'Why didn't I fight…?': Salman Rushdie relives brutal knife attack in new memoir | World News - Hindustan Times

'Why didn't I fight…?': Salman Rushdie relives brutal knife attack in new memoir

Apr 16, 2024 09:11 AM IST

Salman Rushdie, the 76-year-old British-American author, was on stage in August 2022 when he was stabbed up to 12 times. He ultimately lost his right eye.

British-American author Salman Rushdie, who was attacked with a knife at a public event in 2022 that left him blind in one eye, recounted the incident in his new memoir ‘Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder’ which hits stores on Tuesday, April 16.

British-US author Salman Rushdie poses for photographers. (AFP file)
British-US author Salman Rushdie poses for photographers. (AFP file)

The Indian-born author, a naturalised American based in New York, has faced death threats since his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” was declared blasphemous by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, making Salman Rushdie a global symbol of free speech.

The 76-year-old British-American author was on stage in August 2022 when he was stabbed up to 12 times by accused Hadi Matar in prison for attempted murder. He ultimately lost his right eye.

“Why didn't I fight? Why didn't I run? I just stood there like a pinata and let him smash me,” Salman Rushdie writes, according to memoir excerpts released by The Guardian newspaper.

"It didn't feel dramatic, or particularly awful. It just felt probable... matter-of-fact."

While Iran denied any link with the attacker, it said only Salman Rushdie, now 76 years old, was to blame for the incident. The suspect, then 24, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.

In an interview with the New York Post, the alleged attacker, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Lebanon, said he had only read two pages of "The Satanic Verses" but believed Salman Rushdie had “attacked Islam”, news agency AFP reported.

The Mumbai-born Booker Prize-winning author, in an interview with the BBC ahead of the release of his detailed account of the attack, said he thought he was dying as his left eye hung down his face “like a soft-boiled egg”.

In the interview, Salman Rushdie admitted that losing an eye is something that “upsets me every day” and that the memoir was his way of fighting back against what happened.

“I actually thought he punched me very hard. I didn't realise it was a knife in his hand, and then I saw the blood, and I realised there was a weapon,” said Salman Rushdie.

“I think he was just slashing wildly at everything. So, there was a very big slash across my neck and stab wounds down by the middle of my torso and two to the side, and then there was the wound in my eye, which was quite deep. It looked terrible. I mean, it was very distended, swollen, and it was kind of hanging out of my face, sitting on my cheek like a soft-boiled egg, and I am blind,” he recalls.

"I remember thinking I was dying. Fortunately, I was wrong," he said. Salman Rushdie recounted how his attacker came “sprinting up the stairs” and stabbed him 12 times in an attack lasting 27 seconds.

“I couldn't have fought him. I couldn't have run away from him,” the author told the BBC. He fell to the floor, where he lay with “a spectacular quantity of blood” all around him before he was rushed to a hospital by helicopter and spent six weeks recovering there.

(With inputs from AFP, PTI)

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