Salman Rushdie doesn’t remember much about the moment he was attacked last August, just before he was to give a lecture in western New York.
What he knows about the incident – that he was stabbed at least a dozen times in 27 seconds – he has gleaned from news reports.
“I wasn’t counting,” he joked, in an interview with The New Yorker editor David Remnick, whose profile of Rushdie is published in this week's issue.
Rushdie spoke with Remnick on “The New Yorker Radio Hour” podcast, in an episode released today and it is Rushdie’s first major interview since the attack. (“The New Yorker Radio Hour” is a co-production with WNYC Studios, which, like Gothamist, is a part of New York Public Radio.)
Rushdie was also promoting his upcoming novel, “Victory City,” out Feb. 7. He completed the book just two weeks before the stabbing, but said he’s hardly done any publicity for it.
Mostly, he said, he’s focused on getting back to a life of reading and writing, one he had before Aug. 12, 2022.
“I'm trying to slowly get back to a writer's life,” Rushdie said.
That effort has been made harder by physical and emotional injuries. Since being stabbed, Rushdie has lost vision in his left eye and feeling in the fingertips of his left hand. He said he reads on an iPad, where he can adjust the size of the type. The worst injuries, he told Remnick, were to his neck and the right side of his face. He also sustained chest wounds and damage to his liver.
He said he now experiences nightmares, though he doesn’t dream specifically about the stabbing.
“There is such a thing as PTSD,” Rushdie said.
The prolific author – who has published more than a dozen novels – said that the attack has left him with writer’s block.
"I've found it very, very difficult to write,” Rushdie said. “I sit there to write and nothing happens.”
“It's a combination of blankness and junk — stuff that I write that I delete the next day,” Rushdie added. “I'm not out of that forest yet.”
Rushdie’s appearance on “The New Yorker Radio Hour” came six months after a New Jersey man stabbed Rushdie repeatedly onstage at the Chautauqua Institution as the author was set to speak about the United States as a refuge for exiled writers.
The incident revived interest in another time Rushdie’s life was threatened: In 1989, the Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini placed a fatwa on Rushdie, following the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses.” The book remains banned in several Muslim-majority countries.
In 1989, Rushdie had been living in London; he went into hiding for several years before eventually rejoining public life in New York City.
The assailant’s motives in the August attack were deemed unclear by law enforcement authorities.
The Iranian government denied involvement in Rushdie’s stabbing last summer, though Nasser Kanaani, spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, blamed “Salman Rushdie and his supporters” adding that the novelist “exposed himself to the anger and ire of the people.”
In “The New Yorker Radio Hour” interview, Remnick asked if Rushdie had any regrets about his choices — particularly as they related to the fatwa that forever altered his life.
“Three quarters of my life as a writer has happened since the fatwa,” Rushdie said, insisting he was at peace with them.
“I mean, in a way, you can't regret your life,” Rushdie said. “Because without your life, you wouldn't have had your life.”