Tenacious Rushdie

Without a doubt, Salman Rushdie has shown that the pen is more powerful than the sword or the knife. Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder, his book, was released more than a year and a half after he was assaulted by a young man on stage in New York. Rushdie, known for his macabre sense of humor, has said that he felt as if he was going to die since his left eye was hanging down his face “like a soft-boiled egg.” On August 12, 2022, Hadi Matar stabbed the Mumbai-born novelist twelve times. For his masterwork, Midnight’s Children, the author was awarded both the Booker Prize and the Booker of Bookers.

Rushdie wasn’t really surprised by the assault. Since the late 1980s, when Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him for his contentious book The Satanic Verses, the danger of death has hung over him like the sword of Damocles. He was compelled to stay hidden for a number of years, during which time the book’s Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, was fatally murdered in July 1991. Ettore Capriolo, the book’s Italian translator, barely made it out of a stabbing at his Milan home earlier that year, and William Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher, almost made it out of an October 1993 shooting in Oslo.

Remarkably, the author is still a fervent supporter of free speech in spite of his horrific, near-death encounter. Before the publication of his most recent book, he said, “The whole point of freedom of speech is that you have to permit speech you don’t agree with.” He will not be intimidated by the threats and insults of bigots and hate mongers, as seen by his tenacity and resistance. Rushdie is not in a hurry to pass away, either mentally, ethically, or physically.

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