On Friday morning, the author Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the neck as he stood onstage at the Chautauqua Institution, in western New York, where he was scheduled to give a lecture. The motivations of his attacker were not immediately clear, but Rushdie—one of the most celebrated contemporary writers—had lived under the threat of violence for decades. In 1989, the year after Rushdie published “The Satanic Verses,” a novel that imagines a fictional version of the Prophet Muhammad, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a decree, or fatwa, calling for Rushdie’s death. An assassination attempt against Rushdie failed later that year, and the writer spent periods in the years that followed in hiding, or under heightened security when he made public appearances.
in 2012, The New Yorker published “The Disappeared,” a Personal History by Rushdie about the period after the fatwa, as well as key moments preceding and following the release of “The Satanic Verses.” In the essay, Rushdie recounts the evening after the fatwa was issued, writing in the third person about returning to his London home under police surveillance, the news of the day beginning to sink in. “He realized,” Rushdie writes, “in that footstep-haunted space, that he no longer understood his life, or what it might become.”