Salman Rushdie on Knife Attack: Survival ‘Feels Like a Miracle’

Jessamyn Dodd
By Jessamyn Dodd
April 16, 2024US News
Salman Rushdie on Knife Attack: Survival ‘Feels Like a Miracle’
Salman Rushdie speaks onstage at The Center for Fiction 2023 Annual Awards Benefit at Cipriani 25 Broadway in New York on Dec. 5, 2023. (Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for The Center for Fiction)

In an interview with “60 Minutes,” acclaimed novelist Sir Salman Rushdie revealed his thoughts on the knife attack that nearly claimed his life in August 2022, describing his survival as an inexplicable occurrence. Reflecting on the incident, Mr. Rushdie pondered, “How does somebody who doesn’t believe in the supernatural account for the fact that something has happened, which feels like a miracle?”

In the wake of the attack, the Indian-born novelist has expressed confusion about the circumstances surrounding his survival, “I certainly don’t feel that some hand reached down from the sky and guarded me, but I do think something happened which wasn’t supposed to happen. I have no explanation for it.”

The attack occurred during Mr. Rushdie’s scheduled lecture at the Chautauqua Institution, where he was stabbed on stage, leading to severe injuries, including a damaged liver and severed nerves. Shedding light on the chilling moments, the author recalled, “I saw the man in black running towards me… it felt like something coming out of the distant past and trying to drag me back in time… back into that distant past in order to kill me.”

Following the incident, 24-year-old Hadi Matar was arrested and transferred from New York State Police barracks in Jamestown to Chautauqua County Jail in upstate New York. Mr. Matar entered a not-guilty plea in a New York courtroom to the charge of second-degree attempted murder. He has yet to stand trial.

Hadi Matar
Hadi Matar (C), 24, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., on Aug. 13, 2022. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Ayatollah Issues Fatwa

“The Satanic Verses,” authored by Mr. Rushdie, incited uproar upon its release in 1988, chiefly among some Muslim-majority countries and communities who considered it blasphemous.

Amidst it all, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khamenei of Iran issued a fatwa, an Islamic edict, calling for Mr. Rushdie’s execution in 1989. Fearing for his life, Mr. Rushdie sought refuge in the United Kingdom, where he is now a citizen.

Reaction to the book’s publication resulted in the assassination of its Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, in 1991 and attacks on others associated with it. Italian translator Ettore Capriolo survived a knife attack in the same year but suffered severe wounds. William Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher of the novel, was shot three times outside his residence in Oslo, sustaining serious injuries in 1993.

Diplomatic negotiations eventually led to Iran officially declaring the matter resolved, pledging not to endorse further threats against Mr. Rushdie. However, Iranian religious figures and factions persisted in advocating for Mr. Rushdie’s death, intermittently increasing the bounty on his head, which reportedly stands at nearly $4 million, according to Reuters.

Author Salman Rushdie after he was attacked
Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., on Aug. 12, 2022. (Joshua Goodman/AP Photo)

Ordeal Detailed in Latest Memoir

Despite the trauma, Mr. Rushdie acknowledges the intervention of strangers who halted the assailant’s advance, acknowledging their pivotal role in his survival. The intervention of audience members around him—people who remain total strangers to him even today—stopped the attack and gave him a fighting chance.

Mr. Rushdie’s ordeal, detailed in his latest memoir “Knife,” serves as a testament to his resilience in the face of adversity. Reflecting on his decision to document the attack, he said, “I don’t have any other weapons, but I’ve been using this particular tool for quite a long time, and so I thought this was my way of dealing with it.”

The reality of his mortality remains a constant presence in his life “I don’t feel I’m very different, but I do feel that it has left a shadow,” he confessed. “I just feel more the presence of death.”

From The Epoch Times

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