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Joseph Anton aka Salman Rushdie

December 17, 2012

“Joseph Anton: a memoir” by Salman Rushdie

reviewed by Tamara Jones

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie

The weight of this tome initially put me off, until I had a lengthy hairdressing appointment and had forgotten to bring entertainment.  At 633 pages, the thought of the strain on my wrist trying to read it in bed was worrisome too (if only I had a book seat!)

On Valentine’s Day 1989, Mr Rushdie received a phone call from the BBC asking how he felt about the fatwa [price] placed on his head by the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, in response to Mr Rushdie’s book ‘The Satanic Verses’ (1988) which was nominated for a Booker prize.

In his defence, Mr Rushdie said no offence was intended, it was merely an exploration of a topic that interested him, as the Muslim religion makes up one of the many religions in India where he hails from. Rushdie, along with supporters, formed Article 19 to defend artists’ rights to free speech. This was a global campaign, and one of the most positive things to come out of his experience.

Herein followed 13 years as a virtual prisoner, albeit a second class one, living in hiding and fear in the UK. During this time, he still managed to fall in love with two women, divorce, have a hand in raising his son Zafar, and create another, Milan.  He also received several international book awards during this time.

Rushdie fires heavy criticism at the British government for failing to negotiate an end to the Iranian bounty on his head, which reached hundreds of thousands of dollars at one stage.

The fatwa created a political animal out of Rushdie, and he became perhaps more popular owing to the coverage. The book has very dark moments: two men were killed as a result of being peripherally related to Rushdie, and one seriously wounded. In addition, Rushdie was lambasted in the British press for the cost of his protection, estimated by the fourth estate at one million pounds per year. Which Rushdie denied, and it does seem ironic, as Rushdie was fighting for their guiding principle – freedom of speech.

Rushdie allows us into his thoughts and heart, with some very interesting insights into the development of character as one ages.  Rating: 8/10. Recommended for its easy readability and interesting subject matter.

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From → New Books, Review

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