Famed British-Indian author Salman Rushdie has given his first interview since being brutally stabbed in August 2022 at a literary event in New York City.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The New Yorker, Rushdie said he was “lucky” to have survived the assassination attempt and emphasized his gratitude to all those who have helped him thus far.
“At some point, I’d like to go back up there and say thank you,” he said of the paramedics and doctors that attended to him in the immediate aftermath.
The 75-year-old novelist was stabbed in the neck and torso while talking on stage at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. He spent six weeks in the hospital recovering after the attack, which led him to lose sight in one eye as well as the use of his hands. Still, he has regained partial feeling in his hand and said the “big injuries are healed,” although he still has a long way to go before fully recovering.
Before his stabbing made global headlines last year, Rushdie was best known for his controversial book The Satanic Verses. This novel has largely been condemned for its blasphemous portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad and its insult to Islam.
The backlash included death threats and forced him into hiding for nearly 10 years after the book was published in 1988. Then-Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa — a legal ruling from the point of view of Islamic law — calling for Rushdie’s assassination with a $3 million bounty on the author’s head.
So when 24-year-old Hadi Matar was arrested by authorities for the attempted assassination, many in the Muslim world praised him and it is believed that he was trying to carry out the fatwa issued by Khomeini.
Matar is currently being held in the Chautauqua County Jail and has been charged with second-degree attempted murder as well as second-degree assault for the attack on Henry Reese, Rushdie’s friend, and moderator of the event who was also stabbed.
Despite living a life riddled with threats and bounties, Rushdie hasn’t had personal security with him for more than 20 years. He explained how he does not want to dwell on “recrimination and bitterness” following the attack, because “what happens tomorrow is more important than what happened yesterday.”
In that vein, Rushdie is looking forward to the opening of his play “Helen,” for which he hopes to travel to London with security arrangements and his health permitting.
“I’m going to tell you really truthfully, I’m not thinking about the long term,” he said in his interview. “I’m thinking about little step by little step.”
But at the moment, his main focus remains the publication of his latest book Victory City. He is eager to see how it will be received following the attack that left many in the literary world shocked. Adding context to that statement, he recalled how sales for The Satanic Verses skyrocketed after the fatwa was issued, in what he called the “sympathy wave.”
He finished writing Victory City last summer just before the stabbing, and it is set to release later this week. According to his agent Andrew Wylie, he will not be making any public appearances to promote the novel as he continues to recover from the attack.
Rushdie admitted that it has been “very, very difficult to write” since the attack, both physically and mentally.
“I write, but it’s a combination of blankness and junk … I’m not out of that forest yet, really.”
Still, he remains hopeful for what may come.
“One of the things about being seventy-five and having written twenty-one books is that you know that, if you keep at it, something will come.”
Some of Rushdie’s best-selling works include Midnight’s Children, The Moor’s Last Sigh, and The Ground Beneath Her Feet, among several others.
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