Knife | Salman Rushdie

non-fiction | autobiographical

First published 2024

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"The eye... is an absence with an immensely powerful presence."

On August 22, 2022, novelist Salman Rushdie was attacked by a knife-wielding extremist while giving a talk about a project he co-founded to offer refuge to writers at risk. He was severely injured, losing an eye and suffering permanent damage to his left arm, requiring months of medical care. But recover he did, which is perhaps the best revenge against the young man who tried to end his life. A young man who was radicalised by a YouTube Imam. A young man who thought that the best way to fit in with his Muslim tribe was to go out and kill the man they had been trying to silence for over 30 years. Based on a book none of them had read. Based on an interpretation of the book that none of them had read.

I can't claim to be a Rushdie expert —I've only read Midnight's Children, and magical realism isn’t my favorite genre. But I greatly admire his stance on free speech. The attack on him was an attack on all of us who yearn for a world where open dialogue is possible without fear of violence. A world where criticism is allowed without fear of cancellation or further violence. A world where differing opinions or beliefs don't lead to fatwas, stabbings, bombings, or death.

In Knife, his latest book, Rushdie recounts the harrowing details of the attack, the aftermath, and the numerous medical procedures he endured. He shares how his wife, Eliza, helped him regain his strength and how their love — and his belief in the power of love — might just be the key to navigating this world together.

"One was the force of violence... The other was the force of love. In the end, the force of love proved to be stronger."

In this extraordinary book, Rushdie expresses all the emotions only someone who has experienced such trauma can feel. He is vulnerable yet strong, angry yet accepting, struggling yet thriving. He is human. There is a chapter of the book dedicated to an imaginary interview he has with his would-be assasin, who he calls the A. In the end he wants to tell the A. that he is irrelevant. He neither forgives him nor does he not forgive him. He just doesn't care about him. Rushdie has gotten his revenge on this young man by simply surviving and trying to live a truthful life full of love and openness.

My Verdict

Some reviewers have called this the book of the century. I wouldn't go that far, but I would say it is one of the bravest books I've ever read. Whether you like Rushdie's books is irrelevant at this point, reading this book, you cannot deny that he is a writer who has always stayed truthful to himself, no matter what the consequences. Some have written that he is stuck in the past with his deep attachment to free speech, but I believe that is on e"old fashioned" notion we could really do with bringing back into fashion. A must read for all.

Posted 15.05.2024

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