Two or three shock warnings |  Press

“What can I do? It’s like I’m carrying an incurable disease that keeps chasing me. A kind of herpes!” Salman Rushdie told me with a shrug.

Published at 6:30 pm yesterday.

It was ten years ago, in a hotel room in Toronto. We were alone, alone. Despite Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa that made the author in 1989, without much protective measures Satanic Verses A person sentenced to death – estimated at 3.3 million US with bonus.

Salman Rushdie lived freely and boldly according to his will. One does not overlook the scars of this constant menace that weighed on his person for more than two decades.

Although, by his own estimation, he had survived about twenty assassination attempts, I met a gruff and charming man with a lively appearance and a great sense of humor. An amazing survivor.

On Friday morning, what many feared for 33 years happened. Salman Rushdie, 75, was attacked and stabbed by Hadi Mather, 24, while on stage before a literary conference. He was rushed to the hospital by helicopter and underwent emergency surgery in the afternoon as he suffered severe injuries, especially in the neck and abdomen, and was bleeding. “The news is not good,” said his literary agent, Andrew Wylie The New York Times, Friday night. He mentioned that the teacher could lose an eye under artificial respiration and his liver was also affected.

Rushdie discussed America’s status as a refuge for persecuted writers and artists before an audience of about 4,000 in Chautauqua, a small town in upstate New York. A sad irony.

Salman Rushdie was 41 when, in September 1988, he published his fourth novel in England, about uprooting and immigration. His title, Satanic VersesVerses removed from the Koran refer to a legend inspired by the devil in Muhammad.

Publication was soon banned in the British author’s native India. On February 14, 1989, the “Supreme Guide” of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, deemed the satirical passages in his fatwa (religious edict) blasphemous, sentencing Rushdie to death and forcing him into hiding.

For nearly a decade, with a bounty on his head, wearing a wig to hide, Salman Rushdie has lived in dozens of secret homes in Britain under police protection, fearing for his safety and that of his loved ones. He changed his residence more than 50 times in 1989 alone.

“I’m not used to seeing four armed men in my kitchen, it’s almost claustrophobic,” he wrote in his autobiography, titled, Joseph Anton: A MemoirThe pseudonym refers to the life he lived by in the 1990s and was borrowed from two of his favorite authors, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov.

“I decided to write an autobiography because my life was interesting,” he explained to me in September 2012, a week before the book was published.

“I thought I wanted to tell a story. But biography is not my favorite genre. I never believed I would succumb to it. I don’t think anyone would be interested. I finished. It was worth it. »

In more than 600 pages of introspection, he admits to emancipation, the question of his childhood in Bombay – he was born two months before India’s independence – the advantages and difficulties of his massive status. His love life (he was married four times, including to supermodel and host Padma Lakshmi) and, of course, this fatwa made him famous.

He learned the meaning of the word from Islamic law, like many others, from a BBC reporter on the morning of Valentine’s Day 1989. “How do you feel when you are sentenced to death? “, she asked him pointedly.

Salman Rushdie had apparently been living in Manhattan for a decade when I met him at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). He was at TIFF on the sidelines of a gala evening dedicated to the adaptation of his book, his first film as a screenwriter. Midnight’s Children, directed by Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta. His second novel, inspired by his childhood, won him the prestigious Booker Prize in 1981 and launched his career.

Despite conflicting reports, the fatwa against Rushdie was never lifted.

In 1998, the Iranian government, under pressure from Washington, declared it no longer supported it and abandoned its implementation. On the other hand, the decree, supported by an Iranian religious foundation, according to The New York TimesStill in effect.

We don’t know much about the motive of Salman Rushdie’s attacker on Friday. This is undoubtedly an attack not only against a man and against a writer, but an attack against freedom of art and expression, which cannot be tolerated.

“A book is the product of a pact with the Devil that reverses the Faustian pact,” writes Salman Rushdie. Satanic Verses. DR Faust sacrificed eternity for two dozen years of power; The writer accepts the destruction of his life, and (if he is lucky) perhaps not eternity, but, at least, posterity. Either way, the devil wins. »

I hope with all my heart that the writer will win this time. A writer always survives, even an incurable disease.

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