Salman Rushdie ‘off ventilator and talking’, day after attack, says agent

Updated on Aug 14, 2022 07:18 AM IST

Rushdie had suffered severe nerve damage in his arm and an eye and was ‘likely to’ lose his damaged eye, according to his book agent. He was stabbed at least 10 to 15 times, just before his speech at an event in New York.

Author Salman Rushdie, behind screen left, is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York.(AP)
Author Salman Rushdie, behind screen left, is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York.(AP)

Salman Rushdie has been taken off the ventilator and is able to talk, said his book agent Andrew Wylie, a day after The Satanic Verses author was stabbed at an event in New York. Rushdie remained hospitalized with serious injuries, but fellow author Aatish Taseer had tweeted late evening that he was “off the ventilator and talking (and joking).”

Rushdie’s agent confirmed the information to Associated Press without giving further details. The tweet has, however, been deleted now.

The 75-year-old Booker Prize winner suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye from about 10 to 15 stab wounds. Wylie had said Friday evening that he would “likely lose one eye”.

Earlier on Saturday, the 24-year-old suspect Hadi Matar, accused of attacking Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges even as a prosecutor called it a “preplanned” crime.

An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him.

According to reports, a judge ordered an arrest without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar took steps to purposely put himself in position to harm Rushdie by getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID. “This was a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack on Mr. Rushdie,” Schmidt said.

Matar was arrested Friday by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation on grounds of attempted murder 2nd degree (B Felony) and assault 2nd degree. He was processed at State Police Jamestown and transported to Chautauqua County Jail.

Authors, activists, government officials across the world condemned the attack on Salman Rushdie as an infringement on the right to free speech. People expressed shock and outrage and paid their tributes and praise for the award-winning author who spent more than 30 years in hiding, due to death threats for his 1988 book The Satanic Verses.

US President Joe Biden Saturday released a statement saying he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the attack. “Salman Rushdie — with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense for story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced — stands for essential, universal ideals,” the statement read. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.”

Mumbai-born Rushdie has spent his life in Britain and the US, and is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight's Children,” in which he sharply criticized then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

The Satanic Verses, on the other hand, was regarded a blasphemy by many Muslims. The book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran's Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a ‘fatwa’, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.

(With agency inputs)

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