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ABR Arts

Book of the Week

Knife: Meditations after an attempted murder

Knife: Meditations after an attempted murder by Salman Rushdie

The opening pages of Knife give an account of the attempted murder of Salman Rushdie at a speaking engagement in upstate New York on 12 August 2022. His assailant charged out of the audience and onto the stage, where he attacked the author, using one of several knives he had brought along, for exactly twenty-seven seconds. Rushdie is precise about that detail, which one imagines is rather a long time if you are being stabbed. By the time he was restrained, the would-be assassin had seriously wounded Rushdie’s left hand, punctured his torso multiple times, slashed his neck, and stabbed him in the right eye deeply enough to destroy the optic nerve.




From the Archive

August 2006, no. 283

‘Whistler’s Boatman’ by Kate Middleton

Imagine the moment of hesitation:

the catch in his voice,


he could not turn back: after years

up and down the river, a request

From the Archive

August 1985, no. 73

Illywhacker by Peter Carey

An Illywhacker, Peter Carey reminds us at the start of his latest and by far his longest novel, is a trickster or spieler. Wilkes cites it in Kylie Tennant’s famous novel of 1941, The Battlers. The other epigraph to the novel is also preoccupied with deception and is familiar to anyone who knows Carey’s work: Brian Kiernan used it as the title of his anthology of new Australian short story writers, The Most Beautiful Lies, an anthology in which Carey himself was represented: It is from Mark Twain and reads in part: ‘Australian history … does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies; and all of a fresh new sort, no mouldy old stale ones. It is full of surprises and adventures, the incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all true, they all happened.’

From the Archive

May 1981, no. 30

A House with Verandahs by Nene Gare

Australia in the thirties – tough, innocent, conservative and patriarchal to the ninth degree. In A House with Verandahs Nene Gare writes about men dispossessed by the Depression and who become working class casualties, unable to grasp the world outside and clinging tenaciously to the world of domesticity and the comfort of women. And, in tum, the women struggle to maintain their world and to support each other through the petty obstinacy of their men. Nene Gare’s novel is drawn from her own childhood – its form is close to the autobiographical fiction of the Canadian writer Alice Munro. It also has similarities to Glen Tomasetti’s Thoroughly Decent People, and to a much earlier Australian classic, Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians. All depict the culture of women and the linked culture of children. Like much of the fiction written by women, A House with Verandahs is episodic as it meanders through the intricacies of human relationships. The world outside makes very few impingements even the man’s work as a tradesman is spent in the backyard workshop. The Hounslow family are poor. They recycle everything in their battle to survive. Women’s skills are endlessly on call to save the day-old cast-off adult wear clothes are cut and made into children’s Fruit is bottled and preserved and served up as jams and chutneys. House­hold repairs are done by the family members usually again by the women or left to languish. The men are so debilitated that all their energy is spent keeping face. Anything extra is a threat to their identity and to their position. Molly Hounslow must continually remind her more rebellious and impatient daughters to be careful of Dad. She says after any crisis: ‘Don’t say anything to your father ... it might worry him. We all knew about not worrying Dad. It made him nervy . . . newspapers also upset him. He said people would get the idea from newspapers that the world was full of criminals.’