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Salman Rushdie severely wounded after stabbing, agent says

October 23, 2022

Salman Rushdie's agent has told a Spanish newspaper that the author has lost the use of an eye and movement in a hand as a result of him being stabbed multiple times at a literary event in New York state in August.

British author Salman Rushdie speaks as he presents his book "Quichotte" at the Volkstheater in Vienna, Austria, on November 16, 2019.
Rushdie was the subject of an Iranian fatwa way back in 1989, and was stabbed on a stage in rural New York state this summerImage: Herbert Neubauer/AFP via Getty Images

Salman Rushdie's agent told Spanish newspaper El Pais that his client was severely wounded earlier this year in New York state when a man repeatedly stabbed him on stage

"He's lost the sight of one eye... He had three serious wounds in his neck. One hand is incapacitated because the nerves in his arm were cut. And he has about 15 more wounds in his chest and torso," Andrew Wylie told El Pais, in an interview published on Saturday. 

Wylie described the injuries as "profound," saying "it was a brutal attack." 

He said he would give no information on the writer's whereabouts other than to say he was still in hospital, but added: "He's going to live ... That's the important thing." 

Rushdie was attacked as he was being introduced on stage at the Chautauqua Institution, a rural center some 55 miles (roughly 90 kilometers) southwest of Buffalo near Lake Erie that is known for its summertime lecture series.

Life under a fatwa

The 75-year-old spent much of his life in hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death warrant, or "fatwa," against him in 1989 in response to Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses". 

Khomeini seemingly considered parts the award-winning work of fiction to be blasphemous. 

But after years of high-security seclusion, Rushdie had started to travel more freely again in the past two decades. 

Rushdie had spoken in the past about how he never considered the danger to be passed. But his agent Wylie said the attack took precisely the shape of what he and his employer had feared, "a random person coming out of nowhere and attacking." 

"So you can't protect against it because it's totally unexpected and illogical," he told El Pais

The attack sparked outrage in the West and among free speech advocates but also some praise from extremists in Muslim countries like Iran and Pakistan. 

Attendees pose with signs during an event where writers gathered to read the works of Salman Rushdie in New York, EE. UU, 19 August 2022.
'It's very very easy not to be offended by a book. You just have to shut it,' Rushdie once saidImage: Sarah Ynez-Richards/Agencia EFE/IMAGO

Suspect awaiting trial for attempted murder

The suspect arrested at the scene of the crime is a 24-year-old man from New Jersey with roots in Lebanon who has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.

But he also gave a newspaper interview soon after in which he said he was "surprised" to hear the attack did not kill Rushdie. He praised Khomeini and said he did not like Rushdie or "The Satanic Verses," of which he said he had read "a few pages." 

His lawyer has since warned in court that such publications could make it difficult to locate a viable jury that will not prejudge the case. 

Iran's present-day Islamic regime, currently facing major protests against its supposedly religious laws, said after the stabbing that "no one has the right to accuse Iran" of complicity, saying of Rushdie: "we do not consider anyone other than himself and his supporters worthy of reproach, blame and condemnation."

A foreign ministry spokesman accused Rushdie of "crossing the red lines of 1.5 billion Muslims."

Rushdie has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times and won it once. He had continued writing even throughout his time in hiding. His fifteenth novel, "Victory City", is scheduled for publication next February.

msh/aw (AFP, EFE, Reuters)