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Salman Rushdie reflects on attack in 'Knife'

Silke Wünsch
April 16, 2024

In 'Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder,' Salman Rushdie explores the stabbing that nearly killed him in 2022.

Salman Rushdie
Rushdie's right eye was blinded by the stabbingImage: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP

After Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader at the time, issued a fatwa condemning Salman Rushdie to death for alleged blasphemy in his novel "The Satanic Verses" in 1989, the Indian-British author went underground. But he never remained silent.

Living in the US, Rushdie felt safe enough to participate in public events. But on August 12, 2022, he and the world realized that hatred of the writer had not abated. 

At a literary event in the US state of New York, a then 24-year-old man attacked Rushdiewith a knife, seriously injuring the author.

The 76-year-old writer and winner of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is still struggling with the consequences of the attack today: He is blind in one eye and can no longer move one hand.

Nevertheless, Rushdie said in an interview with German weekly, Die Zeit that he had been extremely lucky: "If the attacker had hit me in other parts of my body, my story would be over."

Rushdie wins Peace Prize of German Book Trade

Rushdie: 'My answer to violence is art'

The book "Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder" is now being published in more than 15 countries.

The essays are Rushdie's way of "coming to grips with what happened to him last year when he was stabbed, thus responding to violence with art," as described by publisher Penguin Random House.

Rushdie had already told US magazine The New Yorker in February 2023 that he was planning to write a book about the attack.

After attempting to write the story as a novel, he decided instead on a memoir.

"This is not novelistic. I mean, somebody sticks a knife in you, that's pretty personal. Pretty first person," he said.

Book cover 'Knife' by Salman Rushdie
'Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder' comes out on April 16Image: Random House/AP/picture alliance

To date, the fatwa has not been withdrawn

The fatwa against the writer dates back to February, 1989. Since then, Rushdie has been in constant danger of being attacked by Islamist extremists.

But the renowned novelist and advocate of freedom of speech never wanted to give in to fear.

Publication of 'The Satanic Verses' sparked riots in 1980s

However, in August 2022 the attacker easily gained access to the author at the reading because security precautions were almost non-existent.

The man was arrested after stabbing Rushdie multiple times. The suspect is pleading not guilty to the charge of attempted murder.

The trial against him should have started in January 2024, but the defense had the trial postponed. They said their client had the right to see the book manuscript as potential evidence.

A new date for the start of the trial has not yet been announced.

After his last novel "Victory City" was published in April 2023, "Knife" is now Salman Rushdie's 16th book. It is published on April 16, 2024.

This article was originally written in German.

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