Following the release of his book The Satanic Verses, a fatwa was issued against Rushdie by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini and he was forced into hiding for nearly a decade—a harrowing time that is now the subject of his new book. Unsure of how to react to the news that his life was in jeopardy, Rushdie laughingly says that he “ran downstairs and, kind of ridiculously, locked the front door.” Since the fatwa, the author tells Stewart that his “life turned into a sort of spy novel.” He also admits to feeling somewhat detached from those memories, as if they had been “happening to someone else.” A feeling, he says, that contributed to formatting Joseph Anton in a third-person narrative, rather than the first-person style traditionally used in memoirs. In his writing, and his enrapturing public speeches, Rushdie champions the unique way that literature can inspire and spark intellectual debate, while illustrating the perils of free speech and the price we sometimes have to pay for speaking our mind.
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