Sir Salman Rushdie says attack has made writing physically and mentally harder

Author Sir Salman Rushdie has said the impact of a knife attack has made it physically and mentally harder to write.

Sir Salman was stabbed multiple times and suffered severe and life-changing injuries as he prepared to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in New York in 2022, leaving him blind in one eye and unable to use one of his hands.

The Satanic Verses writer survived an assassination attempt in 1989, after a fatwa calling for his death was issued by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini in the same year.

Sir Salman Rushdie holding up his GQ Man of the Year award
Sir Salman says he suffered a number of incidents of racist abuse after arriving the UK aged 14 (Ian West/PA)

Support for the death sentence was withdrawn in 1998 by the Iranian government.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s This Cultural Life, Sir Salman said that when writing he “hopes it will not get in the way of what I want to do next”, and added that injuries to his eye and hand had made “everything harder”.

He said: “Practically, it’s harder because because one eye is harder than two and one hand is harder than two hands, so it makes everything slower.

“As far as terms of what I write, I just hope that it doesn’t get in the way of what I want to do next, and now I just want to do something completely different.”

He was asked by presenter John Wilson if he found writing the book Knife, which is based on the attack, “cathartic”.

Sir Salman said: “It was not exactly cathartic, but it was a way of handling it, that was a way of dealing with it.

“I feel now as if I’ve kind of dealt with the subject.

“I didn’t want to do it and then I discovered that there was no alternative because it was just in the way of everything else.

“I thought the only way of getting past this is to go through it.”

Sir Salman Rushdie at Windsor Castle in a black suit
Sir Salman said writing his book the knife helped him to get over the 2022 Knife attack (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The 77-year-old author described himself as a “medical miracle” for the way he had recovered from the ordeal and added he was “surprised” by how well his recovery had gone.

Sir Salman explained that military medical experts had expressed surprise at how well his hand had recovered from the attack.

During the BBC interview, the writer also spoke about the racism he faced when he first moved to the UK from India at the age of 14, something he said he was reluctant to do due to the British weather.

Sir Salman said: “I was foreign, that was not good, I was bad at games, that was extra not good and there were bits of racism.”

He explained how work cubicles he used at his school would be plastered with racist slogans and that some of his completed assignments were torn up by fellow students.

But Sir Salman said he did not have the same experience when moving to New York in 2000, he described the city as “welcoming” and added “you put your bags down in New York and you’re a New Yorker”.

Sir Salman picked the independence of India, migration and surrealism, fabulism and mythical story telling as his three biggest cultural influences and experiences.