Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and stomach on Friday while onstage at a literary event in Chautauqua, New York. The Satanic Verses author was rushed to the hospital with serious injuries, with his agent previously saying he would “likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
But on Saturday, Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and had begun “talking (and joking),” according to a since-deleted tweet from fellow writer Aatish Taseer. Wylie did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News, but he confirmed to the AP that this was accurate.
Rushdie’s recovery will still take time, but his “condition is headed in the right direction,” Wylie said.
The writer “remains in critical condition in hospital receiving extensive ongoing medical treatment,” but his family is “extremely relieved” that he was “able to say a few words” after being taken off his ventilator, according to a statement from the family, which his son shared Sunday morning on Twitter.
“Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact,” the family’s statement read. “We are so grateful to all the audience members who bravely leapt to his defence and administered first aid along with the police and doctors who have cared for him and for the outpouring of love and support from around the world.”
Police identified the attacker as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey. Matar was arraigned Saturday on charges of attempted murder and assault and is being held without bail.
For decades, Rushdie has received death threats against him over his writing. In 1989, after The Satanic Verses was published, he had a fatwa issued against him by the Ayatollah of Iran, with criticisms that his book was blasphemous against Islam. A group in Iran issued a $3 million bounty for his death.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the stabbing and were “praying for his health and recovery.”
The president also expressed his gratitude for the “brave individuals” in the audience, who police said rushed the stage and subdued the attacker until an arrest could be made. A doctor who was also present performed first aid on Rushdie until emergency responders arrived.
“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. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear,” Biden said in his statement. “These are the building blocks of any free and open society. And today, we reaffirm our commitment to those deeply American values in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who stand for freedom of expression.”