Salman Rushdie will not promote new novel after attack

<span>Photograph: Scanpix Denmark/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Scanpix Denmark/Reuters

Salman Rushdie’s recovery is progressing after the attack on him five months ago, but he will not be promoting his new novel, his agent has confirmed.

Rushdie wrote Victory City before was attacked at the Chautauqua Institution in New York state, leaving him with the loss of sight in one eye and without the use of one hand. It will be his first book to have been published since then.

Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, said the author’s “recovery is progressing, but he will not be making any public appearances to promote his forthcoming novel”.

The novel’s publication on 9 February will instead be marked with a free online event with authors Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman, run in partnership with PEN America, PEN Canada and English PEN. A second event will be held at the Bristol Festival of Ideas on 21 February, with a panel including Darran Anderson, author of Imaginary Cities, investigative journalist Sian Norris and human rights barrister Susie Alegre. The Hay festival is also planning an event linked to the book on 1 June, featuring an “all-star panel”.

Presented as an abridged translation of a fictitious Sanskrit verse saga, long buried in a pot in the ground and now retold by a “humble” narrator, Victory City opens in a magical version of 14th-century India. The original author of the poem starts life as a young orphan girl, Pampa Kampana; she is possessed by the goddess Parvati and becomes instrumental in founding a great city, Bisnaga. After a short time in power, and amid much dynastic wrangling, Pampa plots her return from exile and faces death threats and attacks.

Related: Met police urged to prosecute Iranian accused of backing Rushdie fatwa

The novel spans 250 years, in which the “poet, miracle worker and prophetess” seeks to fulfil her divine purpose of bringing women agency in a patriarchal world and creating a kingdom where women are “neither veiled nor hidden”. It’s a playful, magical realist epic, full of adventure and comically clashing registers, and a celebration of the power of storytelling and the endurance of literature.

Although Rushdie, 75, will not be taking part in events, he has been tweeting about the book, sharing images of the UK and US covers. Rushdie’s Twitter account was inactive for a period following the attack, but the author begun posting again at the end of last year.

He has also supported friend Hanif Kureishi’s recovery from a fall and spinal surgery, with Kureishi tweeting: “My friend Salman Rushdie, one of the bravest men I know, a man who has stood up to the most evil form of Islamofascism, writes to me every single day, encouraging patience. He should know. He gives me courage.”

Author and friend Hari Kunzru recently visited Rushdie, and told the New York Times that he is “extraordinarily resilient”, adding: “He’s still the Salman he was. He’s lost his eye and is still recovering from some of the other injuries, but this has not ended him.”

Vintage, the imprint of Penguin Random House that will publish Victory City, said the marketing campaign would “celebrate the power of storytelling with partnerships with cultural arts and institutions … to reach Rushdie’s many readers as well as fans of magic realist fiction, the global literary community and those interested in myth, history and female agency”.

Bea Carvalho, head of fiction at Waterstones, said the publication of Victory City “stands out as one of the year’s literary highlights”, and that the novel “feels like an instant classic”.

“This moment affords us a welcome opportunity to reflect on the whole career of one of the most astonishingly talented writers at work today,” she added. “We look forward to celebrating Rushdie’s entire body of work while we introduce this wonderful new novel.”

Related: Salman Rushdie on ventilator after being stabbed on stage at New York state event

Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and torso as he came on stage to give a talk on artistic freedom at the Chautauqua Institution on 12 August 2022.

Hadi Matar, 24, was arraigned during a brief hearing in Chautauqua county district court on an indictment returned by a grand jury that charged him with one count of second-degree attempted murder and one count of second-degree assault in relation to the attack.