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 what happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that is still unfolding somewhere in the world every day.
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Fascinating story, great narration
Definitely, in a few years' time! I'm sure there were many subtle gems of wisdom that I missed on the first listen.
The crash with the truck and the aftermath thereof. Really brought home how much Rushdie's life had moved into alien territory.
It's a long book and a detailed story that could have become tedious with a less skilled reader. Dastor's performance kept me engaged and worked so well with Rushdie's prose rhythm.
I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this book... for 27 hours! Makes you look for opportunities to listen.
Even someone who is not a Rushdie fan will enjoy this tale of a life that few of us has imagined; the story of a life lived in hiding, under a pseudonym, in full view of constant surveillance and protection, all the while knowing that thousands of people would kill you on sight if they had the chance. It seems too unreal to be true and yet it is.
Beware the Ayatollah!
It's immediacy.And it's sadness.In doing what was his passion and his purpose, Salman Rushdie was condemned, not just by the fatwa, but by many colleagues and countrymen who accused him of doing it for the publicity!
The decision to have a baby and then the birth of that baby - Milan. It spoke of hope in a very hopeless place. A place that then grew more hopeless as the marriage that produced Milan broke down. Yet Rushdie expresses an eternal hope in the love that he bears for both his sons.
Salman Rushdie himself. Resenting being called Joseph Anton and yet thinking how clever he was to have devised it- too clever for his minders, who then called him Jim!
His patience with his situation and the occasional outbreak of frustration. His bewilderment as other people seemed to misunderstand and to resent what was happening to him and how much it was costing to maintain 24 hour protection for him.
His personality glows softly in every word.
Both. But neither in an extreme way.
I certainly felt outrage towards those who condemned him for The Satanic Verses without reading it - and that included Ayatollah Khomeini.
I was also very annoyed by the attitude of the Iranian government who prevaricated about removing the fatwa, even going so far as to say that because Khomeini was dead, it could never be removed. It reinforced my opinion of that regime.
This is a long and very interesting book.
It has to be as the fatwa lasted from 14 February 1989 to a nominal withdrawal 24 September 1998.
Rushdie still receives cards on the 14 February every year from hardliners who declare their intention to carry out the fatwa. He describes this rhetoric rather than a real threat.