Joseph Anton: A Memoir

Joseph Anton. A Memoir - Salman Rushdie Actual Rating 3.5

I'm glad I read this book. I was in my self-centered twenties during the fatwa and remember some of the noise surrounding it but I never pursued a deeper understanding of those events. This book has at least in part cured my ignorance.

It's written in 3rd person which I enjoyed initially but that didn't last and it became an irritant. This, however, was a small price to pay because one of the things that I really loved (and was made possible by this 3rd person narration) was that the story is given in the context of the times and didn't become a simple "this is what happened to me" but a more layered "this is what I saw happen" story.

Mr.Rushdie sets the stage giving a quick background of himself as well as the state of British politics at the time. He expertly maintains this personal/political balance throughout the text which allows this history to unfold as if it was an actual narrative of a novel. There is a bit of unevenness to the writing and I found myself slogging through a few pages until the strong pacing returned which it always did.

It seems to me that Mr. Rushdie painted as honest a picture of himself as he could. The man who signed the apology, who cheated and divorced two wives during this period was not hidden but was front and center.

Also front and center is the battle for freedom. He passionately defends freedom of expression within these pages and yet impossibly there are still people (some even here in goodreads reviews) who maintain the old line "he knew what he was doing and is now crying foul/deserved what he got". He makes good, strong points that deserve serious consideration especially in the current hyper-sensitive climate whenever there's even of hint of having given offence.

He also fights for his personal freedom of which he's deprived by being disappeared by his own government and for "his own good". His fights for every appearance and for every moment of normalcy are at times inspiring and at times bewildering. There were times I though he was putting himself in danger unnecessarily. But then I couldn't imagine living the way he described for so many years so I'm in no place to judge.

It wasn't a mind-blowing book (it was a good book) nor was incredibly well written (it was well written) but it was an important book to read. Not only for the history lesson but for the more vital lesson on standing up for what you believe.