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Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

Joseph Anton

by Salman Rushdie

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7052313,430 (3.67)70
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 20 (next | show all)
Very important book. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
Rushdie’s memoir about his time under the fatwa is a moving one. Dealing with thirteen years of hiding, he might have gone crazy. But he did not. He can seem to name drop at times (he is a famous writer after all) and perhaps still hold some grudges in residual bitterness (people did betray him and stab in the back), but overall it’s a fairly brutal retelling of a period in his life when he was not always proud of himself. He paints himself as having made some less-than-stellar decisions about his relationships, but also as having learned some very important lessons. What stands out is the formidably loyal friends who stuck with him through the thick and the thin. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Quite a book. I've very much admired much of Rushdie's work. And always fascinated even when I'm annoyed. This is a fascinating glimpse into his life during the period of the Fatwah. Still trying to decide what I think about the book as a book. Fascinating to use the third person. Have to admire the ambition of the book. Still trying to figure out what I think of it as a personal statement, an auto-biography. Listened as audiobook. Quite a long book. ( )
  idiotgirl | Dec 25, 2015 |
Rushdie's memoir primarily covers the fatwa years. However, he includes quite a bit of information about his childhood and formative years, including his time at an English boarding school. Reading about how he got his first book published, how Midnight's Children came to be written, his writing process, where he gets his ideas, the stylistic and technical choices he makes in his writing and all other sorts of literary matters was quite fascinating, and this was the part of the book I liked best.

I also enjoyed most of the rest of the book about the fatwa years, but felt that it went on just a bit too long. Of course, Rushdie may have just been seeking to create in the reader the feeling of the tedium of those years. I had forgotten just how long they were--more than 10 years in hiding. I had also forgotten just how violent they were--one of Rushdie's translators was murdered, and two other of his publisher/translators were stabbed or shot. And many died or were injured in riots protesting the book around the world.

At first Rushdie had to scramble to find a new place to stay every few weeks, then he later was allowed to stay in one place for a few months. After a few years he was able to move into a home he purchased and basically reconstructed to include the most up to day security and protection devices and reinforcements. During the entire fatwa time he and his wife of the moment lived with a cadre of security guards 24 hours a day. (Wherever he lived, there had to be room to accommodate these guards, who ate, slept and lived on the premises with Rushdie.) He was also being constantly reminded (in the press), about the enormous cost of his protection to the taxpayers, the implication being that some people, Margaret Thatcher for example, are worth being protected, and others, a nasty writer like himself for example, are not.

In addition to going on a bit long about the day-to-day tedium of being under protection (i.e. the repeated battles to be able to go out to dinner, or visit friends or go to a book signing; the lengthy battle to insist that a paper back version of The Satanic Verses be published), the book is a bit gossipy. In some cases I found it interesting to read about Rushdie's famous friends. For example, reading about Bill Buford caused me to read Buford's book. But in some cases, it felt to me like Rushdie was score-keeping, as if he divided writers into those who supported him and those who did not. One person who comes off extremely poorly in the book is Marianne Wiggins, his wife at the time the fatwa was declared. In Rushdie's version of events she is a simply awful human being, and at times seemed almost mentally ill. (I really liked her book John Dollar, so I wonder what her version of events would be.) Rushdie himself doesn't always come of as the most likeable character--shortly after Marianne leaves he takes up with Elizabeth, and they seem deliriously happy (or as happy as they can be in the circumstances), but shortly after his and Elizabeth's son is born he begins an affair with a beautiful Indian actress, and there's much discussion/whining about the ensuing divorce proceedings and about Elizabeth's trying to get her hands on his money.

Well I better stop before I tell the whole story--all 650+ pages of it. Rushdie in my view is an excellent writer, and despite its flaws, this book is well-worth reading. ( )
1 vote arubabookwoman | Dec 8, 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (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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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
First words
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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Haiku summary
Fatwa is no fun
When on the receiving end
The mullahs are mad

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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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Average: (3.67)
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