UPDATED with latest: The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie is on a ventilator after suffering grave injuries at the hand of an assailant who stabbed him multiple times onstage at a literary event Friday morning. Booker Prize-winning novelist spent hours in surgery after the attack, according to the New York Times.
“The news is not good,” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie said in an email to the Times this evening. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
PREVIOUSLY at 8:24 a.m.: The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the neck while onstage today in Chautauqua, NY, New York police have confirmed. The attacker is in police custody.
Rushdie was flown by helicopter to a local hospital, according to the police statement, which also said the person who interviewing Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York suffered a minor head injury.
An endocrinologist who was in the audience and offered assistance told the New York Times that Rushdie had multiple stab wounds and there was a pool of blood under his body. She said people were saying “he has a pulse, he has a pulse.”
At about 11 a.m. ET, the Associated Press said its reporter witnessed a man storm the stage and begin punching or stabbing 75-year-old Rushdie before the attacker was restrained.
Rushdie’s condition was uncertain as people attempt to gather more information. Images on AP show him surrounded by others who rushed onstage immediately after he was attacked. AP said Rushdie quickly was surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said: “I want to commend the state police. It was a state police officer who stood up and protected him.”
Rushdie has both British and American citizenship and the Chautauqua Institution lecture was supposed to be the first in a seven-part series hosted by the non-profit organization.
Rushdie’s controversial book The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous, and since the late 1980s there has been a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death that still exists today, ordered by Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1989, a failed assassination attempt on him in London ended with a bomb exploding prematurely.
Iran’s bounty against Rushdie was raised to $3.3M in 2012, though he previously has dismissed concerns.
The India-born Booker Prize-winning novelist has written a number of books both before and after The Satanic Verses, and he co-wrote the screenplay for the film version of Midnight’s Children with Deepa Mehta, with a Netflix TV series of the same project also in the works. Rushdie also appeared as himself in the likes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bridget Jones’s Diary. His other works include 1975’s Grimus, 1983’s hame and 1999’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet.
Rushdie was made an MBE a few weeks ago in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
A statement from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said the attack is a “horrible reminder that when people stop settling their disagreements with words, they too often try to do so with weapons.”
“Mr. Rushdie has long understood free speech’s necessity. He is among its strongest advocates,” it added.