BOOKS: WRITING TO SAVE HIS LIFE

SALMAN RUSHDIE'S FIRST NOVEL SINCE THE SATANIC VERSES IS ABOUT A TALE-TELLER FACING DEATH. BUT DON'T THINK IT'S AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL

NEAR THE END OF THE MOOR'S Last Sigh (Pantheon; 434 pages; $25), a madman holds the novel's narrator, Moraes Zogoiby, prisoner. The captor, an old but rejected friend of Zogoiby's late, flamboyant mother, demands a history of her family before killing its teller. "He had made a Scheherazade of me," Moraes writes. "As long as my tale held his interest he would let me live."

Coming from Salman Rushdie, the notion of a man writing under a death sentence takes on a certain poignance. And the temptation exists, since he is the West's most prominent enforced recluse, to read everything he...

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