Salman Rushdie reveals cancer scare just weeks after near-fatal stabbing: ‘It was unfair’

Salman Rushdie has opened up about the devastating moment he was told he “likely” had cancer not long after he was almost stabbed to death.

The author, 76, made the revelation in his new memoir, Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder, which recounts the savage 2022 attack.

Rushdie, who famously had a fatwa - assassination order - issued against him, was preparing to do a talk on free speech at the Chautauqua Institution in New York when the attempted murder took place.

He was stabbed around a dozen times in an attack that lasted just 27 seconds - leaving him blind in one eye and with permanent damage to his hand.

The fatwa was issued - and later removed - because of allegedly blasphemous content in his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, which offended some Muslims.

But as he came to terms with his injuries, he had to face a new, unexpected threat to his life - cancer.

“After I narrowly escaped a murder attempt, I had to face the prospect of cancer,” he wrote. “This was unacceptable,” he recalled thinking. “It was unfair.

Salman Rushdie had a cancer scare after surviving an attempt on his life (PA)
Salman Rushdie had a cancer scare after surviving an attempt on his life (PA)

The author explained that a “bump” was identified when he had his prostate examined as part of an overall health check-up.

“On the 1-to-5 scale of probability they used, I had scored a wretched 4. Cancer likely,” the author recalled.

What followed was an agonising two-month wait before he got the all-clear.

Rushdie explained that shortly after the abnormality was discovered, a doctor was left “puzzled” by his test results, which were ultimately “contradictory”.

He wrote: “The normal test for prostate cancer is a PSA, a blood test that measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in your blood. A high PSA number is considered dangerous, a low number is reassuring.

“But the MRI result said cancer likely.

“[The doctor] said [a recent] UTI might be responsible for the bump on my prostate,” the author recalled, but he would have to “wait some weeks” before testing again.

The doctor tried to reassure him, telling the author that if it was prostate cancer, it spreads “slowly”.

Thankfully for Rushdie, two months after being told that he “likely” had cancer, he got the all-clear.

“The second MRI took place in December, two months after reading cancer likely. This time the scan was clear. On the scale of 1 to 5, I was now a proud 1,” he wrote.

Rushdie’s cancer scare lasted two months (AP)
Rushdie’s cancer scare lasted two months (AP)

“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.”

In his new book, which Rushdie admits writing to help him process the attack, he recalls the moment he saw his would-be assassin for the first time.

“So it’s you. Here you are,” the author recalled. “It felt like something coming out of the distant past and trying to drag me back in time, if you like, back into that distant past, in order to kill me.”

Hadi Matar, then 24, is assuced of attacking the author and is currently waiting trial - having been held without bail since the August 2022 attack.

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