Rushdie says his memoir, Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder, was a necessary book for him to write: ‘a way to take charge of what happened, and to answer violence with art’
Salman Rushdie’s new memoir, Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder, a gripping account of surviving an attempt on his life 30 years after the fatwa was ordered against him, will be published by Penguin Random House on April 16 next year. Speaking out for the first time and in unforgettable detail about the traumatic events of 12 August 2022, the 256-page book has been described by the publisher as “a powerful, deeply personal and ultimately uplifting meditation on life, loss, love, the power of art, finding the strength to keep going — and to stand up again.” Rushdie was stabbed repeatedly by a 24-year-old man named Hadi Matar, who has been charged with attempted murder, before a public lecture at New York’s Chautauqua Institute.
“This was a necessary book for me to write: a way to take charge of what happened, and to answer violence with art,” the 76-year-old Rushdie, who has written more than a dozen novels, including Midnight’s Children (for which he won the Booker Prize in 1981, the Booker of Bookers on the 25th anniversary of the prize and Best of the Booker on the 40th anniversary) and The Satanic Verses, said in a statement. His previous memoir, Joseph Anton, published in 2012, recounts his years in hiding after multiple threats to his life following the publication of The Satanic Verses in September 1988.
‘A reminder of the power of words’
‘Knife is a searing book, and a reminder of the power of words to make sense of the unthinkable. We are honoured to publish it, and amazed at Salman’s determination to tell his story, and to return to the work he loves,’ Nihar Malaviya, CEO of Penguin Random House, said in a statement. Rushdie’s novels have been translated into over 40 languages. His other works of fiction include Shame, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Quichotte, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2019.
In June 2007, Rushdie received a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and he joined the prestigious Companions of Honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in her Platinum Jubilee year. His new novel, Victory City — a tale for our times, styled as an ancient epic and a testament to the power of storytelling — was published globally in February this year to critical acclaim.
The attack: An 'I' story
As a result of the assault in August last year, Rushdie suffered grievous injuries, including four wounds to the abdomen, three injuries to the right side of his neck, and additional wounds to his right eye, chest, and right thigh. Matar, the alleged assailant, has pleaded not guilty and is currently held in custody without the option of bail. The threat of attacks against Rushdie has loomed since the late 1980s, even since the publication of The Satanic Verses. The novel incurred the wrath of Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who deemed it blasphemous due to passages referencing the Prophet Muhammad. Subsequently, Khomeini issued a decree calling for Rushdie’s execution, which forced the author into hiding.
Speaking with The New Yorker about his ordeal, Rushdie told interviewer David Remnick for a February issue of the magazine that he had worked hard to avoid “recrimination and bitterness” and was determined to “look forward and not backwards”. Rushdie had also said that he was struggling to write fiction, as he did in the years immediately after the fatwa, and that he might instead write a memoir. He wrote in detail, and in the third person, about the fatwa in Joseph Anton, which runs into 656 pages. “This doesn’t feel third-person-ish to me,” Rushdie said of the 2022 attack in the magazine interview. “I think when somebody sticks a knife into you, that’s a first-person story. That’s an ‘I’ story.”