First interview after knife attack: Salman Rushdie speaks of nightmares and difficulties with writing

One is startled when looking at the photo of Salman Rushdie that the “New Yorker” took of the writer just before Christmas: the lens over the right eye has been darkened to black, underneath what appears to be a gaping scar on the cheek. Rushdie then posted a somewhat friendlier selfie on Twitter and has since deleted it, “more prosaically,” as one user reportedly commented. Nevertheless, the consequences of the life-threatening knife attack that Rushdie was exposed to on August 12 last year at a literary event in Chautauaqua, New York State, are unmistakable.

He is blind in his right eye, and in the first post-attack interview with “New Yorker” writer David Remnick, released Monday, says he has had a hard time writing, slowing down, because of the injury to his left ulnar nerve and now lack of sensitivity in the fingertips.

I write, but it’s a combination of emptiness and junk.

Salman Rushdie

Rushdie compares his situation to post-traumatic stress disorder. “It was very difficult to write again. I sit down to write and nothing happens. I write, but it’s a combination of emptiness and junk, stuff I write and erase the next day. I’m not out of this forest yet.”

But Rushdie wouldn’t be Rushdie, the writer who for decades refused to be intimidated by the Iranian regime’s fatwa and repeated calls for murder if he didn’t radiate a little confidence and optimism here and there: “I’m feeling better again. Looking at what happened, I’m not that bad. The big injuries have definitely healed, I do a lot of therapeutic exercises with my left hand and I’m told that I’ll do well.”

Nevertheless, one notices how badly attacked Salman Rushdie still is. He speaks of “scary nightmares” that he could get up and walk around, but parts of his body needed regular medical check-ups and it would have been a “colossal attack”.

Remnick thinks he can recognize two conflicting feelings when meeting Rushdie, namely that on the one hand he wants to speak openly about his state of health and also the psychological consequences of the knife attack, on the other hand about everything except the fatwa and the attack, especially about literary matters and his new one Victory City novel.

The novel was published in the USA this Tuesday, so the timing of the publication of this interview was cleverly chosen. Looking back at the years of the fatwa, Rushdie then says that he tried to avoid accusations and possible bitterness: “One of my strategies was to deal with the whole thing in such a way that I look forward, never back. What happens tomorrow is more important than what happened yesterday.”

That’s why his focus is now on “Victory City”. He had finished writing the novel before the attack. Set in 14th-century South India, the main character is a nine-year-old girl with a divine mission. In the name of a goddess, the girl founds the eponymous “Victory City”, called Bisnaga. In this city women should be given an equal role in a completely patriarchal world.

At that time, of course, this led to upheavals that were made for the genuinely passionate narrator who is Salman Rushdie. According to Rushdie in an interview, his hope is now that “Victory City” will dominate his own destiny: “I always believed that my books are more interesting than my life.” world to disagree.”

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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