Salman Rushdie set to be focus of documentary based on ‘Knife’ memoir

Salman Rushdie is set to be the focus of a new documentary based on his memoir, Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder, and the attack that inspired it.

The documentary will be reportedly be directed by Oscar-winning Alex Gibney, an American documentary film director and producer who worked on Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side, both of which earned him his Oscars.

Rushdie, 76, published his memoir in April, less than two years after he survived the frenzied stabbing while appearing at the Chautauqua Institution in the United States.

The Indian-born British-American author was about to give a lecture on the US being a safe haven for exiled authors, when he was attacked by a man who rushed the stage as Rushdie was about to begin his address.

A 24-year-old New Jersey resident, Hadi Matar, was charged with the attack, which came three decades after the notorious fatwa issued in 1989 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini following the release of The Satanic Verses.

The documentary will explore Rushdie’s recovery “in the broadest sense”, and will also feature never-before-seen footage taken by his wife, Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Variety quoted the author as saying: “I’m delighted we have Alex working with us on this film.

“We have long admired his brilliant work, from Taxi to the Dark Side and Going Clear to his recent portrait of Paul Simon. There couldn’t be a better person for the job.”

Alex Gibney at the “In Restless Dreams: The Music Of Paul Simon” premiere on March 13, 2024 in New York City. (Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)
Alex Gibney at the “In Restless Dreams: The Music Of Paul Simon” premiere on March 13, 2024 in New York City. (Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)

The attack, which lasted around 27 seconds, damaged the author’s liver and his hands, and severed the optic nerve in his right eye, which was left “kind of hanging out of my face, sitting on my cheek, like a soft-boiled egg. And blind.”

“I felt him hit me very hard on the right side of my jaw,” Rushdie wrote in Knife. “He’s broken it, I remember thinking. All my teeth will fall out. At first I thought I’d just been hit by someone who really packed a punch.”

In the book, he described how “blood began to pour out of my neck. I became aware, as I fell, of liquid splashing onto my shirt.

“There was the deep knife wound in my left hand, which severed all the tendons and most of the nerves,” he said. “There were at least two more deep stab wounds in my neck – one slash right across it and more on the right side – and another farther up my face, also on the right.”

He continued: “I remember lying on the floor watching the pool of my blood spreading outward from my body. That’s a lot of blood, I thought. And then I thought: I’m dying.”

Henry Reese, who was going to be interviewing Rushdie, suffered minor injuries after he and several others attempted to stop the attack.

Salman Rushdie and his wife, Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Getty Images)
Salman Rushdie and his wife, Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Getty Images)

Matar was due to stand trial on 8 January, but the publication of Rushdie's memoir resulted in the trial being delayed, with no new date set as of yet.

Matar has been held without bail since the attack, and said to officials previously, “I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person. He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”

Gibney is reported to have already begun production on Knife, but is seeking a distributor.