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Rushdie writes book about near-fatal knife attack

Salman Rushdie is working on a book about the attack that robbed him of his right eye, he said in one of his first public appearances since he was repeatedly stabbed onstage at a literary festival in upstate New York last year.

Speaking at the Financial Times Weekend Festival in Washington on Saturday, the novelist, 75, said he was still “a little beaten up” but “basically fine”, nearly one year after the attempt on his life.

“The eye is obviously the big loss, but other than that, I am mostly back to functioning,” he said.

Wearing glasses with a darkened right lens, Rushdie appeared at the event via video link.

“I am not reading as fast as I used to but . . . I am writing what I think will be a fairly short book about what happened,” Rushdie said in a wide-ranging conversation that explored many of the author’s novels, from Midnight’s Children to Victory City, his most recent work which was published earlier this year.

Rushdie has for decades faced persecution for his work and lived under threat of death.

The Satanic Verses, first published in 1988, generated controversy for how it depicted the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

The book was banned in Iran and the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie.

Following the death threat, Rushdie went into hiding and lived under armed guard.

After the attack last year US secretary of state Antony Blinken accused the Iranian government of inciting violence against Rushdie and castigated Tehran for “gloat[ing]” about the attempt on his life.

Rushdie made light of his critics on Saturday, saying: “If my work has enemies, they are probably the right enemies to have.”

When asked what his advice would be to young aspiring writers, Rushdie replied: “I would say, do what you have to do and don’t be scared.”

Rushdie has largely been absent from the public eye in the last year as he recovered from the attack on his life.

He made a rare in-person appearance in New York last week to accept the Centenary Courage Award from PEN America, the non-profit organisation that advocates for freedom of expression.

“There’s a lot of people in a lot of ways right now trying to put fences around what’s OK to do and not OK to do. And I think if anything is going to lead to the death of the novel, that is what it is,” Rushdie warned attendees at the FT Festival.

“So I think we have to have the courage of our art, you know? We have to say our truth in our way and offer it to the world and hope the world gets the point of it.”

Reginald Chandar
Reginald Chandar
Head of News & Sports | news@fijilive.com

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