Salman Rushdie remains in critical condition but was able to speak after being attacked during a literary event in the United States, his son said on Sunday.
The Booker Prize-winning author, who has lived under the threat of death from Iran since the late 1980s, was stabbed multiple times on stage in New York state and taken to a hospital, they say the authorities.
Rushdie’s son, Zafar, said his father was still undergoing treatment but had come off a ventilator and supplemental oxygen on Saturday and was able to say a few words.
“Although his life-changing injuries are serious, his usual combative and defiant sense of humor remains intact,” Zafar Rushdie said in a statement.
Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, was charged by New York authorities with attempted murder and assault after the attack. New York State Police Maj. 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 an 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 serious, but his condition is going in the right direction,” Wylie said.
Hadi Matar, right, has been charged with attempted murder © Gene J. Puskar/AP
Rushdie was due to speak Friday at the Chautauqua Institution, southwest of Buffalo, New York, at an event organized to discuss the US “as an asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for creative freedom of expression”.
“Around 11 a.m., a suspicious man came on stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer,” state police said.
US President Joe Biden expressed his shock and sadness at the attack on Rushdie on Saturday. “All Americans and people around the world are praying for his health and recovery.”
Police Scotland said on Sunday they were investigating a report of an “online threat” made to author JK Rowling after she expressed her support for Rushdie in a tweet.
The Harry Potter author said she felt “really bad” after hearing the news and hoped Rushdie would “be fine”. He shared screenshots of a message he received in response that read: “Don’t worry, you’re next.”
After sharing the screenshots, he said: “To everyone sending messages of support – thank you, the police are involved (they were already involved in other threats).” A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said a report of an online threat had been received and officers were “inquiring”.
Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, first published in 1988, generated controversy for its depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The book was banned in Iran, and in 1989 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie.
After the death threat, Rushdie went into hiding. He lived with armed guards and adopted the alias Joseph Anton.
Additional reporting from Reuters