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I have been considering the concept of losing chunks of one’s personal history through the accidents of world events. This could almost be a quote from Salman Rushdie whom I had not read at the time of the fatwa in 1989. However Rushdie’s retreat from public life was the loss of an artist of my world, all but made to disappear completely by the dastardly deeds of a coven of medieval “thinkers” in a far off land.

Where was this man’s work, his art, going to go before I had even engaged with any of it? Sadly it did disappear for me and I am sure many others for too many years. But I read and revered Rushdie in the end; and with the arrival of “Joseph Anton” I am reading him again with immense pleasure and interest as a major part of the climate of the past 20 years of my life is revealed. Art, philosophy, literature, politics, religion, relationships, captivity and liberty are page by page intertwined in a devilish maze of light fighting dark. Rushdie’s imprisonments and disappearances made for a more than stressful life with often fading hopes of release and resumption of his writing but he did write again, confounding one of his worst fears. “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” was written for his son, Zafar and was a success; followed by more highly praised adult fiction and now the new autobiography which may be long, but not as long as it was for Rushdie.

Jonathan Cape / Hardback / £25 / 9780224093972

Philip Maltman

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