Author(s): Salman Rushdie
On 14 February 1989, Valentine's Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been 'sentenced to death' by the Ayatollah Khomeini. 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 story of how a writer was forced underground, moving from house to house, with the constant presence of an armed police protection team. 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. 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 he fall in and out of love? How does despair shape his thoughts and actions, how and why does he stumble, how does he learn to fight back? In this remarkable memoir Rushdie tells that story for the first time; the story of one of the crucial battles, in our time, for freedom of speech. 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; and of how he regained his freedom. It is a book of exceptional frankness and honesty, compelling, provocative, moving and of vital importance. Because of what happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that is still unfolding somewhere in the world every day.
I'm half way through Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie's account of the years he spent in hiding from the fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini following the publication of The Satanic Verses. It is an extraordinary story and this is the first time Rushdie has written about it in detail. Rather disconcertingly he has written it in the third person, but as I progress further I can see that this device allows him to step back and focus clearly on the relationships that sustained him and it lends weight to the narrative. As you might expect the book is very well written and I'm finding it captivating, particularly because of the way that Rushdie examines the issues of freedom of expression, religious mania and his own incarceration whilst maintaining a sense of humour; some of his interactions with his police protection group are side-splittingly funny. If you have any interest in the story of Rushdie's ordeal or in the issues of free speech, censorship and fundamentalist religious oppression in recent times this book is well worth reading. - Tim
A compelling and frank account of one of the most extraordinary stories in recent literary history - Salman Rushdie and the fatwa.
Salman Rushdie is the author of ten novels, one collection of short stories, three works of non-fiction, and the co-editor of The Vintage Book of Indian Writing. In 1993 Midnight's Children was judged to be the Best of the Booker, the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its forty year history. The Moor's Last Sigh won the Whitbread Prize in 1995 and the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature in 1996. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.