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Joseph Anton: A Memoir | [Salman Rushdie]

Joseph Anton: A Memoir

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 a police protection team.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

This audiobook includes a prologue read by the author.

©2012 Salmon Rushdie (P)2012 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"In Salman Rushdie... India has produced a glittering novelist -one with startling imaginative and intellectual resources, a master of perpetual storytelling." (The New Yorker)

"Salman Rushdie has earned the right to be called one of our great storytellers." (The Observer)

"Our most exhilaratingly inventive prose stylist, a writer of breathtaking originality." (Financial Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (205 )
5 star
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3.9 (174 )
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4.1 (179 )
5 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Shax Chicago, IL United States 09-05-13
    Shax Chicago, IL United States 09-05-13 Member Since 2013
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    2
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    "Narcissistic Entitlement"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Better text - Rushdie entitlement is repugnant


    Has Joseph Anton turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No - I love memoir. Rather Joseph Anton should be embarrassed to be included with real self-reflective nonfiction, a genre of culpability and honesty, which uses the courageous first person instead of hiding behind "he."


    What about Sam Dastor and Salman Rushdie ’s performance did you like?

    The author's supercilious attitude was perfectly captured.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Fascinating story - I was hoping for enlightenment about a world that censors free speech and expression, but instead only heard how highly the author regarded himself, as he endlessly outlined his global impact and recounted his accolades (and trashed his detractors and ex-wives). There was no self-awareness, just a one-sided diatribe that obscured what could have been an in-depth reflection on the current religious fanaticism.


    Any additional comments?

    Don't give Rushdie another thought; just give him the number of a good shrink.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer PARIS, TX, United States 08-04-13
    Amazon Customer PARIS, TX, United States 08-04-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Important book!"

    Ok, will you "like" this book? Not necessarily but you will be glad you read it. It explores the years and years of Salmon Rushdie's life while he was in hiding from the fatwa. It goes on and on, and he does not hide the truth: he is not a martyr or a perfect man, he is just a writer who crossed he Wrong people. Do you believe in religious fanaticism? Do you know the prequel to 9-11 ? Please take the time to listen to this and think about these very life and death matters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel Daly City, CA, United States 06-08-13
    Daniel Daly City, CA, United States 06-08-13 Member Since 2008
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    1
    1
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    Story
    "Rushdie a Narcissistic Boor"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Rushdie's self absorption, understandable on a human level as someone captive to protective custody for years, still makes for miserable reading. I kept waiting for an eloquent, stirring rebuke to the forces of ignorance in the world, a call for each of us to have the courage to stand up to ignorance, but the book was mainly diary excerpts of the quotidian. Who slighted him, who supported him, what indignity he suffered, what famous person he met, what marital indiscretion he indulged in, how crazy his ex-wives were -- this is 90% of the book, and it was not any more satisfying, though a little better told, than if it were the memoir of my uncle Jack, the alcoholic celebrity chaser. I kept waiting for the arrival of 9-1-1 in the narrative, thinking that is when it would take off, but September 11th just becomes an I-told-you-so coda.I have a lot of sympathy for what Mr. Rushdie endured, but this book is dreary.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Salman Rushdie again?

    I never read any of his fiction, and always harbored an interest, but this mess of a book has given me pause.


    Which character – as performed by Sam Dastor and Salman Rushdie – was your favorite?

    The security guard who on his birthday gets drunk at the local pub and blurts out his identity.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Sure. Rushdie can turn a phrase, and shows the descriptive skill of someone who has been writing for a long time. Other moments, though, like his comparing his ex-wife's lover to Donald Duck in a long riff, make one cringe,


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lesleigh Auburn, AL, United States 03-19-13
    Lesleigh Auburn, AL, United States 03-19-13 Member Since 2008

    Devout reader. Teacher by trade, currently acting as executive assistant to the Centers of Attention, Harper and Quinn. Lucky wife and mom currently living as an expat in Shanghai, China.

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    "A must-read if you love Rushdie's work"

    I fell in love with Rushdie's work when I was a 17-year-old freshman at college. My most difficult class was a junior level course called Modern Studies which required me to read 13 novels in 12 weeks. The first on the long list was Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories. I fell instantly and completely in love. That novel remains on my high atop my list of favorite (and most recommended) books of all-time, and I even fought to include it when I became a teacher myself, many years later.

    I devoured Rushdie's bibliography over a number of years. As a teacher, I also researched his personal story and biographical materials. I was fascinated by him as a man, and continued to read his essays and writings as he continued to write.

    This novel finally lifted the veil and gave the the story of Rushdie's fatwa from his own mouth. And it is just as interesting as I thought it would be. History buffs and lovers of literature will find the story compelling. Those interested in reading about the struggles of artists under the oppression of religious regimes for free speech would be equally engaged. However, it is worth mentioning that I do believe my background in Rushdie's work helped to ground me as I listen to this title. I am not sure how the experience would differ if I had not had that prior knowledge.

    All together, this book is one I continue to recommend to friends who read non-fiction titles.

    And, while you are at it, go select Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Midnight's Children as well. Rushdie does not disappoint.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer STAMFORD, CT, United States 02-06-13
    Amazon Customer STAMFORD, CT, United States 02-06-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Interestingly Long"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Make it shorter by about half. To me, it was necessary to describe every meeting he had during the years he was hiding from his death sentence. It was too much of almost the same things over and over again. A thick book does not make a better book.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Salman Rushdie again?

    Possibly. I think he is very gifted with words. I would not listen to anything that had to do with his personal struggle that was going to be described day-by-day and almost minute-by-minute.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Not sure but if I had a favorite part it would have been in the first book.


    Did Joseph Anton inspire you to do anything?

    I was definitely convinced to not write about the Taliban but to learn all that I could about the religious based system that had the power to basically ruin years of his life.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Silver Spring, MD, United States 02-02-13
    Stephen Silver Spring, MD, United States 02-02-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Excellent Listen"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    The writer's use of language is sublime. The story itself is fascinating. It is the story we all thought we knew but never really did. Strongly recommended.There are only two flaws and they are both minor. Sam Dastor is a joy to listen to. The only problem that I had was his attempt at an American accent. Men, women, children--it was the exact same voice. That became a little distracting, especially when the person speaking is someone famous with a voice we all know. The minor other fault is in the writing. I got a sense that the author tried very hard to be fair to everyone and to note his biases up front. Given what happened to him that seems heroic. That said, there are a few instances where he attempts to indicate that all is forgiven but you get a sense that the exact opposite is true and perhaps the author isn't aware of it. Again, a minor flaw. On the whole the fact that he is able to tell this story without rage is truly amazing.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Padma devi California 12-30-12
    Padma devi California 12-30-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Great writer, too long"
    What made the experience of listening to Joseph Anton the most enjoyable?

    I very much like the narrator Sam Dastor. I enjoy Salman Rushdie's sense of humor and use of language.
    The name-dropping of all the famous people he knows and is at parties with seemed unnecessary and did not enhance the story.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I appreciated how Rushdie was able to see the humor in his situation although it was a very painful episode in his life.


    Have you listened to any of Sam Dastor and Salman Rushdie ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have listened to the Satanic Verses narrated by Sam Dastor. I found that book more enjoyable and more interesting and funnier.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I was particularly moved by Rushdie's devotion to his sons and to his writing.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan Bellevue, WA, United States 12-11-12
    Dan Bellevue, WA, United States 12-11-12 Member Since 2000
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    "State terror vs one man"

    The power of an Islamic fundamentalist state to change the life of one man is well illustrated in this autobiographical account of the Iranian fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Rushdie is well educated, erudite, Muslim by upbringing and family tradition but more an expat Indian and Englishman when his life is turned upside down by the fatwa. This is Rushdie's personal story - more about his family, loves, friendships, and writing than an action/adventure movie. Like most of the educated West I knew that he was threatened but nothing about what that would mean for one man. His relationships with his personal protection team are particulary telling. Parts are rushed, parts are very self indulgent but it is his story and very revealing of the man and his times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David E. Gregson San Diego, CA USA 12-05-12
    David E. Gregson San Diego, CA USA 12-05-12 Member Since 2012
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    "A revealing memoir by a great writer"
    Any additional comments?

    My only annoyance with the otherwise superb narrator was his tendency, when creating a variety of national accents, to make all Americans sound like idiots. Naturally, with a book this long, it was a pleasure to sit passively or attend to the third-person narrative while walking. Yes, it's a third-person narrative: Rushdie refers to himself as 'he" -- meaning, of course, his adopted persona whilst hiding from the fatwa assassins as Joseph Anton.

    Rushdie rarely flatters himself and frequently reveals his weaknesses. As far as food for thought is concerned, the whole memoir seems like a metaphor for a world stripped of logic and common sense. It's a theater of the absurd, potentially and often actually tragic. Men and women act on unreasoned fears, they are victimized by their prejudices and ignorance, and almost nobody knows what's going on or what they are talking about.

    The book also chills the spine with its enormous specter of religious fanaticism.

    And for those who believe the victim is too often blamed for the crime, this is wonderful fuel for your argument.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Beau New Orleans, LA, United States 11-30-12
    Beau New Orleans, LA, United States 11-30-12 Member Since 2011

    Husband. Dad. 3D Nerd. Tech Junkie. Saints fan. Part of the Squid clan.

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    "A Tale of Intolerance"

    I enjoyed this book quite a bit and I found myself constantly stunned by the lengths to which Mr. Rushdie was forced to live for 13 years after the publication of his novel, The Satanic Verses. This book gives the listener a glimpse of what it takes to survive a situation of that magnitude and gravity, and it definitely showed people in their true light, both for good and bad. It still astounds me that a writer of fictional stories could be forced underground based on his story and shunned so thoroughly; don't people around the globe understand what the word 'fiction' is? In my modest opinion, if a story challenges your perceptions, then that is a good thing. If I don't like a book, I know I have the option to put it down. Joseph Anton was a wonderful read and I applaud Mr. Rushdie (who is not without his faults and which he lays bare in the book), for not sitting passively by throughout the ordeal fighting for the ability to lead a relatively normal life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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