It would be beyond Panglossian to reflect that, well, on the positive side, we at least have this fine book. Nonetheless, ?Joseph Anton is wonderful: as much a meditation on life, liberty and the pursuit of truth as an engrossing memoir. From the moment the Western world first heard the word fatwa, Rushdie covers every twist in an ongoing cultural discussion, including protected group feelings, insidiously creeping self-censorship and blaming the victim—long banished in progressive thought from matters of sexual assault but alive and well in political controversy.
There are thought-provoking moments throughout. When Rushdie meets his brilliant American editor Bob Gottlieb, he says, as a friend, “I always tell people if you had known that your book was going to kill people, of course you wouldn’t have written it.” Rushdie’s response? To spin on his heel and walk away: “He didn’t understand what was wrong with what he said.” The author doesn’t elaborate at that point, but he doesn’t need to. His entire memoir is an articulate and powerful defence.