Salman Rushdie’s family ‘extremely relieved’ he’s off ventilator

The family of Salman Rushdie said it was “extremely relieved” the renowned British author had been taken off a ventilator following his stabbing two days prior, and he retained his “defiant sense of humour”.

Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, said earlier on Sunday the wounded writer was on the “road to recovery” after he was stabbed multiple times in a shocking assault at a literary event in New York state in the US.

“We are extremely relieved that yesterday he was taken off the ventilator and additional oxygen and was able to say a few words,” Rushdie’s son Zafar tweeted.

Zafar said despite the promising news, his father remained in critical condition because of “life-changing” and “severe” injuries.

But “his usual feisty [and] defiant sense of humour remains intact”, he added.

Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, Wylie previously said, and was likely to lose the injured eye.

Zafar expressed his gratitude to audience members who “bravely leapt to his defence” and for the “outpouring of love and support from around the world”.

Global outrage, support

On Sunday, France’s Goncourt Academy, which awards the literary Goncourt Prize every year, was the latest to offer its “unconditional support” to Rushdie.

The academy “condemns the barbaric act for which there can be no justification … [and] offers its unconditional support and solidarity”, it said in a statement.

Authors, activists and government officials cited Rushdie’s bravery and longtime championing of free speech in the face of such intimidation.

Writer and longtime 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,” United States President Joe Biden said in a Saturday statement.

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 $3m bounty on his head for The Satanic Verses. Rushdie even spent nine years in hiding under a British government protection programme.

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.

The book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere when Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious decree calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989. Khomeini died that same year, but the edict remains in effect – though Iran, in recent years, has not focused on Rushdie.

The author was about to address the event in western New York state when a man rushed onto the stage and stabbed him repeatedly.

The suspected assailant, Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, was wrestled to the ground by staff and other audience members before being taken into police custody.

He was arraigned in court on Saturday and pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges in what a prosecutor called “a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack”.

Rushdie was forced into hiding in 1989 after his book The Satanic Verses was denounced by Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini [File: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP]

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