Salman Rushdie reveals moment he saw 'assassin' rushing towards him before author was stabbed over dozen times

12 April 2024, 22:18 | Updated: 12 April 2024, 22:21

Sir Salman Rushdie revealed the horror moment he saw his attacker come towards him
Sir Salman Rushdie revealed the horror moment he saw his attacker come towards him. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Sir Salman Rushdie has described the moment he saw his would-be-killer rushing towards him on stage in New York in 2022, before he was stabbed more than a dozen times.

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The acclaimed author, 76, described the attack as he read an excerpt from his upcoming memoir during an interview with American journalist Anderson Cooper for USA show 60 Minutes on CBS.

Sir Salman said he had expected an attack in a public place, revealing that his immediate thought was: “So, it’s you. Here you are.”

The author was told by doctors he was lucky to survive the stabbing, which came 33 years after a $3 million bounty was placed on his head by Iran's Ayatollah.

Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 accused Sir Salman of insulting Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses (1988).

Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini issued the fatwa against Rushdie
Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini issued the fatwa against Rushdie. Picture: Alamy
Hadi Matar, 24 arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York, August 13, 2022
Hadi Matar, 24 arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York, August 13, 2022. Picture: Alamy

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Reading from his book, Sir Salman said: "In the corner of my right eye, the last thing my right eye would ever see, I saw the man in black running towards me, down the right-hand side of the seating area. Black clothes, black face mask.

"He was coming in hard and low, a squat missile.

"I confess I had sometimes imagined my assassin rising up in some public forum or other and coming for me in just this way.

"So my first thought when I saw this murderous shape rushing towards me was 'So it's you. Here you are'."

He told Cooper: "It felt like something coming out of the distant past and trying to drag me back in time, back into that distant past in order to kill me."

In a separate clip from 60 Minutes on social media, teasing the interview, Sir Salman talked about his survival feeling "like a miracle".

"And I certainly don't feel that some hand reached down from the skies and guarded me.

"But I do think something happened which wasn't supposed to happen."

Sir Salman, who suffered severe, life-changing injuries after the incident, will release the book, titled Knife: Meditations After An Attempted Murder, with Penguin Random House on April 16.

On April 21, he will discuss his book and the attack that left him blind in one eye and with a damaged hand as part of a series of events for the Southbank Centre's Spring Literature and Spoken Word Season.

The Indian-born British author, whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was about to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution when the incident occurred on August 12, 2022.

A man has been charged with attempted murder and assault.

His 1988 book The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since it was published as many Muslims view it as blasphemous, and its publication prompted Iran's then-leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling for his death.

Sir Salman began his writing career in the early 1970s and his 1983 novel Midnight's Children, about the birth of India, won the Booker Prize in 1981.

In 1998, the Iranian government withdrew its support for the death sentence and Sir Salman gradually returned to public life, even appearing as himself in the 2001 hit film Bridget Jones's Diary.