and with a nasty streak - surely it is sufficient, for example, to explain that his wife, Marianne Wiggins, was depressed because her book John Dollar was selling poorly. Is it really necessary to twist the knife by saying she had sold 23 copies? Thats just malicious .

Similarly, he spends much of the book being generous in his praise of the way his first wife, Clarissa, dealt with the threat and her support for their son, Zafar. But then he ruins it by claiming that she demanded $150,000 additional settlement years after their divorce. Their are two sides to every story like this - and Clarissa is no longer alive to give her side of it. Rushdie brings it up AGAIN, when describing the final days of her struggle against cancer. Its just unnecessary, and only possible for someone who really doesn't have much empathy for others

None the less its an interesting memoir of an almost forgotten time. It could be have used more editing, and less name dropping, but still interesting. And I look forward as eagerly as ever to his next work of fiction ( )
1 vote Opinionated | Oct 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (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.

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rushdie, Salmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Häilä, ArtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
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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