I've been reading Joseph Anton which is written almost like a novel in the third person, but it's a memoir by Salman Rushdie about his early life and time during the 11 years being under the fatwa. It's quite good -- the title comes from the code name he used during that time, "Joseph" coming from Joseph Conrad, and "Anton" from Chekhov. And amid it all, there's one particularly interesting, fun passage that stands out for being one of those things we refer to as unintended consequences.
It comes during a section on negotiations to find a publisher for his upcoming novel, The Satanic Verses. There was no controversy at that point, so the issue was a case of advance money and what publisher would be best to handle the distribution.
He had been with a small publisher for a few years and had become close to the owner, and his agent (with whom he was also close) recommended it. However, other agents were involved, as were other, larger companies. (One -- which made the best offer -- was owned by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, and Rushdie notes how thrilled he is that the offer was turned down, because he's certain they never would have supported the book after the difficulties began.)
In the end, for long reasons explained in the book, he went with one of the larger publishers. In the process, though, it hurt his friendship with the smaller publisher, and with his agent and friend, who he lost when he took the other offer.
Rushdie notes that, as it happened, over time, his strong friendship with the small publisher and agent managed to build itself up again, and they became very helpful supporters during his time being protected, which he explains in detail later in the book. But it was something else long in the future which he said likely never would have happened if he had stayed with his former publisher, and so it turned out to be the decision all for the best, even though it didn't seem like that at the time.
As Rushdie notes, because his former publisher was so small, it is not likely that they could have handled the pressures caused by the fatwa. Even his large, corporate publisher had huge difficulties with it -- having to build extra security measures in to their headquarters and pay a great deal for extra security personnel. Not to mention needing the cover of a large enterprise to be able to handle all the requirements of logistics that came crushing down on the company. He says that if the small publisher had handled The Satanic Verses, it's likely that they would have been overwhelmed by it all, taken huge financial its, and gone out of business.
And if that had happened, he writes, the small publisher, Bloomsbury, "would never have survived to discover an obscure, unpublished children's author called Jo Rowling."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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