Still hospitalized, Salman Rushdie is no longer on life support, says his agent

The novelist Salman Rushdie, the author of the “Satanic Verses” threatened with death for more than 30 years, is still hospitalized in a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania. He is on the road to recovery, his agent said.

Salman Rushdie, the author of the “Satanic Verses” threatened with death for more than 30 years, remains hospitalized on Sunday after being stabbed in the United States by a young man of Lebanese origin, an attack which raised a wave of indignation internationally, especially in the West. The famous British naturalized American writer, 75, had been treated in emergency and under respiratory assistance in a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, on the edge of the lake of the same name which separates the United States from Canada.

“The news is not good,” the British writer’s agent, Andrew Wylie, told the New York Times on Friday evening. “Salman will probably lose an eye; the nerves in his arm were severed and he was stabbed in the liver,” detailed Mr. Wylie, adding that Mr. Rushdie, 75, had been placed on an artificial respirator. The latter had specified Saturday evening to the NYT that Salman Rushdie had been able to speak to his relatives. In a press release sent on Sunday, he said that the writer is “on the road to recovery”. He is no longer on life support and “the road to recovery has begun,” Wylie said in a statement. “The injuries are serious, but his condition is moving in the right direction,” added the agent.

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Immediately after his attack, on the stage of an amphitheater of a cultural center in Chautauqua, in upstate New York, Salman Rushdie was transported by helicopter to the nearest hospital where he was operated on urgently, New York State Police Major Eugene Staniszewski told reporters. The attack caused a shock wave, especially in Western countries, the White House condemning “an appalling act of violence”.

A 24-year-old attacker

The attacker, immediately arrested and in detention since Friday, is called Hadi Matar, is 24 years old and lives in the state of New Jersey, according to the authorities. Arrested immediately after the incident, he was born in California and now lives in Fairview, New Jersey. He used a false name for his driver’s license, that of Mughniyah, the same surname as that of a leader of Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamist organization based in Lebanon. On social networks, the man did not hide his sympathy for the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution of Iran and for the figure of Ayatollah Khomeini, who died in 1989, whose portrait he displays on his profile. During a procedural hearing at the Chautauqua court, Hadi Matar, prosecuted for “attempted murder and assault” appeared in a black and white striped prison uniform, handcuffed and masked, and did not say a word. after the New York Times (NYT) and local press photos.

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Prosecutors said Friday’s attack at a cultural center in Chautauqua, where Mr. Rushdie was going to give a lecture, was premeditated. At 75, the intellectual was stabbed at least ten times in the neck and abdomen. The suspect pleaded “not guilty” by the voice of his lawyer and will appear again on August 19.

According to Ali Qassem Tahfa, the village chief of Yaroun in southern Lebanon, Hadi Matar “is of Lebanese origin”. “He was born and raised in the United States. His mother and father are from Yaroun,” Mr. Tahfa told AFP. In Iran, the main ultra-conservative daily Kayhan congratulated the aggressor: “Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and the vicious Salman Rushdie”, writes the newspaper. “Let us kiss the hand of him who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife”.

A long hiding

The assault took place around 11:00 a.m. (3:00 p.m. GMT) on Friday on the stage of the amphitheater at the Chautauqua Cultural Center in New York State, when a man “rushed on the stage” and “stabbed” Mr Rushdie several times “in the neck” “in the abdomen”, according to local police.

Salman Rushdie, born in 1947 in India into a family of non-practicing Muslim intellectuals, set part of the Islamic world ablaze with the publication of the “Satanic Verses”, leading Iranian Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa in 1989 calling for his assassination. .

The author of fifteen novels, stories for young people, short stories and essays written in English had therefore been forced to live in hiding and under police protection, going from cache to cache.

Read also: When Salman Rushdie told his “life on death row”

A “fatwa” never lifted

Naturalized American and living in New York for a few years, Salman Rushdie had resumed a more or less normal life while continuing to defend, in his books, satire and irreverence.

Coincidentally, the German magazine Stern had interviewed him a few days before the attack and published an extract on Saturday: “Since I have been living in the United States, I no longer have any problems (…) My life is back to normal , assures the writer, saying he is “optimistic” but recalling that “death threats have become daily”.

Iran’s “fatwa” has never been lifted and many of his book’s translators have been injured in attacks or even killed, such as Japan’s Hitoshi Igarashi, who was stabbed to death in 1991.

Read also: When Salman Rushdie’s son told of their clandestine life

In the United States, online sales sites such as Amazon have seen an increase in orders for “Satanic Verses” and a section manager of the New York Strand Bookstore, Katie Silvernail, says that “people come to see this he wrote and find out what we have” in stock.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced Saturday a “cowardly attack”, and an “affront to freedom of expression”. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right that we should never stop defending”, referring to freedom of expression.

“His fight is ours, universal,” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “horrified”.

“Nothing justifies a fatwa, a death sentence”, was indignant finally Charlie Hebdo, French satirical newspaper decimated by an Islamist attack in 2015.

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