Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
A Memoir

73%

45 Critic Reviews

...this literary page-turner tells us in fascinating detail what it means to have every aspect of your life overturned.
-NPR

Synopsis

On February 14, 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 more than 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 what happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that is still unfolding somewhere in the world every day.

“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.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“Thoughtful and astute . . . This is an important book not only because of what it has to say about a man of principle who, under the threat of violence and death, stood firm for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also because of its implications about our times and fanatical religious intolerance in a frighteningly fragile world.”—USA Today (4 out of 4 stars)
 

About Salman Rushdie

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Salman Rushdie is the author of nine previous novels: Grimus; Midnight's Children (which was awarded the Booker Prize in 1981 and, in 1993, was judged to be the "Booker of Bookers," the best novel to have won that prize in its first twenty-five years); Shame (winner of the French Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger); The Satanic Verses (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); Haroun and the Sea of Stories (winner of the Writers Guild Award); The Moor's Last Sigh (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); The Ground Beneath Her Feet (winner of the Eurasian section of the Commonwealth Prize); Fury (a New York Times Notable Book); and Shalimar the Clown (a Time Book of the Year). He is also the author of a book of stories, East, West, and three works of nonfiction- Imaginary Homelands, The Jaguar Smile, and The Wizard of Oz. He is co-editor of Mirrorwork, an anthology of contemporary Indian writing.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published September 18, 2012 by Random House. 657 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 07 2012
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Joseph Anton
All: 45 | Positive: 31 | Negative: 14

Kirkus

Excellent
Oct 15 2012

...a spy novel, a writer’s autobiography and a victim’s affidavit pulsing with resentment and fear combine to reveal a man’s dawning awareness of the primacy of freedom.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Margaret Drabble on Sep 22 2012

Salman Rushdie's account of surviving a fatwa is brutally honest and profound

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Pankaj Mishra on Sep 18 2012

Too long, over-dependent on Rushdie's journals, and unquickened by hindsight, or its prose.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Donna Rifkind on Oct 12 2012

In early sections — among the best in the book — the author reveals that his actual surname was itself an invention.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Sep 17 2012

...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.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on Sep 24 2012

Preening self-dramatization by the celebrity author.

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Wall Street Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Moynihan on Sep 17 2012

Defenders of Enlightenment values...must acknowledge the fact that, when threatened, Salman Rushdie—Joseph Anton—reacted with great bravery and even heroism.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by John Powers on Oct 01 2012

...this literary page-turner tells us in fascinating detail what it means to have every aspect of your life overturned.

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Emily Donaldson on Sep 18 2012

Joseph Anton probably won’t convince anyone that Rushdie isn’t arrogant, but anyone who reads it will hopefully conclude that, when it comes to free speech, personality is necessarily beside the point.

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Star Tribune

Below average
Reviewed by Bob Hoover on Sep 22 2012

Given the extraordinary nature of his decade in exile, Rushdie dwells on the uninteresting details rather than how his exile changed him as an individual and a writer.

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Washington Times

Below average
Reviewed by Martin Rubin on Nov 14 2012

As it is, Mr. Rushdie seems to have used this book as an opportunity to rail against anyone — public figures, writers, politicians — he thinks did not give him sufficient support.

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National Post

Below average
Reviewed by Roland Elliott Brown on Oct 02 2012

The umpteenth line in the vein of “He went out with Ian McEwan to get Thai takeout” makes the work feel under-edited.

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Globe and Mail

Excellent
Reviewed by KENAN MALIK on Sep 22 2012

That is why Joseph Anton, both the man and the book, are so important. They are vital reminders of the continuing importance of an unswerving defence, in Rushdie’s words, “of debate, of dispute, of dissent.”

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Hector Tobar on Sep 23 2012

"Joseph Anton" also turns out to be a fascinating character study.

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AV Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Phil Dyess-Nugent on Oct 22 2012

The early sections of the book contain some marvelous material.

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The Telegraph

Below average
Reviewed by AN Wilson on Sep 21 2012

But the memoir is inordinately long, and the drama of the fatwa, and the obvious hell of living in its shadow, gets swamped by a sort of literary luvvie-dom, with dinners and launch parties.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Nicholas Shakespeare on Sep 20 2012

Written in the third person, like a novel, Joseph Anton has the effect of distancing its author from its subject.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Amanda Craig on Sep 30 2012

Yet it is also the most gripping, moving and entertaining literary memoir I have ever read.

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Don Oldenburg on Sep 17 2012

Rushdie provides a fascinating look into the intense drama of how those years of death threats, bookstore bombings, attacks and murders affected U.S. and British publishing circles...

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Don Oldenburg on Sep 17 2012

This is an important book...because of its implications about our times and fanatical religious intolerance in a frighteningly fragile world.

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Huffington Post

Above average
Reviewed by David Finkle on Oct 15 2012

It's Rushdie's sometime grace under pressure and sometime who-knows-what-else that make his recollections irresistible, that make his compulsive reminiscing a chilling, valiant endeavor.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by Steven Kellman on Sep 21 2012

In 10 dramatic chapters, "Joseph Anton" captures the career of a fallible writer who struggled to sustain the fragile life of the imagination.

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The Boston Globe

Excellent
Reviewed by John Freeman on Sep 22 2012

The day-to-day story is gripping and, weirdly, often hilarious.

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Express

Excellent
Reviewed by Jake Kerridge on Sep 30 2012

This moving, sometimes irritating, often beautiful and blissfully funny memoir is also a resounding manifesto, reminding us that novelists have a right and duty to tackle the most controversial subjects.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Jonathan Yardley on Sep 16 2012

“Joseph Anton” is a splendid book, the finest new memoir to cross my desk in many a year.

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About.com

Below average
Reviewed by Jeff Alford on Sep 01 2012

The more casual reader, however, will have some issues.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Below average
Reviewed by Bob Hoover on Oct 07 2012

Mr. Rushdie dwells on the uninteresting details rather than how his exile changed him as an individual and a writer.

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Salon

Below average
Reviewed by Henry Giardina on Nov 05 2012

Salman Rushdie's book adopts the tropes of genre fiction, and reveals why confessional literature inevitably fails

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Business Week

Excellent
Reviewed by Akash Kapur on Oct 04 2012

In an age of rising intolerance and diminished literary confidence, Joseph Anton—like Rushdie’s own life—strikes a blow for the continued relevance of literature.

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Business Week

Excellent
Reviewed by Akash Kapur on Oct 04 2012

Part of the book’s fascination stems from its juicy portrayals of various publishing luminaries.

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The New Yorker

Excellent
Reviewed by David Remnick on Sep 17 2012

It is the sometimes impossibly difficult political and moral work of Rushdie and the rest of us to go on defending freedom of expression even when the object at the center of things is as indefensibly offensive as “Innocence of Muslims” and its countless kin.

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Time Out New York

Excellent
Reviewed by Tobias Carroll on Oct 03 2012

Rushdie’s prose is precise and his description of his circumstances focused. The story abounds in paradoxes...that lend it a power beyond its already-gripping subject.

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The New York Review of Books

Below average
Reviewed by ZOE HELLER on Dec 20 2012

Some readers may find, by the end of Joseph Anton, that the world feels rather smaller and grimmer than before. But they should not be unduly alarmed. The world is as large and as wide as it ever was; it’s just Rushdie who got small.

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Bloomberg

Excellent
Reviewed by Hephzibah Anderson on Sep 16 2012

While he shows himself to be at times a terrible husband and a selfish father, as a writer he does, after a wobble or two, do the right thing. He finds his voice again and he speaks up.

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Cairo 360

Below average
Reviewed by Cairo 360 on Oct 12 2012

Anyone who thinks highly of Rushdie better leave this book on the shelves of the bookshop, for fear of instant nausea and general disliking of its author.

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Cairo 360

Below average
Reviewed by Cairo 360 on Oct 12 2012

It’s nauseating and grotesque, bordering on megalomania.

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Digital Journal

Below average
Reviewed by Steve Hayes on Sep 21 2012

The book is written in the third person, as though Joseph Anton is a character in a novel...This choice of narration is ostensibly a distancing device, but it lends an awkward, artificial, almost surreal feel to the description of events.

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The Coffin Factory

Excellent
Reviewed by Zach Pontz on Oct 10 2012

The best response Rushdie can give is to keep publishing books just as fine as this one.

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Taipei Times

Excellent
Reviewed by J. Michael Cole on Oct 23 2012

True fans of the author will gain tremendously from reading the book in its entirety, as it yields invaluable information about the context in which his future novels took shape.

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The Wall Street Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by Margherita Stancati on Sep 25 2012

A valuable account of what it was like for Mr. Rushdie to live in hiding, fearing for his life while trying to carve moments of normality.

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Hindustan Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Indrajit Hazra on Sep 22 2012

Salman Rushdie’s attempt to not let fear rule his life.

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Times Live

Below average
Reviewed by Sophy Kohler on Dec 11 2012

Exquisite writing and the odd moment of insight are not enough to rescue the memoir...after 656 pages, Joseph Anton leaves us with little more than a bad taste in the mouth.

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The Commentator

Excellent
Reviewed by Ghaffar Hussain on Sep 24 2012

The most interesting parts of the memoir are those that deal with the aftermath of the life changing fatwa.

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RTE Ten

Excellent
Reviewed by Paddy Kehoe on Oct 03 2012

Aside from the vivid, splendidly told account of his childhood and family background, Rushdie's book charts in, fascinating, grimly humourous detail, the shadowy half-life he lived until that fatwah was lifted on March 27, 2002.

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Of Books and Reading

Good
Reviewed by thehungryreader on Sep 29 2012

The book, “Joseph Anton” is the most human that I have read this year. Salman Rushdie is angry and is hurt and hides no emotions.

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Reader Rating for Joseph Anton
71%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 391 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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