Salman Rushdie in critical condition but able to speak, says son

Salman Rushdie remains in critical condition but was able to speak after he was attacked during a literary event in the US, his son said on Sunday.

The Booker Prize-winning author, who has lived under a death threat from Iran since the late 1980s, was stabbed multiple times on stage in western New York state and taken to a hospital, the authorities said.

Rushdie’s son Zafar said his father was still undergoing treatment, but on Saturday had been taken off of a ventilator and additional oxygen and was able to say a few words.

“Though his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact,” Zafar Rushdie said in a statement.

Hadi Matar, 24, from Fairview, New Jersey, was charged by New York authorities with attempted murder and assault following the attack. New York state police major Eugene Staniszewski said a possible motive had not yet been determined. Matar’s court-appointed lawyer said he pleaded not guilty, according to Reuters.

In an earlier statement, Rushdie’s agent Andrew Wylie said the author “will probably lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged”.

On Sunday, Wylie confirmed that Rushdie had been taken off a ventilator. “It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction,” Wylie said.

Hadi Matar, right, has been charged with attempted murder © Gene J. Puskar/AP

Rushdie was due to speak at the Chautauqua Institution, south-west of the city of Buffalo in New York state, on Friday at an event organised to discuss the US “as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression”.

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“At about 11am, a male suspect ran up on to the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer,” state police said.

US president Joe Biden on Saturday expressed his shock and sadness over the attack on Rushdie. “All Americans and people around the world are praying for his health and recovery.”

Police in Scotland on Sunday said they were investigating a report of an “online threat” made to the author JK Rowling after she expressed support for Rushdie in a tweet.

The Harry Potter author said she felt “very sick” after hearing the news and hoped Rushdie would “be OK”. She shared screenshots of a message received in response that stated: “Don’t worry you are next.”

After sharing the screenshots she said: “To all sending supportive messages: thank you police are involved (were already involved on other threats).” A spokeswoman for Scotland’s police said a report of an online threat had been received and officers were “carrying out enquiries”.

Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, first published in 1988, generated controversy for how it depicted the Islamic Prophet Mohammed. The book was banned in Iran and, in 1989, the supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie.

Following the death threat, Rushdie went into hiding. He lived with armed guards and adopted the alias Joseph Anton.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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