Salman Rushdie: Losing an eye upsets me every day

  • By Alan Yentob and Noor Nanji
  • BBC

Video caption, Sir Salman Rushdie on the knife attack

Sir Salman Rushdie has spoken in chilling detail to the BBC about what he remembers about the attack two years ago, in which he was stabbed on stage.

The Booker Prize-winning author said his eye hangs in his face “like a boiled egg”, and that losing the eye “devastates him every day”.

“I remember thinking I was dying,” he said. “Luckily, I was wrong.”

Sir Salman said he was using his new book, Knife, to combat what happened.

The attack took place at an educational institution in New York state in August 2022, as he was preparing to give a lecture.

He remembers that the attacker came “running down the stairs” and stabbed him 12 times, including in the neck and abdomen, during an attack that lasted 27 seconds.

“I couldn’t have fought him,” the author said. “I couldn’t have run away from him.”

Video caption, Watch: From the scene where Salman Rushdie was attacked on stage

Sir Salman said he fell to the ground, where he lay with “a spectacular amount of blood” all around him.

He was taken to hospital by helicopter and spent six weeks recovering there.

The 76-year-old British-American author of Indian origin is one of the most influential writers of modern times. The attack made headlines around the world.

Legend, Alan Yentob and Sir Salman, pictured with Lady Rushdie, have known each other for more than 40 years

Sir Salman had already spent several years in hiding after the 1988 publication of The Satanic Verses sparked threats against his life.

He admitted he had thought someone might “jump out of an audience” one day.

“Clearly, it would have been absurd if it hadn’t occurred to me.”

“Upset every day”

The attack damaged Sir Salman’s liver and hands, and severed the nerves in his right eye.

His eye was “very distended and swollen,” he said. “It was sort of hanging from my face, resting on my cheek,” I said, “like a boiled egg. And blind.”

Sir Salman said losing an eye “shakes me up every day”. He realizes that he needs to be more careful when going down stairs, crossing a road or even pouring water into a glass.

But he counts himself lucky to have avoided brain damage. “It meant I was still able to be myself.”

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, A solidarity rally for free speech took place in New York after Sir Salman’s attack.

The moderator of the event at which Sir Salman was stabbed told the BBC he wished he could have done more to prevent the attack.

“You feel like if you had acted more quickly, a lot of things could have been avoided,” Henry Reese said.

But Sir Salman’s gratitude to the people who helped him that day, including Mr. Reese, as well as the doctors who treated him, is clear from the first page of Knife.

The book is dedicated quite simply to “the men and women who saved my life”.

“Is this a reason to kill?

For the first time, Sir Salman has revealed what he would like to say to his alleged attacker.

Hadi Matar, a 26-year-old New Jersey resident, was accused of stabbing him. Mr. Matar has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.

Sir Salman Rushdie speaks about the knife attack that almost ended his life in 2022, in an interview with Alan Yentob ahead of the publication of a new book about the aftermath of the incident.

In Knife, Sir Salman has an imaginary conversation with his attacker, in which he responds.

“In America, many people pretend to be honest, but they wear masks and lie. And would that be a reason to kill them all?” he asks.

Sir Salman never met Mr Matar. But it is likely he will come face to face in court when the trial begins.

The trial was delayed after the accused’s lawyers argued they had a right to see Sir Salman’s book because it could constitute evidence. It is now scheduled to take place in the fall.

Why has The Satanic Verses been so controversial?

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, The Satanic Verses have sparked widespread protests

Salman Rushdie rose to fame with Midnight’s Children in 1981, which sold over a million copies in the UK alone.

But his fourth book, The Satanic Verses,’s depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and its references to religion were considered blasphemous and banned in several majority-Muslim countries.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iranian leader, issued a fatwa – or religious decree – in 1989, calling for Rushdie’s assassination and placing a bounty of $3m (£2.4m) on his head of the author. This fatwa has never been canceled.

As a result, Rushdie was forced into hiding for almost a decade and required an armed bodyguard due to the number of death threats he received.

Sir Salman, born to non-practicing Muslim parents and an atheist, has long been a staunch defender of freedom of expression.

But he warned it had become “much more difficult”.

“A lot of people, including a lot of young people, I’m sorry to say, have thought that restrictions on free speech are often a good idea,” he said.

“Whereas of course the whole point of free speech is that you have to allow speech that you don’t agree with.”

Sir Salman recalls how, as he lay in a pool of blood, he found himself “thinking stupidly” about his personal affairs.

He worried his Ralph Lauren suit would be ruined and his house keys and credit cards would fall out of his pocket.

“In the moment, of course, it’s ridiculous. But in retrospect, what it tells me is that there was a part of me that didn’t intend to die. There was a part of me saying, ‘I’m going to die.’ I need these house keys, and I’m going to need these credit cards.”

He said it was a “survival instinct” that told him: ‘You’re going to live. Live. Live.’

A year before the attack, Sir Salman had married his fifth wife, the American poet and novelist Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Lady Rushdie told the BBC that when she heard about the attack she “started screaming. It was the worst day of my life.”

Lady Rushdie describes being at Sir Salman’s side while doctors sewed his eyelids shut.

“I love his eyes, and he left home with two of them, and then our world changed,” she said. “And now I love his unique eye even more because of the way he sees the world.”

Sir Salman describes Knife as “at least as much a love story” as a horror story.

“There were two forces colliding here. One was the force of violence, of fanaticism, of intolerance, and the other was the force of love,” he said. “And of course, the power of love is embodied in the figure of my wife Eliza.”

“And in the end, what I understand from what happened is that the force of love proved stronger than the forces of hatred.”

Sir Salman said he would hold public events again but would be “more cautious” in future. “The safety issue will be the first question. If I’m not happy with it, I won’t do it.”

But he added that he’s “a pretty stubborn person.”

“I don’t want a restricted or confined life,” he said. “I’m going to have my life.”

Gn entert
News Source : www.bbc.com


With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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