Salman Rushdie took off ventilator following attack in New York state

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Author Salman Rushdie has been taken off a ventilator and “the road to recovery has begun,” his agent said Sunday, two days after the renowned novelist was stabbed in the neck and abdomen at an event in western New York.

“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, adding that the recovery process would be lengthy.

Rushdie’s son Zafar also released a statement on Twitter on Sunday morning confirming that his father was taken off the ventilator and was “able to say a few words.”

“Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humor remains intact,” Zafar Rushdie wrote.

Rushdie, 75, was attacked onstage Friday at the Chautauqua Institution, where he was about to be interviewed as part of a summer lecture series. The targeting of one of the world’s most famous authors sparked anger and concern among fans and shocked the literary world.

Witnesses among the crowd who had gathered to hear Rushdie speak said they saw the attacker stab him multiple times. Wylie told the Associated Press that Rushdie had suffered damage to his liver and nerves in an arm, and that he would probably lose an eye. A doctor in the audience attended to Rushdie before paramedics arrived and transported him to a hospital by helicopter.

Police took Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old New Jersey man, into custody at the scene. He was arraigned on Saturday, charged with attempted murder and assault.

Born in India, Rushdie had spent much of his life in Britain when he went into hiding after Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the author’s execution over the portrayal of Islam and the prophet Muhammad in his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses,” which was deemed blasphemous by some Muslims.

Magical realism author Salman Rushdie has received death threats since 1988. (Video: The Washington Post)

World leaders including President Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the attack on Rushdie, which many see as an attack on freedom of expression.

Sales of the controversial book have spiked dramatically on Amazon in recent days and, as of Sunday, the novel is number 11 in the bestsellers list.

Although the Iranian bounty for his death was for more than $3 million, Rushdie — a British American citizen who moved to New York in the early 2000s — had appeared at public literary events in the past, sometimes without visible security guards. Attendees of the event in Chautauqua said there were no security checks on Friday. An official from the venue said the suspect had a pass to enter the grounds.

Kelsey Ables, Joanna Slater, Elahe Izadi, Ron Charles and Carolyn Y. Johnson contributed to this report.

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