Salman Rushdie strikes back, releases ‘Knife’

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Rushdie releases his much-awaited memoir, "Knife: Meditations After A Murderous Attack"

By Nehru Odeh

Internationally renowned Booker Prize award-winning writer Salman Rushdie on Tuesday released his much-awaited memoir, “Knife: Meditations After A Murderous Attack” – recounting the harrowing experience of being stabbed at a public event in 2022 and how he overcame the near-fatal ordeal. Knife is the bestselling selling writer’s first book since the 2022 stabbing that hospitalized him and left him blind in one eye.

In what amounts to a literary statement and a tenacious determination to claim his life back and own it, Rushdie said he wrote “Knife”, his account of his near-murder at the hands of a 24-year-old Shia Muslim man from New Jersey, for two reasons: because he had to deal with “the elephant-in-the-room” before he could return to writing about anything else, and to understand what the attack was about.

And that suggests in Rushdie’s character, a determination to persist as a novelist and a man in the face of terror. The book is both explicit in the violence Rushdie sustains and heroic in the will to live that Rushdie retains

“Something immense and non-fictional had happened to me,” Rushdie writes. Telling that story “would be my way of owning what had happened, taking charge of it, making it mine, refusing to be a mere victim. I would answer violence with art.”

“At a quarter to eleven on August 12, 2022, on a sunny Friday morning in upstate New York, I was attacked and almost killed by a young man with a knife just after I came out on stage at the amphitheater in Chautauqua to talk about the importance of keeping writers safe from harm,” Rushdie writes in the opening paragraph of the .

Still, many ways, “Knife” is as notable for the spirit it shares with his other books as it is for the blunt and horrifying descriptions of the attack that did, and did not, change his life.

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In the book’s first chapter, Rushdie praises the “pure heroism,” the physical courage of the Chautauqua Institution event moderator Henry Reese, who grabbed the assailant. But if another kind of heroism is hope and determination (and humor) in the wake of trauma, then “Knife” is a heroic book, documenting Rushdie’s journey from lying in his own blood to a return to the same stage 13 months later and attaining a state of “wounded happiness.”

More than about an act of murderous violence, “Knife,” contains a love story. Rushdie recounts meeting, wooing and marrying the American poet and novelist Rachel Eliza Griffiths who greeted him during a PEN America event in 2017 and revealed a “dazzling smile” Rushdie found himself unable to forget.

She was in New York City when she learned of the stabbing, and hurried on a private plane to be with him, having been told he was unlikely to survive.

He dedicates a chapter to meeting and marrying the lady who is three drcades hus junior. She is now Lady Rushdie; her husband was knighted in 2007 for services to literature. Their story adds buoyancy to this memoir. But it takes a long time for that light to pour in. First there will be arduous recovery and rehab.

Rushdie’s charged assailant is Hadi Matar, but the author refers to him as “The A.,” short for “The Ass” (or “Asinine man”). He does allow his imagination to expend itself on an unlikely dialogue with the fellow being he knows only through a momentous span of 27 seconds.

Why even pretend to speak with his would-be killer? “I’m not looking for an apology. I do wonder how he feels, now that he has had time to think things over,” Rushdie .

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