“One hundred pages into his absorbing new memoir, written entirely in the third person, Salman Rushdie declares that ‘Friendship had always been of great importance to him,’ since so much of his life had been spent separated, physically and emotionally, from his own family. ‘Friends,’ writes Rushdie, ‘were the family one chose.’
“The conceit of third person remove can be annoying, but I understand why the author chose it for Joseph Anton, the title of the book and Rushdie’s assumed name during his long period in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced him to death. As author of the allegedly blasphemous novel The Satanic Verses, Rushdie’s unhappy tale required telling through another character, since his own identity — his very life — had been stolen, first by the reactionary Iranian theocracy that wanted him punished and then by the liberal western establishment which purported to defend him but wasn’t always up to the job.
“What I don’t understand, however, is Rushdie’s choice of ‘friends’, or at least his notion of what constitutes friendship in a crisis. And as his early supporter and publisher, I feel it’s important to correct and enlarge his narrative, in the name of accuracy but also in the name of friends and colleagues, unmentioned in Joseph Anton, who stuck their necks out for him when it wasn’t so easy to do . . .”
—From “The Friends Rushdie Forgot,” in the September 2012 issue of The Spectator. Subscribers to The Spectator can read more here.