Stabbing attack on Rushdie sparks surge in interest in his books

Different editions of ‘The Satanic Verses’ take top three spots on Amazon list

Author Salman Rushdie holds up a copy of his controversial book, "The Satanic Verses" during a 1992 news conference in Arlington, Va.  (AP/Ron Edmonds)
Author Salman Rushdie holds up a copy of his controversial book, "The Satanic Verses" during a 1992 news conference in Arlington, Va. (AP/Ron Edmonds)

NEW YORK — The stunning knife attack on author Salman Rushdie has fanned interest in his works — above all, “The Satanic Verses,” which left him living for years under a looming death threat.

Different editions of the 1988 book — seen as blasphemous by Iranian leaders who subsequently issued a religious decree calling for his death — on Saturday occupied the top three spots on Amazon’s “Movers & Shakers” list.

That list, which shows books whose sales have increased the most, had another Rushdie opus, “Midnight’s Children,” teetering between fourth and fifth place.

Bookstores reported a flurry of interest in the Indian-born author, some from readers too young to remember the original fury he prompted across much of the Muslim world.

The knife attack on Rushdie, 75, which drew international condemnation, took place Friday as the author was about to speak at a literary event in the small town of Chautauqua, in western New York state.

Police and witnesses said 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairfield, New Jersey, was wrestled to the ground as he continued his attack, which left Rushdie in serious condition. Authorities have yet to describe Matar’s background or say what might have motivated him.

This still image from video shows Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, N.J., at left, being escorted from the stage as people tend to author Salman Rushdie, center right, at the Chautauqua Institution, in Chautauqua, N.Y., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (AP)

At the sprawling Strand Bookstore, New York’s biggest and probably most famous book emporium, the attack brought a spike in interest, and in sales of new and used Rushdie volumes.

“We definitely had people coming in looking for anything that he’s written,” said floor manager Katie Silvernail.

“Some of our younger employees had never heard of him. So it was interesting yesterday to have conversations… with our younger staff about who he was and what his impact was on the literary world.”

She added: “Honestly, I feel like people just came here yesterday because they wanted to talk about how they felt about what happened.”

On Twitter, some users urged people to buy Rushdie’s books in a show of solidarity.

“The Satanic Verses” tells the surrealistic tale of two Indian actors whose hijacked plane explodes over the English Channel. They somehow make it safely to an English beach, one of them now in the form of an archangel, the other as the devil.

In this file photo taken on February 26, 1989, Pro-Iranian Hezbollah fundamentalists burn an effigie of British writer Salman Rushdie who they are accusing of blasphemy for his ‘Satanic Verses’ book that urged Iran Imam Khomeiny to determine his execution in Beirut, Lebanon. (NABIL ISMAIL / AFP)

Explosively, Rushdie gave prostitutes in the story the names of the prophet Mohammed’s wives.

He also created the character of a prophet named Mahound who, under Lucifer’s influence, seems to say that one can pray to gods other than Allah — before realizing his error.

Rushdie, who holds both British and American citizenship, remained hospitalized Saturday in serious condition following hours of surgery.

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