The Case of Joseph Anton

Joseph Anton is a dear friend of mine, I caught myself thinking, whilst closing the book at its 633th – and last – page. How come he became so close to me, I pondered. Sure, he was fairly open and honest about his frailties and modest about his victories. He would speak about courage and confidence, yet sometimes he would sink to hopelessness and (rarely) self-pity. He would talk about deep love and counter punch it with infidelity, waves of passion punctured by bursts of great regrets. He was real I thought as I got to know him. And his life and the life of the world he described were real, too. Raw, harsh, ruthless realities of life were served page after page after page and I thought I cannot take this anymore. Isn’t there a happy ending? Joseph Anton said it himself, he was living in no fairy tale.

Tens of thousands of people would claim to hate him, politicians and ayatollahs would use him to pursue their own goals, friends would betray and backstab. The press, desperately seeking to sell a few more copies, would stir and spice and bend until a sizzly-albeit-untruth-story was ready for print. And fear… The fear would creep in and poison peoples’ minds, it would sneak around and tighten its grip around the necks of himself, the people he loved and the people he worked with.

Ah, but do not despair, he said, for the drums of thunder were met by the tide of love and bravery. By selfless people who often put their lives on the line to help the cause he was fighting. By his friends who rose to their greatness and helped him throughout the many years, when the death sentence hung above his head. By countless workers in bookshops and publishing houses around the globe who, sometimes behind bulletproof glass and sometimes not, continued to print and sell the book that supposedly caused it all.

Many bad things happened to Joseph Anton and I would gasp: all this happening to one man? I still hold onto my illusions and even though I managed to fend off some mild adversity, this was way, way beyond what I imagined. At first, I was shocked and doubtful whether I would be strong enough to face such things should they happen, but as I made my way through the book, I calmed down, because so much goodness and love showed up too.

I began to see the book as an account of the real life. I felt the reality projecting herself on its pages. And I liked it very much. Joseph Anton, the code name he used during his years of non-existence under police protection, and also the name of his superb memoir, the life and battles of Salman Rushdie. I tip my hat and bow deeply. May the literature remain free.

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About Petr Klíma