ebook ∣ A Memoir
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On February 14, 1986, Valentine’s Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been “sentenced to death” by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a voice reaching across the world from Iran to kill him in his own country. 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, often harrowing story—filled too with surreal and funny moments—of how a writer was forced underground, moved from house to house, an armed police protection team living with him at all times for more than nine years. 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. He became “Joe.”
How do a writer and his young family live day by day with the threat of murder for so long? How do you go on working? How do you keep love and joy alive? How does despair shape your thoughts and actions, how and why do you stumble, how do you learn to fight for survival? In this remarkable memoir, Rushdie tells that story for the first time. 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; of friendships (literary and otherwise) and love; and of how he regained his freedom.
This is a book of exceptional frankness and honesty, compelling, moving, provocative, not only captivating as a revelatory memoir but of vital importance in its political insight and wisdom. Because it is also a story of today’s battle for intellectual liberty; of why literature matters; and of a man’s refusal to be silenced in the face of state-sponsored terrorism. And because we now know that what happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that would rock the whole world on September 11th and is still unfolding somewhere every day.