India-born author Salman Rushdie says he chose the alias Joseph Anton during his years in hiding in the wake of an Iranian fatwa as he was advised against using an Indian name, recalling that it felt “worse” to not just lose his name but also ethnicity.
“They told me not to choose an Indian name, to make it even worse you give up not only your name but the ethnicity of your name,” 65-year-old Rushdie said during an appearance on Thursday at the New York Public Library, where he spoke about his memoir Joseph Anton.
He said since he could not have his country of origin in his name, he turned to his own country of literature.
“I thought if I cannot have that country, I will have my own country, which was literature,” Rushdie said explaining why he chose the alias Joseph Anton, which is a combination of writers Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov, both of whom he admired.
Rushdie said once the fatwa was issued against him by Iran’s supreme leader late Ayatollah Khomeini, the subject of discussion stopped being the text of his book The Satanic Verses but “the subject became murder and terrorism”.
He said people did not read the book but formed their opinion based on “falsification, gossip and hearsay”.