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Salman Rushdie remains in critical condition, his son says

Author Salman Rushdie, pictured in 2018, is expected to survive a stabbing attack, his agent says.
Rogelio V. Solis
Author Salman Rushdie, pictured in 2018, is expected to survive a stabbing attack, his agent says.

Updated August 14, 2022 at 9:46 PM ET

Salman Rushdie, the renowned author who was brutally attacked two days ago, is slowly recovering after suffering stab wounds in the neck and chest, his family says.

"Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact," the author's son, Zafar Rushdie, wrote in a statement on Twitter on Sunday.

The novelist was taken off a ventilator and able to speak "a few words," according to his son. However, Rushdie remains in critical condition, he added, and will stay in the hospital to receive "extensive ongoing medical treatment."

Rushdie, 75, was poised to speak at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York on Friday, when a man went up on stage and repeatedly stabbed the author.

Rushdie's agent had previously said that the author had undergone surgery and suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm and eye, and could likely lose an eye.

Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old from Fairview, N.J., was charged with attempted murder and assault, New York State Police said. On Saturday, Matar pleaded not guilty, according to The Associated Press. He continues to be held without bail, police said.

The event moderator who was on stage when the attack happened, Henry Reese, was treated at a local hospital for a minor head injury and has since been released. In an interview with CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday, Reese appeared with a bandage over a black eye.

"I'm fine," he said. "We should all be concerned about Salman Rushdie, not me."

Reese said he first thought it might be a prank parodying the death threats that have targeted Rushdie since 1989 after he published the novel The Satanic Verses, one of his most popular books. Iran's leader issued a fatwa against Rushdie, calling for his death over perceived insults to Islam in the book.

"I immediately thought it was someone making some kind of bad reference to it, not that it was actually a real attack," Reese said.

The event's theme stood in direct contrast to the violence that unfolded that day. It was a discussion about what "home" means in America.

"Mr. Rushdie and Mr. Reese were here to talk about home when it is asylum, when people are seeking a place where they can find safety," said Emily Morris, a senior vice president at the Chautauqua Institution. "And in this case, safety to pursue their voice in an environment that supports free speech."

Speaking to All Things Considered, Morris also said the event's organizers had a security plan for the event that was developed with law enforcement agencies.

"No one's second guessing this more than we are," she said. "And certainly looking at what we've done and what we need to do moving forward. And at the same time, keeping our focus on Mr. Rushdie and his continuing recovery as well."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
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