New York: Salman Rushdie, the acclaimed author who was hospitalised last week with serious injuries after being repeatedly stabbed at a public appearance in New York state, is off a ventilator and his condition is improving, his agent, Andrew Wylie, said on Sunday.
Rushdie, 75, was set to deliver a lecture on artistic freedom at Chautauqua Institution in western New York when police say a 24-year-old man rushed the stage and stabbed the India-born writer, who has lived with a bounty on his head since his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” prompted Iran to urge Muslims to kill him. Chautauqua Institution president Michael Hill tweeted that Rushdie was able to talk.”
Following hours of surgery, Rushdie had been put on a ventilator and was unable to speak as of Friday, Wylie said in a prior update on the novelist’s condition, adding that he was likely to lose an eye and had nerve damage in his arm and wounds to his liver.
The suspect, Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault at a court appearance, his court-appointed lawyer said. Matar faces up to 32 years if convicted of both charges. During the hearing, prosecutors told the court that Rushdie was stabbed roughly 10 times. They also said the attack was premeditated and targeted.
The stabbing was condemned around the world as an assault on freedom of expression. In a statement, President Joe Biden commended the “universal ideals” of truth, courage and resilience embodied by Rushdie and his work. “These are the building blocks of any free and open society. ”
Reese, who is co-founder of an organisation that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, called Rushdie “one of the great defenders of freedom of speech and freedom of creative expression”, adding, “The fact that this attack could occur in the US is indicative of the threats to writers from many governments and from many individuals and organisations.”
The attack, given Matar’s purported Iranian sympathies, immediately took on geopolitical colours, coming as it did just days after the Biden administration’s Justice Department charged a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of trying to orchestrate the assassination of former national security adviser John Bolton.
Iran’s fundamentalist clerical leadership led by Ayatollah Khomeini had passed a death fatwa on Rushdie following the publication of his book ‘Satanic Verses’ in 1988. The fatwa had never been formally revoked, but after years in hiding and under protection, Rushdie, currently living in New York City, had lately resumed normal engagements.