On August 12, 2022, Salman Rushdie was due to speak at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State. Shortly after the speakers ascended on the stage, a 24-year-old man called Hadi Matar attacked Rushdie with a knife. Rushdie fell to the floor after sustaining a dozen stab wounds. Those who had doggedly or intermittently followed Rushdie’s career began wondering if Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa from 1989 had finally caught up to him. It had, but like a character out of his own novels, Rushdie had staved off the long reach of certain death yet again. While Rushdie survived the attack, he was left visually impaired in one eye, much like the blinded protagonist of his new novel who recovers her personhood after being blinded by a king, through the act of writing.
At the time of the attack last year, Rushdie’s next novel Victory City was set to be released in early 2023. Victory City is a beautiful novel about the founding and the ultimate fate of the Vijayanagar empire (called Bisnaga in the story after a European mispronounces it), which spanned most of southern India between the 14th to 16th centuries. At the centre of the novel is a young girl, Pampa Kampana, who grows up to be a celestially blessed sorceress and a queen of Bisnaga several times over.