Salman Rushdie’s new book is ready for release.
Less than six months after the novelist was stabbed on stage at the Chautauqua Institution in rural New York, his new novel Victory City will hit bookstore shelves in the US tomorrow (Feb. 7) and in the UK on Thursday (Feb. 9).
Rushdie will not be promoting his book in person as he focuses on his recovery. He has, however, been sharing press reviews of his new novel on Twitter with cheeky comments and clapping back at the trolls.
Yesterday (Feb. 5), he tweeted “I’ll be watching!” in response to a poster of a Feb. 9 online event where authors Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman will discuss his latest book. Atwood told the New York Times she felt a duty to support her fellow author’s work: “You have to, as it were, foil the attempt to shut him down,” she said.
The novel, formatted as a recovered medieval Sanskrit scripture’s translation, follows a young orphan girl from southern India, Pampa Kampana, who becomes a vessel for a goddess and creates the city Bisnaga—which translates to Victory City—over 250 years.
The 75-year-old author, who has lived in New York for over 20 years and got American citizenship in 2016, lost sight in one eye and the use of one hand in the attack. He wrote the upcoming book prior to the stabbing but some of the novel’s themes will resonate even more strongly in light of those events. The novel’s last sentence, “words are the only victors,” speaks directly to Rushdie’s legacy.
Sept. 26, 1988: Viking Penguin in Britain publishes The Satanic Verses. The novel deals in part with an alleged set of verses in the Quran that were removed after Islamic prophet Muhammad realized he mistook revelations from the devil as ones from God. Devout Muslims don’t believe that these “Satanic Verses” ever existed.
Feb. 14, 1989: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran orders a fatwa calling for the death of Indian-born British novelist Rushdie and his publishers for alleged blasphemy in The Satanic Verses.
Feb. 22, 1989: The controversial novel is published in the US.
Feb. 24, 1989: Police opens fire against thousands of Muslim protestors demonstrating in front of the British High Commission in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where the book is banned. A dozen people are killed and at least 40 more injured.
May 27, 1989: Almost 20,000 Muslims protest in central London, burning an effigy of Rushdie and calling for his death. Police arrest more than 100 demonstrators.
Sept. 14, 1989: Four bombs are placed outside bookstores owned by Penguin in Britain. Three are disarmed but one explodes. Luckily, there are no casualties.
July 12, 1991: Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the contentious text, is stabbed to death at Tsukuba University, where he teaches comparative Islamic culture. The crime will go unsolve.
July 3, 1993: Militants burn down a hotel where Turkish novelist Aziz Nesin, who had published a translated excerpt from The Satanic Verses in a local newspaper, was staying in an attempt to kill him. He manages to escape but 36 others died. A Turkish court later sentences 33 people to death for their roles in the attack.
Oct. 11, 1993: William Nygaard, who published Rushdie’s book in Norway, is shot three times in the back. He is seriously wounded but survives.
Oct. 2010: Rushdie starts to work on a memoir about the fatwa and his years spent in hiding. Titled Joseph Anton: A memoir—a reference to his fatwa-era code name, a combination of the first names of two of his favorite writers, Conrad and Chekhov—the book will come out two years later.
June 2012: A government-backed organization funds an online video game around implementing Rushdie’s fatwa.
Sept. 2012: Iranian foundation 15 Khordad raises its bounty on the author from $2.7 million to $3.3 million.
Feb. 2016: More than 40 state-run media outlets in Iran raise $600,000 (£420,000) to add as bounty to Khomeini’s death fatwa on Rushdie.
Feb. 2017: “The decree is as Imam Khomeini issued,” proclaims Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Aug. 7, 2022: A state-controlled website in Tehran republishes the fatwa, saying the decree is “a great and unforgettable fatwa for the Muslims of the world…Now after 33 years, Salman Rushdie is left with the nightmare of death that will never leave him. He has now become a lesson for all those who harbor illusions of insulting Islam under the pretext of freedom.”
Aug. 12, 2022: 24-year-old New Jersey man Hadi Matar stabs Rushdie on stage in the face, neck, and abdomen. He’s arrested during the incident, and the next day, he pleads not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault.
After the attack on Rushdie, several authors and readers alike condemned the attack and protested against it. Booklovers showed their support by buying his books.
More than 2,000 copies of the 1998 paperback edition of The Satanic Verses sold in the first full week of sales since the attack, from Aug. 14 to 20, according to Nielsen BookScan, and the book’s ranking climbed up to 120 in the bestseller’s list, up from spot 24,491 in the chart the week before the attack. Overall, 3,744 copies Rushdie’s books sold in the week ending Aug. 20, up 236% on the previous week.
Rushdie’s latest and 15th novel is on track for a robust reception. Major bookstores in the US have already reported a surge in pre-orders.
“There is such a thing as P.T.S.D., you know. I’ve found it very, very difficult to write. I sit down to write, and nothing happens. I write, but it’s a combination of blankness and junk, stuff that I write and that I delete the next day. I’m not out of that forest yet, really...And you think, Oh, well, there’s never going to be anything. One of the things about being seventy-five and having written twenty-one books is that you know that, if you keep at it, something will come.” —Salman Rushdie in a Feb. 6 interview with the New Yorker.
His next book may be a kind of sequel to “Joseph Anton.” And unlike that first memoir, it won’t be written at arm’s length. “This doesn’t feel third-person-ish to me,” Rushdie said. “I think when somebody sticks a knife into you, that’s a first-person story. That’s an ‘I’ story.”