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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Josie Ensor

Author Salman Rushdie can only write ‘blankness and junk’ as mental scars of knife attack remain raw

A combination of physical injuries from the attack and PTSD have prevented Salman Rushdie from being able to write with clarity. Photo: David Levenson

Salman Rushdie has revealed he is suffering from writer’s block and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), in his first interview since his attack on stage in New York last year.

The British-Indian best-selling author, who faced death threats for his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, was stabbed more than a dozen times at the Chautauqua Institution in August while speaking at a literary festival.

“There is such a thing as PTSD, you know,” the writer told The New Yorker magazine. “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.”

The 75-year-old, who is recovering at his home in New York, said his mental scars have taken longer to heal.

“The big injuries are healed, essentially,” he said, adding he had lost nearly three stone while recovering.

“I have feeling in my thumb and index finger and in the bottom half of the palm. I’m doing a lot of hand therapy, and I’m told that I’m doing very well.”

But he said it was difficult to type and to write due to a lack of feeling in some of his fingertips.

Rushdie has also lost sight in one eye, which he now covers with a tinted glasses lens.

Alan Yentob, the broadcaster and close friend of Rushdie, said the author has been “courageous” and retained his sense of humour while recovering, telling BBC News: “Clearly, you can see he’s lost the sight in his eye. Even at the time when that happened, he managed to have a joke about it.”

Yentob said that when the author was asked who he would like to “represent” or “play” him in a film, Mr Rushdie responded: “Maybe Johnny Depp.

“When he got this [tinted lens] he decided he was going to be Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Caribbean,” Yentob explained.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, asked Rushdie if he thinks he should have been more on guard after moving to New York from London in 2000, having previously lived underground for several years.

The Satanic Verses was my fifth published book – my fourth published novel,” said Rushdie.

“So, three-quarters of my life as a writer has happened since the fatwa. In a way, you can’t regret your life.”

Rushdie joked that people like him better now that he has survived an assassination attempt. “Now that I’ve almost died, everybody loves me,” he said.

But he is aware his latest work, Victory City – which he wrote before the attack – will have to compete with his recent real-life drama.

“I’m hoping that to some degree it might change the subject. I’ve always thought that my books are more interesting than my life,” he said. “Unfortunately, the world appears to disagree.”

He suggested he would write a sequel to his memoir Joseph Anton, which was written in the third person. The new book will likely cover the knife attack. “I think when somebody sticks a knife into you, that’s a first-person story. That’s an ‘I’ story,” he said.

Hadi Matar (24) was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree attempted murder and one count of second-degree assault in relation to the attack.

He pleaded not guilty and his trial is likely to take place next year. 

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