Colum McCann says his friend Salman Rushdie will ‘have something even more profound to say’ after recovery

Irish author describes shock of hearing news of stabbing at New York literary event which left Rushie seriously injured

Irish writer Colum McCann, whose friend the British author Salman Rushdie was left seriously injured after being stabbed in the US, says that the 75-year-old will in time have something “profound” to say about the attack.

Mr Rushdie was about to deliver a lecture at a literary event at the Chautauqua Institution in New York when the stabbing occurred on Friday. He is talking again having come off a ventilator and is on the road to recovery. A 24-year-old man has appeared in court having pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempted murder.

In an interview with RTÉ This Week, Mr McCann said news of the shocking incident filtered through very quickly.

“Obviously, like everyone, I was so shocked. We heard very, very shortly after the attack happened from a number of people. We share friends, we share literary agents. It was one of those things that come along and stuns you. The solar plexus. It had immediate reverberations and I think it will have long-term effects in many different ways.”

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The award-winning writer said he is “so glad” that Rushdie “is doing so much better”.

“He’s talking and exuding his sense of humour still in the hospital. What will happen is he will recover and I think he will have something even more profound to say to the world than he has said over the last few years. Salman is an extraordinary literary and cultural figure.”

He emphasised that Rushdie had lived a “very open life” even with death threats going back several decades hanging over his head following the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses.

“I have been in his house. I have travelled with him — even on the New York City subway. And he has lived a very open life for the last couple of decades. It seemed to everybody that this [threat] had finished.

He was very generous with his time. He travelled places. He didn’t go out with security or anything like that. Obviously that is going to have to change for him.

“But he is an extraordinary person in that he embraces the world. He is very interested in other people. It is not so much about himself. He doesn’t shrink ino his own little world.”

Mr McCann added that Mr Rushie will no doubt open up a chain of discussion and healing about what had occurred.

“I believe that while there will be increased security, there will be a Salman that will come out and say something to us that maybe will help us heal. Because we are living in incredibly divided times. Not just in the world but here in the United States as well.

“All these divisions — I believe they contributed somewhat to this thing coming back up again and infecting like a disease this young man [the attacker] who is not just feeding off the rhetoric of fundamentalists around the world but feeding off domestic rhetoric [in the US] that is dividing people in extraordinary ways.

“When Salman gets up and begins to talk again I believe he will talk about some of that and maybe the talk will come around to some kind of healing. It is going to be a scary new world for him and for all of us.”