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Marked man

The perfidy of zealots, and some other writers
by
June 2024, no. 465

Knife: Meditations after an attempted murder by Salman Rushdie

Jonathan Cape, $36.99 pb, 209 pp

Marked man

The perfidy of zealots, and some other writers
by
June 2024, no. 465

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.

Rushdie refers to this horrific near-fatal assault on several occasions in Knife as a loss of ‘innocence’ – an odd characterisation coming from someone who had lived as the world’s most famous marked man for more than three decades. Given that the threat against his life has not disappeared, the word seems credible only if he means innocent in the sense of ‘naïve’. Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa calling for Rushdie’s murder, declared in February 1989, was reaffirmed as recently as 2017. There was still a multi-million-dollar bounty on Rushdie’s head, as he was no doubt aware. He had long anticipated the moment. As his attacker runs toward him, he thinks: ‘So its you. Here you are.’ Yet one can hardly blame him for entertaining the idea that, after all this time, things might have cooled down enough for him to lower his guard, if only a little. ‘Surely the world had moved on,’ he writes, ‘and that subject was closed.’

Knife: Meditations after an attempted murder

Knife: Meditations after an attempted murder

by Salman Rushdie

Jonathan Cape, $36.99 pb, 209 pp

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