By: Mohnish Singh
Salman Rushdie, the Mumbai-born author of Booker Prize-winning novel ‘Midnight’s Children’, said on Monday that he feels lucky to have survived the last year’s brutal stabbing at a literary event in the US as he spoke for the first time about the “colossal attack”.
The 75-year-old British American novelist was giving a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in New York – where he is based – on August 12 last year when a man stormed the stage and stabbed and punched him several times.
In his first interview since the attack which has caused loss of vision in one eye, the author told ‘The New Yorker’ magazine that his main feeling was one of gratitude to those who showed their support and his family, including sons Zafar and Milan.
“I’m lucky. What I really want to say is that my main overwhelming feeling is gratitude,” Rushdie told the magazine.
“I’m able to get up and walk around. When I say I’m fine, I mean, there are bits of my body that need constant check ups. It was a colossal attack,” he said.
Asked if he felt it had been a mistake to let his guard down in New York, years after the fatwa by Iran’s former supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini called on Muslims to assassinate the author over the allegedly “blasphemous” novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, he replied: “Well, I’m asking myself that question, and I don’t know the answer to it. I did have more than 20 years of life. So, is that a mistake?” “Also, I wrote a lot of books. ‘The Satanic Verses’ was my fifth published book — my fourth published novel — and this [‘Victory City’] is my twenty-first. So, three-quarters of my life as a writer has happened since the fatwa. In a way, you can’t regret your life,” he added.
The celebrated author told the magazine that he was very moved by the tributes that his near-death inspired and is determined to look forward.
“It’s very nice that everybody was so moved by this, you know? I had never thought about how people would react if I was assassinated, or almost assassinated,” he said.
“I’ve tried very hard over these years to avoid recrimination and bitterness. I just think it’s not a good look. One of the ways I’ve dealt with this whole thing is to look forward and not backwards. What happens tomorrow is more important than what happened yesterday,” he added.
“She kind of took over at a point when I was helpless,” he said of his wife, poet, and novelist Rachel Eliza Griffiths.
His latest novel, ‘Victory City’, completed before the attack, traces back to a trip decades ago to Hampi, the site in Karnataka of the ruins of the medieval Vijayanagara empire.
“The first kings of Vijayanagara announced, quite seriously, that they were descended from the moon… It’s like saying, ‘I’ve descended from the same family as Achilles.’ Or Agamemnon. And so, I thought, well, if you could say that, I can say anything,” the author said.
Rushdie’s attacker Hadi Matar is being held in the Chautauqua County Jail in the village of Mayville, charged with attempted murder in the second degree and facing a lengthy prison sentence.