Salman Rushdie’s ‘Joseph Anton’

Author Salman Rushdie in the Radio Boston studios. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Author Salman Rushdie in the Radio Boston studios. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

“I must live till I die.” These were the words of the novelist Joseph Conrad, and they were the words that acclaimed writer Salman Rushdie lived by for nearly ten years. On February 14th, 1989, Rushdie received a most-unwelcome Valentine from Ayatollah Khomeini. Iran’s Supreme Leader had issued a fatwa against the writer, forcing him into a life underground that Rushdie has described as “cloak and dagger,” with its “skulkings and duckings, its fear of plumbers and other repairmen, its fraught search for places of refuge, and its dreadful wigs.”

Those words come straight from Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton. The name comes from two of his favorite writers — Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov — and it was more than just an alias for Rushdie during his years in hiding. It was a complete identity of a man trying to write his way out of the darkness — from his early years in Bombay, to his four troubled marriages, to the overarching goal of protecting his life while preserving his freedom of speech.

Salman Rushdie is delivering the keynote speech at the Boston Book Festival tonight at the Old South Church Sanctuary.


Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize-winning novelist and author of the memoir Joseph Anton.


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