On February 14, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran decreed a fatwa calling for the novelist Salman Rushdie’s death. The author went into hiding, and had to use a pseudonym. The identity he came up with combined the first names of two of his favorite writers: Conrad and Chekhov. Rushdie’s new memoir Joseph Anton takes its name from his alias and dives into the years he spent in hiding.
Rushdie also looks back on the rest of his life: his youth spent in India and Britain, his rise to literary fame with Midnight’s Children, his troubled marriages. And he delves into his lifelong fascination with his family’s religion — Islam. It was his interest in that religion that informed sections of his novel The Satanic Verses — the book that drew the ire of the Ayatollah, who deemed it blasphemous.
Rushdie distills his experience with the fatwa through the title character of his novel The Moor’s Last Sigh — a book that was written while Rushdie was in hiding:
The revolution against fear, the engendering of that tawdry despot’s fall, has more or less nothing to do with “courage.” It is driven by something much more straightforward: the simple need to get on with your life. I stopped being afraid because, if my time on earth was limited, I didn’t have seconds to spare for funk.
We’ll hear from Rushdie about his life and cl0se-t0-death experience under the fatwa.