Excerpt of Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
(Page 8 of 8)
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"Will I see you tomorrow, Dad?" He shook his head. "But I'll call
you," he said. "I'll call you every evening at seven. If you're not going
to be here," he told Clarissa, "please leave me a message on the answering
machine at home and say when I should call instead." This
was early 1989. The terms PC, laptop, cellphone, mobile phone, Internet,
Wi-Fi, SMS, email, were either unknown or very new. He did not own
a computer or a mobile phone. But he did own a house, even if he
could not spend the night there, and in the house there was an answering
machine, and he could call in and interrogate it, a new use of an old
word, and get, no, retrieve, his messages. "Seven o'clock," he repeated.
"Every night, okay?" Zafar nodded gravely. "Okay, Dad."
He drove home alone and the news on the radio was all bad. Two
days earlier there had been a "Rushdie riot" outside the U.S. Cultural
Center in Islamabad, Pakistan. (It was not clear why the United States
was being held responsible for The Satanic Verses.) The police had fired
on the crowd and there were five dead and sixty injured. The demonstrators
carried signs saying RUSHDIE< YOU ARE DEAD. Now the danger
had been greatly multiplied by the Iranian edict. The Ayatollah Khomeini
was not just a powerful cleric. He was a head of state ordering
the murder of the citizen of another state, over whom he had no jurisdiction;
and he had assassins at his service and they had been used before
against "enemies" of the Iranian Revolution, including enemies
living outside Iran. There was another new word he had to learn. Here
it was on the radio: extraterritoriality. Also known as state-sponsored terrorism.
Voltaire had once said that it was a good idea for a writer to live
near an international frontier so that, if he angered powerful men, he
could skip across the border and be safe. Voltaire himself left France for
En gland after he gave offense to an aristocrat, the Chevalier de Rohan,
and remained in exile for seven years. But to live in a different country
from one's persecutors was no longer to be safe. Now there was extraterritorial
action. In other words, they came after you.
Night in Lonsdale Square was cold, dark and clear. There were two
policemen in the square. When he got out of his car they pretended
not to notice. They were on short patrol, watching the street near the
flat for one hundred yards in each direction, and he could hear their
footsteps even when he was indoors. He realized, in that footstephaunted
silence, that he no longer understood his life, or what it might
become, and he thought for the second time that day that there might
not be very much more of life to understand. Pauline went home and
Marianne went to bed early. It was a day to forget. It was a day to remember.
He got into bed beside his wife and she turned toward him
and they embraced, rigidly, like the unhappily married couple they
were. Then, separately, each lying with their own thoughts, they failed
Footsteps. Winter. A black wing fluttering on a climbing frame. I
inform the proud Muslim people of the world, ristle-te, rostle-te, mo, mo, mo.
To execute them wherever they may find them. Ristle-te, rostle-te, hey bombosity,
knickety-knackety, retroquo -quality, willoby-wallaby, mo, mo, mo.
Excerpted from Joseph Anton
by Salman Rushdie. Copyright © 2012 by Salman Rushdie.
Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.