Salman Rushdie’s Knife is moving, sardonic and not for the squeamish – review

Salman Rushdie

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The content discussed in Salman Rushdie's "Knife" would not be suitable for those who are easily disturbed. Rushdie, who is of Indian descent but currently holds British and American citizenship, recounts the brutal assault he suffered at the hands of Hadi Matar on August 12, 2022 with great detail. Rushdie vividly remembers how his "damaged eye" was grotesquely swollen, jutting out from its socket and sagging on his face like a big, boiled egg.

Salman Rushdie - Figure 1
Photo The Independent

It has been revealed that Rushdie was attacked and stabbed 15 times in just 27 seconds. The attacker aimed for various body parts such as the right eye, neck, left hand, liver, abdomen, face, forehead, cheeks, mouth, and chest. The incident occurred while Rushdie was speaking on stage at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State, preparing to give a lecture on the significance of ensuring writers' safety from harm. This detailed account is found in Rushdie's latest memoir.

The book, which is titled Meditations After an Attempted Murder, has important information that is worth sharing. It reveals that Rushdie was so "mesmerized" by his attacker that he didn't try to run away or fight back. He also had a dream two days before the attack where he was in a gladiator arena and being stabbed with a spear. Additionally, he believes that the British intelligence services stopped at least six assassination attempts against him. He still receives 24-hour protection from the Metropolitan Police when he visits his family in the US.

The section talks about a book that narrates a violent experience undergone by the author and his journey to recovery. The book also delves into various themes like the significance of art, the gravity of life and death, and how violence is present in our daily lives. The author's statement about a knife attack being a kind of intimacy is particularly unnerving when considering the recent knife attacks in Sydney and the high number of stabbing offences in the UK.

Rushdie's assault was unlike any other. This acclaimed writer, who wrote over ten novels, including the Booker Prize winner Midnight's Children, had been living in constant terror of a fatal attack since his book The Satanic Verses was published in 1998. The publication prompted Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran, to issue a fatwa calling for Rushdie's assassination. In his 2012 memoir Joseph Anton, Rushdie wrote in the third person. However, in his latest book Knife, he decided to write in the first person because he believes that when someone stabs you, it becomes your personal story. It's an "I" story.

The section in the blog talks about the book "Knife", which is an account of the incident where Matar's knife hit Rushdie's optic nerve and the people who saved Rushdie's life. The book starts by describing the last image that Rushdie's right eye saw, which was a person dressed in black who Rushdie refers to as a "murderous ghost from the past" in relation to the fatwa.

Rushdie has a wealth of descriptive language. He explains that he was frozen in fear, comparing himself to a helpless rabbit caught in headlights. When a fit 24-year-old attacker charged at him on stage, Rushdie was like a piñata, standing still and allowing himself to be hit repeatedly. He feels regretful and even shameful that he didn't put up a fight.

The court hearing for Matar was supposed to happen in January, but it was delayed due to the publication of his memoir. However, he has denied all allegations of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault. Rushdie thinks that the trial will start in September. Matar was eventually stopped by heroic individuals in the crowd.

Sir Salman Rushdie, who received an honor for his contributions to literature in 2007, admits that his latest book is an attempt to “understand what it was about”. He centralizes the account around Matar, a lone fanatic who was radicalized and plotted an attack on him from his family's basement in New Jersey. Interestingly, Rushdie only refers to him as “the A” in both his book and conversations with journalists. He is confused that his attacker was not even born when the fatwa was issued. In his book, Knife, Rushdie calls Matar “my Assailant,” “my would-be Assassin,” and an “Asinine man who made Assumptions about me, and with whom I had a near lethal Assignation.” He goes on to describe his motives as “banal” and describes him as “hapless” and “not of high intelligence.”

At the beginning of his recovery, Rushdie wanted to have an honest conversation with Matar about the attack. He desired for Matar to be truthful with him while looking into his only remaining eye. However, he ultimately chose not to pursue this conversation based on advice from his wife and close friends. Rushdie's curiosity about what motivated a young man to attack him with such aggression led to an imaginative conversation in the book. In this imagined conversation, the victim and attacker speak across a metal table in four different meetings at Chautauqua County Jail. Rushdie asks about the reason behind the attack during this exchange. However, this particular section of the book is not the most impactful.

The conversation seems fake. When Rushdie seems condescending, A responds with, "Screw you, Mr. Know-It-All." This gives Rushdie the chance to speak about their "deep connection" and ponder A's desire to be a "killer." Rushdie provokes A about not having a partner, cites Jodi Picoult's work, and deliberates on the advantages of playing Call of Duty. A attempts to terminate the discussion, but Rushdie asserts his dominance by saying he is the one who will "influence your thoughts."

The writer of the book has a keen insight and includes humor, but it's clear that he is struggling with his own PTSD. The section contradicts Rushdie's claim that the writer isn't important to him. Maybe the writer is using humor as a way to cope, but I found it more impressive how he used his own sharp wit to criticize his attacker. He points out that the attacker's decision to harm him seems unfounded since it was based on little evidence, just from watching a video and barely reading his book.

In his writing, Rushdie expresses his desire for a moment similar to that of Samuel Beckett. This is in reference to a tragic incident that occurred in 1938, where Beckett, a renowned Nobel Prize recipient from Ireland, was stabbed by a pimp while on the street. However, Beckett later faced his attacker during the trial.

Beckett is one of many famous writers that are mentioned in the piece. The others include Coleridge, Shakespeare, Gabriel García Márquez, PG Wodehouse, and Virginia Woolf. He talks about feeling like King Lear, who begins to believe he is losing his mind. This is understandable considering the physical injuries Beckett has suffered. His tongue had to be sewn up, and his eye required careful attention to heal properly. He now wears a black lens over his right eye to disguise the fact that he cannot see from it. The cuts on his right cheek were so painful that saliva was oozing out of his mouth for weeks after they happened. He also experienced partial paralysis of his lower lip and lost feeling in the middle two fingers of his hand as a result of his injuries.

As his thoughts drifted away, they landed on recollections of the iconic 1902 sci-fi masterpiece "Le Voyage dans la Lune" by Georges Méliès. He also pondered the intriguing fact that the name of the three-time champion of the Grand National horse race, Red Rum, is simply the word "Murder" spelled backwards. Additionally, he surprised himself by making a reference to the popular TV show "The Mandalorian." Finally, he credited the uplifting experience of witnessing Lionel Messi lead his team to victory in the World Cup as a significant aid in his recovery.

Even though Rushdie's body suffered greatly, his mind is still full of humor and sarcasm. He compares his ventilator's removal to a armadillo's tail and even jokes about the fluid draining process and his doctor's name, Dr. Pain. Rushdie even goes into detail about the painful experience of having a genital catheter inserted, which he humorously describes as being treated by "Nurse Bladder with her Bladderometer." He jokes about his post-attack diagnosis, which luckily turned out to be false. Rushdie even humorously describes his discomfort during a prostate examination with the phrase, "Aaagh. Double aaagh. Even more aaagh." Rushdie even admits his worry about his Ralph Lauren suit during the attack. To be honest, he only agreed to give the "talking gig" in the first place because he was offered a substantial fee to pay for his new home air-conditioning system.

The book talks about how we as humans will inevitably come to an end, whether it be through some sort of tragedy or disaster. The author also shares his own experiences with almost dying, but he wants to make it clear that there was nothing supernatural about it. Additionally, the book takes a close look at how there is a constant battle between love, friendship, and freedom versus hatred, bigotry, and violence. The moment the author was attacked with a knife was a prime example of this conflict. While the author did eventually recover, this event serves as a reminder of both the good and bad sides of human nature. Ultimately, the author wants to reclaim what happened on that tragic day through his art and show that violence can and should be met with creativity.

Despite the unfounded animosity at the core of this tale, it is also a tale of affection. Rushdie is incredibly emotional when he shares about his fifth partner, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, a poet from the United States, who underwent a similar horrifying experience having to observe his struggle to survive at Hamot Hospital. When she cried out, “My spouse is home, my spouse is home,” it was enough to make any reader shed a tear.

. This book called "Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder" can be bought for a cost of 20 British pounds, and it's published by Jonathan Cape.

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