Salman Rushdie Recounts Near-Fatal Stabbing Attack in New Memoir 'Knife'

Salman Rushdie's memoir "Knife" recounts his harrowing 2022 stabbing attack, his arduous recovery, and his unwavering commitment to the power of words despite violence and intimidation.

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Rafia Tasleem
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Salman Rushdie Recounts Near-Fatal Stabbing Attack in New Memoir 'Knife'

Salman Rushdie Recounts Near-Fatal Stabbing Attack in New Memoir 'Knife'

Salman Rushdie's memoir 'Knife' provides a harrowing account of the near-fatal stabbing attack he experienced on August 12, 2022, at a public event in Chautauqua, New York. The Indian-born British-American author, who has faced death threats since his 1988 novel 'The Satanic Verses' was deemed blasphemous by Iran's supreme leader, was stabbed multiple times in the neck and abdomen by a knife-wielding assailant, leaving him blind in one eye.

In the book, Rushdie describes the frenzied 27-second attack in graphic detail, recounting how he was stabbed around 15 times by the 24-year-old suspect, Hadi Matar, whose parents emigrated from Lebanon. Despite the severity of the attack, Rushdie miraculously survived, which a doctor attributed to the assailant's lack of knowledge on how to effectively kill with a knife. The memoir also explores Rushdie's thoughts during the incident, questioning why he didn't fight back or run, though he acknowledges that as a 75-year-old man without a weapon, he was no match for his much younger, armed attacker.

'Knife' delves into the aftermath of the attack, documenting Rushdie's arduous recovery process, which involved multiple surgeries and physical therapy. The author sustained severe injuries, including a deep knife wound in his left hand, stab wounds in his neck, and an injury to his right eye that resulted in permanent blindness. Rushdie reflects on the psychological impact of the attack, noting that his "self becomes an object for others to prod, poke, and manipulate."

The memoir also touches on Rushdie's personal life in the wake of the attack, including his marriage to poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths and the passing of his close friend and fellow author Martin Amis. Rushdie expresses scorn for his attacker and is not very interested in understanding Matar's motivations, as he wants to move on and not be defined by the incident. The author suggests that his main reason for writing the book was to own the experience and refuse to be a mere victim, rather than to deeply explore his attacker's mindset.

Why this matters: The stabbing attack on Salman Rushdie sent shockwaves through the literary world and reignited discussions about freedom of expression. Rushdie's memoir not only provides a firsthand account of the harrowing incident but also serves as a record of his resilience and unwavering commitment to the power of words in the face of violence and intimidation.

Rushdie's memoir is seen as a necessary step for him to "own" what happened and refuse to be a mere victim, answering violence with art. The book highlights moments of healing and the outpouring of support Rushdie received from world leaders and the literary community. Despite the trauma he endured, Rushdie revisited the Chautauqua Institution, where the attack took place, finding the experience to be "cathartic." 'Knife' stands as a significant addition to Rushdie's body of work, demonstrating his determination to persist as a novelist in the face of terror.

Key Takeaways

  • Salman Rushdie's memoir 'Knife' recounts his 2022 stabbing attack in graphic detail.
  • Rushdie sustained severe injuries, including permanent blindness in one eye, during the attack.
  • The memoir explores Rushdie's thoughts, recovery, and the psychological impact of the attack.
  • Rushdie aims to 'own' the experience and refuse to be defined as a mere victim.
  • The attack reignited discussions about freedom of expression and Rushdie's resilience as a writer.