An Iran-supporting extremist took the sight in his right eye and nearly killed him, but Salman Rushdie’s indomitable creative spirit — and sense of humor — still remain “intact.”
The 75-year-old author, who was attacked during a lecture in August in western New York by a knife-wielding Lebanese-American from New Jersey, has his 13th novel “Victory City” coming out in February, and friends say he’s in good spirits while in recovery.
“He’s able to joke about his condition with a smile on his face,” former BBC exec Alan Yentob told The Sunday Times of London. “I think partly he does it to make people close to him think he’s not sitting there, and a different Salman.”
Last weekend, a camera was set up in the Bodleian Library in Oxford to allow the India-born author to tune in from 3,500 miles away in New York as other acclaimed writers read his work as a tribute, including excerpts from his new novel and other writings.
For participants, it was more than just a chance to show their solidarity for Rushdie, who was stabbed because of his “The Satanic Verses” that he wrote more than three decades ago.
“I think there’s another function, too,” said novelist Ian McEwan, “which is just to remind us that Salman is not primarily a victim: he’s primarily a wonderful writer. Hearing his work and . . . not just to see him as some symbol of free speech, but as a marvelous writer.”
McEwan also said he’s “exchanged emails” with his fellow novelist and that Rushdie’s sense of humor is “intact,” so “I should think everything else is too.”
Rushdie has long faced death threats over the 1988 novel, which some Muslims believed challenged and mocked some of the religion’s key tenets. Rushdie was attacked on stage on Aug. 12 at the Chautauqua Institution, two minutes after starting an interview about how America can be a haven for persecuted writers. ie, in dream sequences, challenges and sometimes seems to mock some of its most sensitive tenets.
In the August attack Rushdie — who previously spent many years in hiding because of a $3 million Iranian bounty on his head — was stabbed at least 10 times, suffering a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye.
Days later, his alleged attacker, Hadi Matar, of Fairview, NJ, told The Post in an exclusive jailhouse interview he was “surprised” the novelist survived the attack.
However, the 24-year-old was mum on whether he was inspired by the late Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989 over “The Satanic Verses,” citing a warning by his defense attorney.
Following his hospital discharge, Rushdie remains under the care of his fifth wife, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, a 44-year-old US poet whom he married last summer.