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September 13, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Salman Rushdie is a master storyteller, but his most fantastic story might be his own.
On Valentine’s Day 23 years ago, the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced Rushdie to death. A BBC journalist told Rushdie that Ayatollah Khomeini issued the fatwa, or death sentence, because he believed that Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses insulted Islam and the prophet Muhammad.
Fearing for his life, Rushdie spent the next nine-plus years underground. His memoir, Joseph Anton, describes this experience. While in hiding, Rushdie used Joseph Anton as his pseudonym because it combined the first names of his favorite authors, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov.
In an April 12 article in The Guardian, Rushdie said, “I made it the title of the book because it always felt very strange to be asked to give up my name, I was always uncomfortable about it, and I thought it might help dramatize, for the reader, the deep strangeness and discomfort of those years.”
The memoir shares Rushdie’s experience living among armed policemen and his struggle to garner support from governments, journalists and even fellow writers.
Rushdie also describes how he and his family lived while under constant death threats, his love life and his endeavors to continue writing despite his circumstances.
An internationally acclaimed novelist and essayist, Rushdie is the author of 17 other books collectively translated into more than 40 different languages.
His 656-page book, to be released Sept. 18, will likely be devoid of the whimsy and magic that most readers know and love. In exchange, Rushdie simply offers himself.