Skip to main content

Salman Rushdie on ventilator and 'likely to lose one eye' after attack, says agent

Andrew Wylie says nerves in author's arm were severed and that he was stabbed in the liver
British writer Salman Rushdie speaks during the opening day of the Positive Economy Forum in Le Havre, northwestern France, in September 2016 (AFP)

Salman Rushdie's agent said the author has been placed on a ventilator and is unable to speak after he was attacked at a literary event in New York state on Friday. 

The man suspected of attacking Rushdie, 75, was charged with attempted murder and assault, prosecutors said on Saturday. He has filed a not-guilty plea in a New York court. 

Rushdie, who won the Booker prize in 1981, was at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education centre and summer resort near Buffalo in western New York State.

While the writer was on stage, a man ran up and attacked Rushdie by stabbing and punching him repeatedly. 

Members of the audience rushed to the stage and pulled the attacker off Rushdie, and a doctor gave the author immediate first aid. 

His agent, Andrew Wylie, told journalists that Rushdie remained in a critical condition and may lose one eye. 

"Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged," Wylie said in a statement. 

Bolton 'embarrassed' at low price allegedly offered in assassination plot
Read More »

Local authorities said Rushdie, was stabbed at least once in the neck and the abdomen. 

Rushdie was pictured being taken away in a stretcher, with blood covering his torso, hands and face before he was loaded onto a medical evacuation helicopter.

Police detained a 24-year-old named Hadi Mattar from New Jersey and charged with attempted murder and assault on Saturday. 

"The individual responsible for the attack yesterday, Hadi Mattar, has now been formally charged with Attempted Murder in the Second Degree and Assault in the Second Degree," Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said in a statement on Saturday.

"He was arraigned on these charges last night and remanded without bail," the statement added.

The mayor of Yaroun in south Lebanon said on Saturday that Matar's parents are from the village but the assailant was born and raised in America. 

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese movement with broad support in Yaroun, denied any knowledge of the attack and said it had no additional information on the stabbing attack. 

Rushdie's 1988 novel The Satanic Verses attracted fierce protests, death threats, and a fatwa calling for his killing issued by Iran's supreme leader.

Tehran has long since distanced itself from former leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingers, including from his successor, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8m to $3.3m.

The author dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was "no evidence" of people being interested in the reward.

Iran's government has not commented on the attack, but it attracted praise from some Iranian newspapers.

The Kayhan daily, whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Khamenei, wrote: “A thousand bravos ... to the brave and dutiful person who attacked the apostate and evil Salman Rushdie in New York."

Rushdie, born to non-practising Muslims and an atheist himself, has defended his work on several occasions.

PEN International, a writers' association of which Rushdie is a former president, condemned the attack and in a tweet wished the author a "fast recovery".