In 1989, writer Salman Rushdie went into hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for his book "The Satanic Verses." His new memoir "Joseph Anton" details that experience and Rushdie's rise to literary fame.
Rushdie believes that what happened to him -- the Iranian death sentence, the years of hiding -- is a kind of "prelude" to the organized outrage that we see today among extremist groups in Libya, Iran and Pakistan.
"In the years that followed the attack on 'Satanic Verses,' that attacks of that kind just became more and more frequent and of larger and larger scale," Rushie said on The Daily Circuit Oct. 18, 2012. "Attacks, for example, on other writers who were accused of the same supposed crimes that I was, these medieval crimes of heresy and apostasy and blasphemy. They were writers across the Muslim world who were attacked and many of them were killed. ... This was a broadening attack on freedom of expression, and then of course it went far beyond freedom of expression into a broader terrorist attack on entire countries like the United States."
At the time of "Satanic Verses," Rushdie said nobody really understood what was happening because there wasn't a larger narrative that fit his experience. That changed after the 9/11 attacks, he said.
"What happened is that the thing that had been my little marginal story suddenly became everyone's story," he said.
While in hiding, he assumed a new identity, Joseph Anton, as he felt his old one slipping away. Rushdie writes in his new memoir: "His old self's habits were of no use anymore. He was a new self now."
"If people just think for a minute about what it means to give up your name, what it means to give up your open existence in the world, how profound that is," he said. "On top of that, to be asked to give up the ethnicity of your name... It's a very confusing and disorienting and bewildering thing to be asked to do and then to live with that for a decade, it's not easy."
RUSHDIE ON AMERICA AS THE TARGET FOR VIOLENCE
"It's easy to use America as a target because that feeds into an existing narrative in those countries, that America is the great enemy. You can say they have some fodder for this claim because of these various wars that have been fought in recent years and the dislike of drone killings... But essentially it's a carefully constructed paranoid image of the West, that the West is somehow out to get Islam. This idea that there exists a broad conspiracy in the west to degrade and destroy Islam gets a lot of airtime and it's what feeds these acts of violence."
ON THE FATWA
"There was a bit of me instinctively which knew immediately that it was incredibly dangerous... But of course I wanted to believe that in this case it was just a piece of fist waving, fist shaking.
ON GOING INTO HIDING
"I think I may have made a mistake in retrospect. I have often thought that if I had it to do again, I would not have agreed to go underground... The reason I gave in to that request was because we all thought this was going to be a very brief duration. I remember the police saying to me, 'It's impossible, it can't be allowed to stand. That the head of a foreign country can order the death of a British citizen in Britain, living in his own country, who's done nothing wrong, and to send terrorist groups to carry that out. It can't be allowed, therefore it will be fixed.'"
ON WRITING AGAIN
"It was very difficult to get my bearings back and to regain my sense of myself as a writer and just as a person in the world... But I think in some ways I was saved by the fact that the work that I do is something I can do sitting alone in a room. I think writers are actually trained to sit alone in rooms and stare out the window and wonder what the hell to do."
WHAT RUSHDIE IS READING
Rushdie said he just started reading Junot Diaz's "This Is How You Lose Her." Diaz was part of this season's Talking Volumes at the Fitzgerald Theater.
Rushdie was in the Twin Cities for a Pen Pals series at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.
MPR News' Kerri Miller and Alex DiPalma contributed to this report.