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
"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 a disappointment. I love most of Salman Rushdie's work, but I gave up on this one after the first of the four parts. It was like listening to the journal of a petulant, star-struck wanna-be, with all the boring details left in--what he ate; when he was sick; where he went for vacation; blah blah blah--interspersed with bragging about the famous people he met and sniping at the ones he felt slighted by. I just couldn't take 20 more hours of it. I guess he has become too famous and self-important to allow a good editor to take a scalpel to his writing and trim out the dross.
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.
I never read any of his fiction, and always harbored an interest, but this mess of a book has given me pause.
The security guard who on his birthday gets drunk at the local pub and blurts out his identity.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
I appreciated how Rushdie was able to see the humor in his situation although it was a very painful episode in his life.
I have listened to the Satanic Verses narrated by Sam Dastor. I found that book more enjoyable and more interesting and funnier.
I was particularly moved by Rushdie's devotion to his sons and to his writing.
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.
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.
It depends on the reader.
Mr. Rushdie's narration in the third person was quite successful and clear. Mr. Dastor's American accent was terrible.
It was a well written and fine biography.
I really liked this book as an account of the life of Mr. Rushdie, especially during the Fatwa. It was interesting and thought provoking. However, listening to the audio version, I found the constant list of individuals attending parties, visiting, etc. long and confusing. I knew some, but not others, and it was often difficult to place them.
Michael Ruhlman, writer, cook
I loved this whole book and, as a non-fiction author not nearly as gifted or smart as Rushdie, I highly recommend. Rushdie went through what no human should have to for speaking his mind. Besides being a brilliant engaging memoir, this story and Rushdie's enormously articulate rendering of it, stand as a reminder of the importance of freedom of speech to our humanity.
Rushdie reads prologue, a professional reader, the rest. The reader does a terrible American accent and an especially bad American female accent/falsetto, but is otherwise quite good.
A good thing because this is long! But I was sorry when it was over.
I'd like to add my thanks along with the author's to everyone who helped this writer through the nightmare and I'm hoping he can have a more normal life and keep writing great books and be the fullest artist that he can be.
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