Rushdie on Being Attacked: 'I'm Not Good With Fear'

But in AP interview nearly 2 years after stabbing, author says he feels he has 'a little iron in the soul'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 20, 2024 8:30 AM CDT
Nearly 2 Years After Attack, Rushdie Has 'Iron in the Soul'
Salman Rushdie poses for a portrait to promote his book "Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder" on Thursday in New York.   (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

Nearly two years after the knife attack that nearly killed him, Salman Rushdie appears both changed and very much the same. Interviewed this week at the Manhattan offices of his longtime publisher, Random House, Rushdie is thinner, paler, scarred, and blind in his right eye. He speaks of "iron" in his soul and the struggle to write his next full-length work of fiction as he concentrates on promoting Knife, a memoir about his stabbing that he took on if only because he had no choice. But he remains the engaging, articulate, and uncensored champion of artistic freedom and the ingenious deviser of Midnight's Children and other lauded works of fiction. He has been, and still is an optimist—helplessly so, he acknowledges. He also has the rare sense of confidence one can only attain through surviving one's worst nightmare. "In Midnight's Children I wrote about optimism as a disease," he says. "People get infected by it, and I think I got a lifetime infection." Other standouts from the interview:

  • Age: Chronologically, Rushdie is nearly 77, the age his father was when he died, and an age he sees as a kind of milestone in his own quest to beat expectations. Internally, however, Rushdie says he feels about 25.
  • Book: Rushdie says that for six months after the attack, "I couldn't even think about writing. I wasn't physically strong enough. And when I did sit down to write, initially, I didn't want to write this book. I actually wanted to get back to fiction, and I tried and it just seemed stupid. I just thought, 'Look, something very big happened to you.' And to pretend that it didn't and just go on telling fairy tales ... I would have felt like I was avoiding the subject."
  • Writing struggles: "I was worried about retraumatization" in penning the new book, he reveals. "And the first chapter, in which the actual attack is described in great detail—that was very godd--- hard to write." He says his therapist helped him get through the project.
  • On his toughness: "If you had told me that this was going to happen and how would I deal with it, I would not have been very optimistic about my chances," Rushdie says. "I'm not good with fear. I'm not good with pain. You know, I'm just an ordinary guy hoping those things don't happen."
  • Childhood: "I was a very quiet kid," Rushdie says after being asked if he'd ever thought while growing up that he would one day be in such hot water. "I was really well-behaved. My sister, who's one year younger than me, she was the naughty one. She would beat people up for me and I would get her out of trouble."
  • Changed man: Rushdie says he's still the same guy, and "I don't feel other than myself." But now, "there's a little iron in the soul, I think. And I also think the thing that happens when you get really a close-up look at death—that's as close as you can get without actually doing the dance of death and heading off to nowhere—it stays with you."
More of Rushdie's interview here. (The author has previously called his attacker an "idiot.")

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.