Salman Rushdie: Agent says author ‘on the road to recovery’ after attack

The agent for Salman Rushdie said “The Satanic Verses” author is “on the road to recovery,” two days after he suffered serious injuries when he was stabbed before delivering a lecture in upstate New York.

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“The injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction,” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, said in a statement to The Washington Post. Wylie told the newspaper that Rushdie’s recovery process would be lengthy.

Rushdie, 75, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen 10 times by a man who rushed the stage at the Chautauqua Institution, located about 80 miles south of Buffalo, CNN reported. The author was about to speak about the U.S. as a safe haven for exiled writers, The New York Times reported. He suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, Wylie said, and was likely to lose an injured eye, according to the AP.

“Though his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty and defiant sense of humor remains intact,” Rushdie’s son, Zafar Rushdie, said in a statement on Sunday.

The younger Rushdie said his father remained in critical condition, according to The Associated Press.

The assailant was identified by Maj. Eugene J. Staniszewski of the New York State Police as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, according to WGRZ-TV.

Matar pleaded not guilty on Saturday in a New York court on charges of attempted second-degree murder and assault, according to The Associated Press. Matar’s attorney, Nathaniel Barone, entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing on Saturday.

Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and able to speak Saturday, Wylie confirmed to the AP without providing additional details.

Born in India, Rushdie spent much of his life in the United Kingdom but went into hiding after Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa -- a decree from an Islamic religious leader -- in February 1989, calling for the author’s execution, the Post reported. Khomeini and many Muslims deemed Rushdie’s portrayal of Islam and the prophet Muhammad in his 1988 book as blasphemous.

Rushdie won a Booker Prize for his 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” in which he criticized India’s then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

Authors, activists and government officials praised Rushdie’s courage and advocacy of free speech despite risks to his own safety, the AP reported. Writer and longtime friend Ian McEwan called Rushdie “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” and actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora toward whom he’s shown incredible warmth.”

Author Stephen King tweeted that the attack on Rushdie “preys on my mind.”