Salman Rushdie releases first book since knife attack: How he's doing and what 'Victory City' is about

Salman Rushdie refuses to be silenced, even after a vicious knife attack that left him severely injured.

He's proving that this week with the release of a new book, "Victory City" (Random House, 352 pp., out Tuesday), a lush fairy tale set in a magical India in which a girl granted power by a goddess gives rise to a fantastical empire. A starred Kirkus review calls it "a grand entertainment, in a tale with many strands, by an ascended master of modern legends."

Rushdie, 75, has lived under the threat of assassination since the release of his 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses." That threat nearly became reality last August, when a man rushed the stage with a knife as Rushdie was about to speak at a public event in an attack that left the author hospitalized.

“There have been nightmares — not exactly the incident, but just frightening. Those seem to be diminishing. I’m fine," Rushdie shared with The New Yorker in his first interview since the attack this week. "I’m able to get up and walk. When I say I’m fine, I mean, there’s bits of my body that need constant checkups. It was a colossal attack.”

Here's what to know about Rushdie and the attack that nearly claimed his life.

What happened when Salman Rushdie was attacked?

Rushdie was attacked in August 2022 as he was about to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York. A man stormed the stage as the author was being introduced, stabbing him in the neck and abdomen. Immediately following the attack, Rushdie was hospitalized on a ventilator with a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye he was then reported likely to lose.

The attacker was restrained, according to Travis Seward, general manager for 10Best at USA TODAY, who witnessed the incident.

A small group of people quickly surrounded the author, holding up his legs to presumably send blood to his chest. Rushdie was taken by helicopter to a hospital, state police said.

The week of the release of "Victory City," Rushdie shared a recent selfie on Twitter, his first since the attack, in which he's wearing a pair of glasses, a darkened lens covering his injured eye.

What is the controversy surrounding Rushdie’s books?

Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" is considered blasphemous by many Muslims and led to its ban in Iran. The book tells a fictional tale of a prophet experiencing a demented dream. says, "The book mocked or at least contained mocking references to the Prophet Muhammad and other aspects of Islam, in addition to a character clearly based on the Supreme Leader of Iran."

In early 1989, a few months after the book's publication, Iran's former leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for Rushdie's death, issuing a fatwa, or edict, offering an over $3 million reward for anyone who kills him.

At the time, other countries such as India and Bangladesh banned the book.

Book bans are on the rise. What are the most banned books and why?

Iran’s government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingered. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.

Rushdie has shared he wrote the book without fear of censorship or death sentences, considering intellectual freedom a birthright. He's also previously dismissed the threats, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward.

Who is Hadi Matar, the suspect in Salman Rushdie's stabbing?

Hadi Matar, who lived in Fairview, New Jersey, with his mother and was 24 at the time of the attack, is charged with the assault and attempted murder of Rushdie, and could get decades in prison if convicted. Matar has pleaded not guilty.

Since the brazen and bloody attack, a picture has emerged of a young man who in recent years had seemed isolated and depressed to those around him, including his mother. He also had grown fixated on religion and admired Khomeini and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, posting images of Iranian figures on his social media pages.

Matar gave a brief interview to The New York Post, in which he talked about disliking Rushdie and praised Iran's late supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

“I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person,” Matar told the media outlet. “He’s someone who attacked Islam. He attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”

Matar told The Post he considered Khomeini “a great person” but wouldn’t say whether he was following the edict, or fatwa.

In his interview with The New Yorker, Rushdie called Matar an "idiot," but otherwise said he felt no anger.

“I’ve tried very hard over these years to avoid recrimination and bitterness,” he said. “I just think it’s not a good look. One of the ways I’ve dealt with this whole thing is to look forward and not backwards. What happens tomorrow is more important than what happened yesterday.”

What other books did Salman Rushdie write?

The Indian-born novelist has authored more than a dozen books.

His 1981 "Midnight's Children," detailing India's transition from British colonial rule to independence, won the Booker Prize. Other books Rushdie wrote include 1983's "Shame," 1990's "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," and 2017's "The Golden House."

Rushdie's most recent novel, "Quichotte," published in 2019, puts his spin on the Miguel de Cervantes classic with a modern-day Don Quixote, satirizing former president Donald Trump's America. The book was long-listed for the Booker Prize.

Contributing: Mary Cadden; Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Salman Rushdie: All about the author and his new book, 'Victory City'