“Knife,” written by Salman Rushdie, is a shockingly real account of his horrific stabbing and eerily alive.

Salman Rushdie doesn’t spend much time revisiting the day he believed might be his last in his first book since the stabbing in 2022 that sent him to the hospital and rendered him blind in one eye.

“I was attacked and nearly killed by a young man with a knife at a quarter to eleven on August 12, 2022, on a sunny Friday morning in upstate New York, just after I came out on stage at the amphitheater in Chautauqua to talk about the importance of keeping writers safe from harm,” Rushdie writes in the first sentence of his memoir “Knife,” which was released on Tuesday.

With a little over 200 pages, “Knife” is a short novel in Rushdie’s canon—one of the most vibrant and expansive of modern writers. Knife is also his first memoir since “Joseph Anton,” a 2012 book in which he examined the death decree, or fatwa, that Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued over 20 years prior due to alleged blasphemy in Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses.”

After being forced into hiding at first, Rushdie spent years living under constant guard. However, the threat appeared to have subsided, and he had been living his ideal life—travelling, interacting with people, and having creative freedom—for some time, as evidenced by his recent books, “Quichocho” and “Victory City.”

In “Knife,” subtitled “Meditations After an Attempted Murder,” Rushdie notes that he had occasionally imagined his “public assassin” showing up. However, Rushdie believed that the 2022 attack had already been resolved when it occurred and that its timing was not only shocking but also “anachronistic,” representing the reappearance of a “murderous ghost from the past.” He refers to August 11, 2022, as being his “last innocent evening.”

However, “Knife” is noteworthy in many respects, just as much for the spirit it carries over from his earlier works as it is for the graphic and horrifying accounts of the attack that both changed and did not change his life.

Rushdie commends the physical bravery of Chautauqua Institution event moderator Henry Reese, who grabbed the attacker, in the book’s opening chapter, calling it “pure heroism.” If, however, another kind of heroism is the ability to find hope, resolve, and humor after suffering trauma, then Rushdie’s book “Knife” is a heroic one, detailing his journey from being found lying in his own blood to returning to the same place 13 months later and achieving a state of “wounded happiness.”


The narrative of “Knife” includes the fact that Rushdie’s life has involved more than just a senseless act of murder during the last two years. He dedicates a chapter to his encounter with and marriage to poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths, who welcomed him in 2017 at a PEN America event and flashed a “dazzling smile” that Rushdie could not shake. After learning of the stabbing while she was in New York City, she quickly boarded a private jet to be with him after learning he wasn’t expected to live.

“I wasn’t dead,” wrote Rushdie. “I had surgery.”


While recuperating, Rushdie became aware of the serious cancer diagnosis of his close friend and fellow writer, Martin Amis. Rushdie and Amis belonged to a group of talented British friends that also included Ian McEwan and Christopher Hitchens. In an apparent parting email, Rushdie commended Amis for his “generosity and kindness” in offering support following the knife attack and hailed his books “London Fields” and “Money.”

Amis passed away in May 2023.

“THE A.”

Hadi Matar is the accused attacker of Rushdie, but the author calls him “The A,” short for “The Ass” (or “Asinine man”). He does let his imagination run wild for a remarkable 27-second conversation with the person he knows only through improbable means. Why would you even pretend to talk to his potential assassin? “I don’t want an apology,” Now that he has had time to consider things, I do wonder how he feels,” writes Rushdie.

Matar’s trial was postponed until January following a judge’s decision to grant him access to the memoir’s manuscript and associated materials.


After he leaves the hospital, he will “grow stronger in body and mind” and go back to the occasions he used to attend frequently, such as the PEN America gala. He will be comforted by a “global avalanche” of messages of support, not only from friends but also from heads of state, like President Joe Biden, who will release a statement praising Rushdie’s dedication to “sharing ideas without fear.”

Rushdie claims that being close to death can cause feelings of “great loneliness.” You “feel that you’re not alone, that maybe you haven’t lived and worked in vain,” when you hear words from other people.

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