Salman Rushdie says he had a dream about being attacked days before stabbing

Entertainment

Sir Salman Rushdie has said he had a dream of a man trying to stab him days before he was attacked in 2022.

The author was stabbed several times during the attack, and suffered life-changing injuries including the loss of his right eye, moments before he was due to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in New York state.

In his first major TV interview since the attack, the 76-year-old told Anderson Cooper on CBS programme 60 Minutes he did not want to attend the talk after dreaming of a man bearing down on him with a spear in an “amphitheatre” days before the event.

“I woke up and I was quite shaken,” he said.

“I said to my wife, Eliza, ‘You know I don’t want to go’ – because of the dream. And then I thought, ‘Don’t be silly, it’s a dream’.”

In 1989 Iran’s then leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his death after the publication of his book The Satanic Verses, which many Muslims consider blasphemous.

The Indian-born British author, who said he had about “half a dozen serious assassination attempts” on his life, was due to speak about free speech before he was attacked.

“It felt like something coming out of the distant past and trying to drag me back in time, if you like, back into that distant past, in order to kill me,” he said.

“I think he was just slashing. It was the half minute of intimacy between life and death. I was watching it [blood] spread and then thinking I was probably dying. It was quite matter of fact.

“I’ve not had a revelation except there is no revelation to be had.”

‘What’s the lucky part?’

He continued: “One of the surgeons who had saved my life said to me: ‘First you were really unlucky and then you were really lucky’.

“I said, ‘What’s the lucky part?’ and he said, ‘Well, the lucky part is that the man who attacked you had no idea how to kill a man with a knife’.”

Sir Salman has now written about the attack in his new book, Knife: Meditations After An Attempted Murder, which is due to be published later this month.

He said he was initially reluctant to write the memoir: “It was the last thing I wanted to do.

“The only thing anyone knew about me was this death threat, but I had to write this, to focus on the elephant in the room.

“It then became a book I really wanted to write. Language is a way of breaking open the world. I don’t have any other weapons.”

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A ‘squat missile’

In the book Sir Salman does not name his alleged attacker – Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from New Jersey, who has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

“I don’t want his name in my book and I don’t want him in my life,” he said. “We had 27 seconds together [during the attack], I don’t want to give him any more of my time.”

Reading from the book, he described how he saw a “murderous shape rushing towards” him like a “squat missile”.

On 21 April Sir Salman will discuss his book and the attack as part of a series of events for the Southbank Centre’s Spring Literature and Spoken Word Season.

Sir Salman began his writing career in the early 1970s and won the Booker Prize in 1981 for his novel Midnight’s Children, about the birth of modern India.

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