Rushdie's new book on his life on the run

Last Updated 09 September 2012, 08:19 IST

Controversial Mumbai-born writer Salman Rushdie's life on the run when he was under death threats for his novel 'The Satanic Verses', is the subject of his new book scheduled to be released later this month.

The book, published by Jonathan Cape, will be released on 18 September, and a BBC documentary on his ordeal at the time will be telecast the next day, according to The Sunday Times.

In the book, New York-based Rushdie, 65, reportedly reveals how he stayed in 20 different 'safe houses' in Britain, and paid secret visits to friends such as writers Ian McEwan and Hanif Kureishi.

The book is titled 'Joseph Anton', the name Rushdie selected when asked by his police protectors for a pseudonym. He conjured his alias from two of his literary heroes, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov, the report says.

In the forthcoming BBC documentary, Rushdie talks of "being 41 and thinking it pretty unlikely I would see my 42nd birthday. The police told me to lie low for a few days and let the politicians sort it out."

The report adds that Rushdie's first weekend of the fatwa was spent locked inside a bedroom in the Lygon Arms hotel in Broadway, Worcestershire. "One of the other guests," he writes, "was a journalist from the Daily Mirror, who had taken a neighbouring room with a lady who was not his wife.

"When the press had employed teams of snoops to find the author of 'The Satanic Verses', the journalist in the next room missed his scoop." Rushdie lived in several places in Wales, including a bed and breakfast hotel run by a former policeman, rented cottages in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and then settled in the Bishops Avenue in north London.

Rushdie's police protection cost 1 million pounds a year but he had to provide the accommodation. He was taken everywhere in a bulletproof car. Several policemen were always with him, The Sunday Times report says.

Rushdie says in the documentary: "You are zooming around in armoured Jaguars and people are jumping to open doors. But it didn't feel grand. It felt like jail. "It was also up to me find the houses, places the police would approve of. It was just very cooped up. When I wanted a walk, they would have to take me."

In the book, Rushdie says the police accompanied him everywhere, even to the lavatory, but he declined to wear a wig as a disguise. He writes: "He was offered bulletproof vests. He refused. He would not scuttle. He would walk with his head held high."

Rushdie, who eventually apologised for the alleged blasphemy of 'The Satanic Verses' and told Muslims he had no quarrel with the central tenets of Islam, says: "The price of the ticket was to make this statement of faith. I just felt in a state of despair."

(Published 09 September 2012, 08:19 IST)

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