Salman Rushdie ‘on the road to recovery’ – agent
Salman Rushdie is “on the road to recovery”, his agent confirmed Sunday, two days after the author of The Satanic Verses suffered serious injuries in a stabbing at a lecture in upstate New York.
The announcement followed news that the lauded writer was removed from a ventilator Saturday and able to talk and joke. Literary agent Andrew Wylie cautioned that although Rushdie’s “condition is headed in the right direction,” his recovery would be a long process. Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, Wylie had previously said, and was likely to lose the injured eye.
“Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact,” Rushdie’s son Zafar Rushdie said in a Sunday statement that stressed the author remained in critical condition. The statement on behalf of the family also expressed gratitude for the “audience members who bravely leapt to his defence”, as well as police, doctors and “the outpouring of love and support from around the world”.
Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty Saturday to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called “a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack” at the Chautauqua Institution, a non-profit education and retreat centre.
The attack was met with global shock and outrage, along with praise for the man who, for more than three decades, has weathered death threats and a $3 million bounty on his head for The Satanic Verses. Rushdie even spent nine years in hiding under a British government protection program.
Authors, activists and government officials cited Rushdie’s bravery and long-time championing of free speech in the face of such intimidation. Writer and long-time friend Ian McEwan labelled Rushdie “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists” and actor-author Kal Penn called him a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora.”
“Salman Rushdie – with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense for story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced – stands for essential, universal ideals,” US President Joe Biden said in a Saturday statement. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear.”
Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family and has lived in Britain and the US, is known for his surreal and satirical prose, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel Midnight’s Children, in which he sharply criticised India’s then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
Infused with magical realism, 1988’s The Satanic Verses drew ire from some Muslims who regarded elements of the novel as blasphemy.
They believed Rushdie insulted the Prophet Muhammad by naming a character Mahound, a medieval corruption of “Muhammad.” The character was a prophet in a city called Jahilia, which in Arabic refers to the time before the advent of Islam on the Arabian Peninsula. Another sequence has prostitutes that share names with some of Muhammad’s nine wives. The novel also implies that Muhammad, not Allah, may have been the Quran’s real author.
The book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere when Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989. Khomeini died that same year, but the fatwa remains in effect – though Iran, in recent years, hadn’t focused on Rushdie.
Iran’s state-run newspaper, Iran Daily, praised the attack as an “implementation of divine decree” Sunday. Another hardline newspaper, Kayhan, termed it “divine revenge” that would partially calm the anger of Muslims.