He Was Blinded in One Eye, but Salman Rushdie’s Vision Is Undiminished

“If it hadn’t been for Henry and the audience, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing these words,” Rushdie says in the book. “That Chautauqua morning I experienced both the worst and best of human nature, almost simultaneously.”

At first it was unclear whether he would survive.

“The gravity of his wounds was just insane, like something out of a horror film,” said Andrew Wylie, who has represented the author for decades. Rushdie remained in the hospital for nearly two months. Even after returning home, he had vivid, horrific dreams — about the blinding of the Duke of Gloucester in “King Lear,” about the opening sequence of the Luis Buñuel movie “Un Chien Andalou,” in which a cloud drifting across the moon becomes a razor blade slicing an eye. He had medical appointments almost every day, different specialists for each affected body part. “Everyone had to sign off on the various repair jobs,” he said.

Rushdie had been toying with an idea for a novel before the attack. But “when, finally, it felt like the juice was beginning to flow again, I went and opened up the file that I’d had, and it just seemed ridiculous,” he said. “It just became clear to me that until I dealt with this, I wouldn’t be able to write anything else.”

“Knife” is a visceral, intimate book, in contrast to an earlier memoir, “Joseph Anton,” a 2012 book that was written in the third person, so that the central character existed on the same level as the supporting players.

“I wanted it to read like a novel,” Rushdie explained of the earlier book. But “Knife” is different. “This is not novelistic. I mean, somebody sticks a knife in you, that’s pretty personal. Pretty first person,” he said.

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