Nov 28, 2012

-- This review appears in the December edition of ABC's Limelight magazine. In the opening pages of The Satanic Verses, protagonists Gibreel and Saladin tumble and fall from the sky in a chaos of fire and debris. When the novel was published in late 1988, it too burst forth with an explosion of protests, riots, bombings, book burnings and deaths showering from it like the plane that combusts in its opening pages. "To be born again…first you have to die" were the first words of the novel that sparked one of the most deadly battles around freedom of speech vs freedom from blasphemy fought in the latter twentieth century. Rushdie, of course, didn’t die. But the fatwa he received on Valentine’s Day 1989 from Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini was effectively a death sentence, resulting in the decade he spent in hiding that marks the course of his new memoir, Joseph Anton. It’s fitting that the name Joseph Anton is above that of Salman Rushdie on the cover – this was his pseudonym used while in fear for his life, the man he existed as for thirteen years. Rushdie became Joseph Anton, the first names of two novelists, Conrad and Chekov – like himself, a literary combination of East and West.

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