Salman Rushdie, the acclaimed author who was stabbed repeatedly at a public appearance in New York state on Friday, 33 years after Iran’s then-supreme leader called for him to be killed, is off a ventilator and his health is improving, his agent and a son said on Sunday.
“He’s off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” his agent, Andrew Wylie, wrote in an email to Reuters. “It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.”
Rushdie, 75, was set to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York on the importance of the United States as a haven for targeted artists when police say a 24-year-old man rushed to the stage and stabbed him.
The Indian-born writer has lived with a bounty on his head following the publication of his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” which is viewed by some Muslims as containing blasphemous passages. In 1989, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for his assassination.
The suspect in the stabbing, Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault at a court appearance on Saturday, his court-appointed lawyer, Nathaniel Barone, told Reuters.
Neither local nor federal authorities have offered any additional details on the investigation, including a possible motive.
Rushdie was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, for treatment after the attack.
Following hours of surgery, he had been put on a ventilator and was unable to speak as of Friday evening, Wylie had said in a prior health update, adding that he would likely lose an eye and had nerve damage in his arm and wounds to his liver.
One of Rushdie’s sons said on Sunday that his father remained in critical condition but was able to say a few words after getting off the ventilator.