Salman Rushdie reveals in new book he had a cancer scare after stabbing attack

Sir Salman Rushdie has revealed he had a cancer scare not long after he was repeatedly stabbed during a literary event in New York.

The 76-year-old Indian-born British author suffered severe, life-changing injuries including losing sight in one eye following the violent knife attack which occurred ahead of him delivering a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in August 2022.

In his new book, Knife: Meditations After An Attempted Murder, Sir Salman has recounted his experience of the near-fatal incident and the aftermath.

After recalling the event and his initial recovery process, the Booker Prize-winning author explained a “small bump” was found when he had his prostate examined by his doctor as part of a health check-up.

“After I narrowly survived a murder attempt, now I had to face the prospect of cancer?” he wrote.

“This was unacceptable. It was unfair.”

After undergoing an MRI scan, he received the results which stated: “Cancer likely”.

“On the 1-to-5 scale of probability they used, I had scored a wretched 4,” he added.

However, the author recalled the normal prostate cancer PSA test, which checks the amount of prostate-specific antigen in your blood, showed a different story.

He wrote: “The PSA number on my blood test was low: 2.1. This would normally be read to mean ‘no prostate problem’. But the MRI results said cancer likely.”

After seeking the opinion of a second urologist, he was told that a urinary-tract infection he had recently been treated for “might be responsible” for the bump on his prostate.

He recalled that as he waited for further tests to give him a conclusive answer, the doctor tried to reassure him that if it was prostate cancer, it “spreads slowly”.

After two months, he received the all-clear he had been waiting for.

“The second MRI took place in December, five weeks after Dr U-2’s inspection, two months after the message reading cancer likely. This time the scan was clear,” he wrote.

“On the scale of 1 to 5, I was now a proud 1. There was no lump. I didn’t have prostate cancer.

“The universe wasn’t quite as cruel as that, even though it had waited two long months to tell me so.”

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Sir Salman Rushdie is made a Companion of Honour by the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle (Jonathan Brady/PA)

When the attack happened on stage in August 2022, the author was due to speak about safe places for writers at the event being held in the small town of Chautauqua.

The incident was not the first time Sir Salman’s life has come under threat as in 1989 Iran’s former ruler Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his death after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims consider blasphemous.

The Iranian government withdrew support for the death sentence in 1998.

Ahead of his new book’s publication, Sir Salman revealed he did not want to attend the talk where he was attacked in 2022 after having a premonition of the incident.

In his first major television interview since the attack, the author told Anderson Cooper on CBS programme 60 Minutes that he had dreamed of a man bearing down on him with a spear in an “amphitheatre” in the days before the event.

The author also explained that he does not name his attacker – a 24-year-old man from New Jersey named Hadi Matar, who has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial – in the book.

“I don’t want his name in my book and I don’t want him in my life,” he said.

“We had 27 seconds together (the length of the attack), I don’t want to give him any more of my time.”

Sir Salman was knighted in 2008 and in 2022 he was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour as part of the then Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Knife: Meditations After An Attempted Murder is released on April 16.