To many readers, Sir Salman Rushdie is most well-known, unfortunately, for his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), which lead to death threats made against him, including a fatwā issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in February 1989. To some film-loving Calgarians, Rushdie will also be known for his second novel, Midnight’s Children, the 1981 Booker Prize winning novel which was made into a movie that was premiered in Calgary International Film Festival last week.
So who is Joseph Anton? Rushdie answered, “Strangely enough, it is me. Because during those years, the police who were protecting me [from the fatwā] at these undisclosed locations needed to have a pseudo name to call me by so that they didn’t accidentally use my real name when they were at the local corner store. So they asked me to invent one. So I invented a name based on two of my favourite writers. Joseph Conrad. And Anton from Anton Chekhov. Put them together and that name lasted for ten years. Truthfully, I always disliked that name.” Rushdie used that name as his memoir’s title because he wants to give readers a sense of how strange it was during those ten years.
Rushdie initially wrote the book in the first person “in the ordinary” way. He didn’t like it. He felt it “too much self-regard, too narcissistic“. When he finally wrote it in the third person, he felt he could have “a little more distance” from himself. Rushdie said, “Also it was a long time ago, the story began in 1989, twenty-three years ago.” He felt there is enough of a difference between him now, and him then. So using the third person allows him to express the idea that the person he is now is different from the person he was then.
Rushdie’s new book is out, check it out from your bookstore or library, “Joseph Anton: A Memoir“.
P.S. It was an honour for me to hangout with Sir Salman. Many thanks to the wonderful Maria Quiban and the Fox LA crew for the great hangout.
Note: This article is cross-posted by me at examiner.com
Jan 22, 2013 Update: Here is the Hangout video with Sir Salman,