Revisiting a conversation: Salman Rushdie discusses his years in hiding

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In this file photo, author Salman Rushdie poses for photographers at a signing for his new book “Home,” in London, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Rushdie is now recovering from a recent stabbing attack.

Grant Pollard / AP

A week ago, the renowned writer Salman Rushdie was attacked before an event in New York state. He was repeatedly stabbed, and remains hospitalized, although according to his agent, he is on the road to recovery.

Yesterday a 24-year-old man pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and assault charges.

Today, we bring you a conversation we had with Salman Rushdie back in 2013 after he’d written a memoir about the most famous period of his life.

On Valentine’s day, 1989, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini introduced a new word to many people in the western world: “fatwa.”

Khomeini called on “the proud Muslim people of the world” to kill the author of “The Satanic Verses,” and all people involved in its publication.

Rushdie’s novel, which had come out a few months earlier, is about exile and identity and includes – but isn’t focused on – a story about the Prophet Mohammed.

In the years after the Ayatollah’s declaration, bookstores were bombed, the book’s Japanese translator was killed, its Italian translator survived a stabbing, and its Norwegian publisher survived a shooting.

Rushdie himself spent about ten years in hiding, living in a bewildering succession of makeshift safe-houses all over the UK and the US

At the beginning of the fatwa years, Rushdie was asked by security officers to come up with an alias. He took the first names of two of his favorite writers — “Joseph,” from Conrad, and “Anton,” from Chekhov. So, for ten years, Rushdie was also “Joseph Anton.” That’s the name he gave to his memoir.

We talked to Salman Rushdie about “Joseph Anton” in 2013 in front of an audience at the Literary Arts space in downtown Portland.

You can listen to the whole interview by pressing play:

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