Rushdie’s Alleged Attacker’s Trial Postponed for Book

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Originally scheduled for jury selection to start January 8, the trial of Salman Rushdie’s alleged attacker has been delayed.

Salman Rushdie speaks in a news conference at Frankfurter Buchmesse, October 20, 2023. Image: FBM, Marc Jacquemin

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Rushdie: ‘Impossible To Write Anything Else’
In an instance of book publication impacting legal proceedings, a Chautauqua County judge in New York state has ruled that the trial of Salman Rushdie‘s alleged attacker will be postponed to accommodate the expected April 16 publication of Rushdie’s Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder (Penguin Random House).

Jury selection was to have begun on Monday (January 8) in the trial of Hadi Matar, who is charged with the August 12, 2022, stabbing attack made on Rushdie while he was onstage to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution.

Confirmed by Ella Creamer in a report at The Guardian, Matar’s attorney, Nathaniel Barone, is reported to have argued successfully this week that the forthcoming memoir constitutes evidence and that his client is therefore entitled to it for his defense.

Carolyn Thompson, writing for the Associated Press, quotes Barone saying, “It’s not just the book. Every little note Rushdie wrote down, I get, I’m entitled to. Every discussion, every recording, anything he did in regard to this book.”

In a report by Emily St. Martin in the Los Angeles Times, it’s clarified that the 26-year-old Matar “has been held without bail since his arrest immediately after Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed in front of the stunned audience” for the lecture Rushdie had planned to give.

Creamer at The Guardian reports that a new date for the trial has not been set.

In October, Rushdie gave a news conference at  Frankfurter Buchmesse prior to his October 22 receipt of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the  €25,000 (US$27,474) award that is the German market’s most influential and honored accolades in commercial book publishing.

He also was the headliner at Buchmesse’s annual Literature Gala in Messe Frankfurt’s vast Harmonie Hall, a first chance for much of the German public to see Rushdie since the stabbing attack of 2022.

Rushdie: ‘Writing Is a Kind of Optimism’

In his press comments at Frankfurt, Rushdie praised the doctors in Erie, Pennsylvania, whose treatment—including an 8.5-hour initial surgery—”saved my life.”

In speaking about Knife, Rushdie initially got off a characteristically funny line, saying, “It just seemed like an important subject to me.”

He followed that, however, with a more serious comment, saying, “What I really felt is that it was impossible to write anything else—it seemed kind of absurd to write something else until I go through this subject.”

In fact, he said that the book had just been completed earlier in October. “I’ve only just finished it about 10 days ago,” he told the press. “So it’s still quite fresh in my memory and I’m looking forward to it coming out quite soon, April I think.”

And offering an insight into the sometimes remarkably upbeat bearing he has displayed following the ordeal of the attack and his long recovery, Rushdie said, “I think it’s easy in the present days to have a kind of tragic sense of life. Because the world is not in great shape.

“I’ve always found myself to be almost unreasonably optimistic about the world. I think writing is a kind of optimism, I think in order to dedicate yourself for several years to making a book,  it’s a kind of optimistic act. You’re hoping that somebody will read it in the end.

“So I think writers often are fueled by a kind of optimism in spite of the reality of life which might be quite dark, which I think it is just now.”

Salman Rushdie in his Frankfurter Buchmesse news conference, October 20, 2023. Seated with him are the Börsenverein’s Karin Schmidt-Friderichs and Thomas Koch. Image: FBM, Marc Jacquemin


More from Publishing Perspectives on Salman Rushdie is here, more about Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, and more about international awards and other honors in publishing and books is here.

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Our 75th Frankfurt coverage from our Frankfurt Book Fair Magazine, which was available throughout the trade show in print, is also available for your free download. 

The magazine has interviews with Frankfurt fellows and grant-program recipients from international publishing markets, as well as articles on programming from our Publishing Perspectives Forum at Frankfurt including our Executive Talks with Penguin Random House worldwide CEO Nihar Malaviya and Nanmeebooks’ Kim Chongsatitwana

There’s also a section on Frankfurt’s upcoming guest of honor programs (Italy, the Philippines, the Czech Republic) and the 2023 Guest of Honor Slovenia.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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