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Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder…

Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder (original 2024; udgave 2024)

af Salman Rushdie (Forfatter)

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2991389,750 (4.19)21
Salman Rushdie skriver om tiden efter attentatet mod ham i 2022. Han forsger at forst gerningsmandens motiver, mens han kmper for at vende tilbage til livet. En hudlst rlig biografi til alle lsere af bger med en strk nerve og med kampen for ytringsfrihed i centrum
Titel:Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder
Forfattere:Salman Rushdie (Forfatter)
Info:Jonathan Cape (2024), 224 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek, Read

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Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder af Salman Rushdie (2024)


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On August 12, 2022, as the famed Indian-British author Salman Rushdie was preparing to speak at the Chautauqua Institute as part of a weeklong series highlighting authors who placed their lives at risk for publishing controversial works, he noticed a young man clad in black rushing toward him on the stage. Initially stunned, he stood immobile and attempted to defend himself from his assailant using his left arm, but the unnamed man, who Rushdie refers to as “A” in this memoir, manages to inflict several serious wounds with the knife he carried, before he was ultimately subdued. Rushdie was stabilized on the scene and transferred to the closest trauma center in critical condition. Thanks to excellent care from trauma surgeons and critical care nurses and physicians his life was spared, although he was left permanently blind in his right eye, and tendons that were severed in his nondominant arm left him with limited use of his left hand. He was eventually transferred to the NYU Rusk Institute to continue his physical rehabilitation.

Rushdie described his life in exile in his previous memoir Joseph Anton, the nom de guerre that he created for British protection officers to refer to him during the years in which he lived in London after Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa against Rushdie in February 1989 for writing his novel [The Satanic Verses], which was felt to have portrayed the Prophet Muhammad in a blasphemous manner. He remained in hiding until 1998, when the fatwa against Rushdie was lifted after pressure from the British government on the Iranian leadership. Rushdie then felt free to travel without bodyguards, and soon afterward he moved to New York City. However, the formal revocation of the fatwa did not appease radical Islamic fundamentalists who were deeply offended by Rushdie’s words, whether they had read the book or not.

Rushdie remained cognizant that his life was still in danger, although the threat had dissipated considerably. After several unhappy marriages he fell in love with the American poet and novelist Rachel Eliza Griffiths, who he married in 2021.

In Knife, Rushdie provides a detailed description of that fateful day in Chautauqua, the long process of rehabilitation, initially physical and then psychological, and the negative and divisive impacts that religion and political beliefs have had in countries such as the United States and India. He remains quite angry at Hadi Matar, his attacker, who remains in prison under state and federal charges; the case is still unresolved, and only yesterday, July 3, 2024, Matar rejected a plea deal in exchange for a lesser sentence under state charges. Due to the lack of closure and his desire to confront A., Rushdie engages in an imaginary conversation with him, in order to understand what made him transform from a quiet loner living with his mother and sister in New Jersey to a radicalized fundamentalist after he visited his father in Lebanon.

I greatly enjoyed Knife, as Rushdie is one of my favorite authors, and his latest book lived up to my expectations for it. Despite the cowardly and vicious attack it is ultimately a story of love, from his wife, family and close friends, determination on his part, at first to simply live and then regain to as normal a life as possible, and care from the dozens of medical professionals who helped him on his path to recovery. ( )
  kidzdoc | Jul 4, 2024 |
Novelist Salman Rushdie reflects on the knife attack in 2022 which he survived, but with the loss of sight from his right eye. The main text moves chronologically from the day before the attack, Rushdie's memories of the attack, and his recovery, up to about 13 months after. In between these events, Rushdie lets readers in to the workings of his mind, reflecting on knives as tools; on his relationship with his wife, poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths; why he is writing about the event; recovering not just physically, but mentally as he and his wife now deal with PTSD; and even an imagined conversation between himself and his attacker.

Wow. If this review can give a more coherent response than that, I'll be doing well. This book is just over 200 pages, but in it Rushdie manages to cover so much. He grapples with his response to the attack, as he first wants to face his attacker and how his thoughts on that morph over the year since. He shares his thoughts on love, politics (decidedly anti-Trump), religion (not religious and not a fan), and more. His reflective tone, references to literature and art, and beautiful language make this book a pleasure to read, even as it was difficult. He describes concepts in a way that this reader has a moment of recognition, an "of course, that makes sense," such as when he says about his PTSD: "It's hard to write about post-traumatic stress disorder at any time, because, well, there's trauma involved, and a lot of stress, and a consequential disorder in the self. It's harder when two of you, you and your beloved wife, are experiencing it at the same time but in different ways. And it's really hard to do it with one eye and one and a half hands, because the physicality of the writing, its awkwardness, reminds you at every stroke of the keyboard of the cause of your pain" (174). I've never read any of Rushdie's fiction, but I'll rectify that soon. ( )
1 stem bell7 | Jul 3, 2024 |
Left me out of words. I like Rushdie's novels - those that I have read - a lot. I love this memoir even more. Blunt, honest and real, the horror of the murder attempt, the trauma, the recovery - I felt he not only shared something with us, the reader, he made us understand some existential truths about the nature of violence and what it does with people. I'm in awe of his courage and resilience. ( )
  mechbutterfly | Jul 2, 2024 |
Rushdie`s book is a bit like a diary of his recovery and his thoughts after the assassination attempt against him. A simple yet astonishing book. ( )
  TheCrow2 | Jun 29, 2024 |
"I don't believe it has, or should, or will, impact my writing style in any way at all… I don't see what an act of violence such as the one I experienced has to contribute to art." (pg. 199)

I've been struggling to think of a way to begin this review, so let me just say: This is not a good book. I went into it expecting something of a tour de force, some heartening or insightful "meditations on the attempted murder" of author Salman Rushdie, as the book's subtitle has it, but I was surprised at how banal it was. How could a book titled Knife be so lacking in penetration? Even after I scaled down my expectations (I laboured through this slight volume over more than a week, which is slow by my standards), I could only conclude that the book was a poor construction.

I did not want this to be the case; as with The Satanic Verses before it, I wanted to be able to wear it as a badge of honour in support of its author's plight. A writer, I thought – a person known, almost by definition, for their powers of sensory observation and ability to articulate them – who experiences an intense and unique horror and lives to tell the tale… how could the resultant piece of writing fail to be anything other than engrossing and important? But Knife, Rushdie's memoir of the 2022 attempt on his life and his subsequent recovery, proved to be unambitious, unreflective and...

The devil on my shoulder wants me to say 'disingenuous'. This was the charge laid against Rushdie's character by his attacker (unnamed in the book); the word and motive given for his attempted murder. It's not an especially strong word, though Rushdie appears piqued by it, and if not disingenuous in Knife he is at least lacking rigour in his reflections. On far too many occasions I noticed the author trying to have his cake and eat it; deliver a lazy cliché to the reader while simultaneously qualifying his disdain for lazy clichés:

"I sat up in bed, shaken by the dream's vividness and violence. It felt like a premonition (even though premonitions are things in which I don't believe)." (pg. 7)

"I don't usually think of my books as prophecies. I've had some trouble with prophets in my life, and I'm not applying for the job. But it's hard, thinking back to the genesis of that novel, not to see the image as – at the very least – a foreshadowing." (pg. 22)

"I don't believe in miracles, but my survival is miraculous." (pg. 63)

"These things did not give me 'closure', whatever that was… but they did mean that the assault weighed less heavily on me than before." (pg. 194)

"I don't like to think of writing as therapy – writing is writing, and therapy is therapy – but there was a good chance that telling the story as I saw it might make me feel better." (pg. 129)

This sort of equivocation is alarming in a writer of Rushdie's stature, and shows an author struggling against limitations of inspiration and skill that arrived far sooner than they ought to have done. At one point, Rushdie seems to want to tackle this flaw, declaring himself keen to think about "the irruption of the miraculous into the life of someone who didn't believe that the miraculous existed" (pg. 60), but this level of self-reflection is not expanded upon beyond that single line.

And it is this which makes me feel rather shabby in writing a critical review of Knife. One of Rushdie's main 'gotcha's against his attempted murderer is in quoting Socrates: "the unexamined life is not worth living". It is Rushdie's way of biting back at the man who knifed him, making him lesser. Fair enough – the man took his eye, after all – but on the major points of Knife, Rushdie leaves his own story unexamined. His recollections of the attack are flavourless and lack insight, aside from one decent passage on page 16 about how there was no out-of-body experience; "In fact, I have rarely felt so strongly connected to my body. My body was dying and it was taking me with it." Rushdie is dismissive when discussing the actual events of the day (such as why there was no security) and completely uninterested in the history or psychological makeup of his attacker. He admits he has made no attempt to research the man, which makes his invented 'confrontation' dialogue with the man in Chapter Six an ill-advised embarrassment. It is a clumsy sequence of stilted and unnatural dialogue, in which Rushdie has his own unopposed wit and intellect skewer the incel straw man he has created in place of the real Hadi Matar. It's some of the worst dialogue I've ever read.

The attack over, Rushdie devotes the rest of the book to his recovery efforts. Again, I feel shabby for saying so, for no doubt Rushdie showed great character in coming through his trials, but it is written without any enthusiasm or reflection. His doubts and mental hurdles are summarised, and the loving relationship between him and his wife is communicated through sickly clichés and rote exultations about her being 'beautiful' and a 'rock'. (Rushdie also quotes Star Wars"As the Mandalorian of love would say: This is the way" (pg. 27) – a line so lame I had to read it again to make sure I hadn't imagined it.)

Elsewhere, Rushdie reproduces verbatim the good wishes which came in from around the world, from President Biden's limp, cut-and-paste 'thoughts and prayers' message to various random comments left on his Instagram page. His response to the attack is to seek refuge in yet more cliché: to profess that love triumphs over hate, that life triumphs over death. Those who helped him after the attack are 'heroes' (I think a venerated writer should not eat from the same word trough as a tabloid hack). He will write "the next chapter in the book of life" (pg. 195). And, of course, "love is a force, that in its most potent form it can move mountains. It can change the world" (pg. 56). The book quickly becomes cloying, dull and complacent.

It was remarkable that this was the case; as I wrote earlier, surely a book by a supposedly 'great' writer about a unique and raw event could not fail so completely? There are a few moments of spirit, including one genuine moment of wit when Rushdie remarks on the fact that his attacker brought a whole bag of knives to the event, rather than just one: "Did he think he might pass them out to the audience and invite them to join in?" (pp194-5). And I don't doubt that Rushdie's trials, and his thoughts and responses to them, are genuine. Only that the final work, Knife, does not suggest a writer on form, or even trying to be.

There's a distinct lack of ambition in Knife. Perhaps Rushdie is not yet fully recovered, but then again perhaps he is merely deflated that, after 30 years, he is yet again "defined by the knife", dragged back into discussing the Satanic Verses controversy (pg. 132). I wrote in my review of that fateful novel that it probably seems a curse to him to be forever known for his lesser work (I also wrote that I found The Satanic Verses crude rather than insightful, an impression of the author that has been reconfirmed by Knife). With this in mind, one can sense a reluctance on Rushdie's part to write or talk about this. Incredibly, early on in the book he twists the fact that his attacker had not even read his controversial novel to claim that "whatever the attack was about, it wasn't about The Satanic Verses" (pg. 5). It may initially appear an act of casuistry and perhaps – yes – disingenuous, but it's more like a writer trying to cobble something together to cope with a situation that he does not want, and escape a shadow which, he thinks, obscures appreciation of his writing.

For this undeserved curse, the author has my sympathy, but it doesn't change the final conclusion about the worth of Knife itself. For a book with a unique opportunity and potential, it is a great shame that it is banal, clichéd and lacking in real ambition or originality. Genuine insight, or even an original narration of events, is scarce, as is candour, use of language and wit. Rushdie is more concerned with just delivering whatever is on his mind, justifying it as "free association", whether that is listing other famous people who go by their middle names, other books that involve knives, or his unexamined political prejudices. Because of climate change, fish boil in the sea, apparently (pg. 193) and "white supremacy" lays claim to "Black bodies" and "women's bodies too" (pg. 180). A late attempt to fulfil his anointed role as free-speech spokesman sees him deliver a summary of the history of liberalism that could have been culled from SparkNotes (pg. 182). Remarkably for a book about a man targeted by Islamic extremism, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are the figures who receive the most ire (and, as far as I can see, for nothing more than representing nascent political movements that Rushdie personally disagrees with). At one of the book's nadirs, Rushdie casually lumps Trump and Boris in with the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann (pg. 94), a lack of care and proportion which shows him not to be the measured thinker he needs to be, particularly as those two men would also be at risk of violence when such ridiculous statements are taken to heart by the Hadi Matars of this world.

The battlelines drawn up around Salman Rushdie are fascinating, as is the defence of the principles at stake; the man's actual work less so. So underwhelming have been my reading experiences of Knife and The Satanic Verses that I would be quite content not to think of the author or read anything of his work again, leaving it only to those few who genuinely like that kind of writing. Now if only his opponents in the Islamic world would do the same, I don't think Rushdie would mind this conclusion.

"Truthfully, I would be happy never to speak about The Satanic Verses again." (pg. 99) ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 23, 2024 |
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"We are other, no longer what we were before the calamity of yesterday." - Samuel Beckett
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This book is dedicated to the men and women who saved my life.
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At a quarter to eleven on August 12, 2022, on a sunny Friday morning in upstate New York, I was attacked and almost killed by a young man with a knife just after I came out on stage at the amphitheater in Chautauqua to talk about the importance of keeping writers safe from harm.
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Many people, liberal as well as conservative, find themselves in difficulty when asked to criticize religion. But if we could simply make the distinction between private religious faith and public, politicized ideology, it would be easier to see things as they are and to speak out without worrying about offended sensibilities.
One of the most important ways in which I have understood what happened to me, and the nature of the story I'm here to tell, is that it's a story in which hatred—the knife as a metaphor of hate—is answered, and finally overcome, by love.
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Salman Rushdie skriver om tiden efter attentatet mod ham i 2022. Han forsger at forst gerningsmandens motiver, mens han kmper for at vende tilbage til livet. En hudlst rlig biografi til alle lsere af bger med en strk nerve og med kampen for ytringsfrihed i centrum

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