Salman Rushdie said he feels overwhelmingly grateful and eager to keep writing, saying “you can’t regret your life,” in his first interview since surviving last summer’s brutal stabbing attack.
“I’m lucky. What I really want to say is that my main overwhelming feeling is gratitude,” he told The New Yorker while continuing to recover, both physically and mentally, after being stabbed more than a dozen times during a literary event in western New York.
“There have been nightmares — not exactly the incident, but just frightening. Those seem to be diminishing,” he said. “When I say I’m fine, I mean, there’s bits of my body that need constant checkups. It was a colossal attack.”
The attack left him hospitalized for six weeks. He lost 40 pounds and vision in his right eye. He also suffered nerve damage in his left hand, he said.
He also suggested having post-traumatic stress disorder from the ordeal and said he struggles with his writing.
“I’ve found it very, very difficult to write. I sit down to write, and nothing happens. I write, but it’s a combination of blankness and junk, stuff that I write and that I delete the next day. I’m not out of that forest yet, really,” he said.
The violence, which also injured another event presenter, followed decades of threats after Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for Rushdie’s death in 1989 over the publication of Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses.” The book was considered blasphemous by some Muslims.
For a decade after this edict, called a fatwa, was declared, Rushdie said he lived underground in London for his own safety, fully believing that he was a dead man. He became less guarded after moving to New York in 2000, where he said he resolved to live his life freely, out in the open, leaving many of those around him nervous.
Rushdie said the only person he can blame for what happened last summer is the person responsible, though he admitted that he has questioned whether it was a mistake to let his guard down.
“Three-quarters of my life as a writer has happened since the fatwa. In a way, you can’t regret your life,” he said.
Hadi Matar, who faces attempted murder and assault charges for the attack, told The New York Post in a brief jailhouse interview last August that he had read only a couple of pages of “The Satanic Verses” but that he didn’t like Rushdie. He said he was surprised that Rushdie survived his injuries.
“He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems,” he said of the author.
Rushdie’s latest novel, “Victory City,” which he finished writing shortly before the attack, is slated for release Tuesday.