Salman Rushdie has lost sight in one eye and the use of one hand after the attack he suffered while preparing to deliver a lecture in New York state two months ago, his agent has confirmed.
The 75-year-old author, who received death threats from Iran in the 1980s after his novel The Satanic Verses was published, was stabbed in the neck and torso as he came on stage to give a talk on artistic freedom at the Chautauqua Institution on 12 August.
Until now, the full extent of Rushdie’s injuries had been unclear. But in an interview with Spain’s El País, Andrew Wylie explained how serious and life-changing the attack had been.
“[His wounds] were profound, but he’s [also] lost the sight of one eye,” said Wylie. “He had three serious wounds in his neck. One hand is incapacitated because the nerves in his arm were cut. And he has about 15 more wounds in his chest and torso. So, it was a brutal attack.”
The agent declined to say whether Rushdie was still in the hospital, saying the most important thing was that the writer would live.
Wylie also said he and Rushdie had previously discussed the possibility of such an attack. “The principal danger that he faced so many years after the fatwa was imposed is from a random person coming out of nowhere and attacking [him],” he said.
“So, you can’t protect against that because it’s totally unexpected and illogical. It was like John Lennon[’s murder].
Elsewhere in the interview, Wylie said the world was going through “a very troubled period” – not least in the US. “I think nationalism is on the rise, a sort of fundamentalist right is on the rise … From Italy to … Europe, Latin America and the US, where … half the country seems to think that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump. And they admire this man who is not only completely incompetent, a liar, a crook, but just a farce. It’s ridiculous.”
Asked how he felt about the fact that Maus – the Pulitzer-prize-winning graphic novel by another of his authors, Art Spiegelman – had been banned in some US schools, Wylie said: “You know, that’s the religious right behaving as they behave. It’s ridiculous. It’s ludicrous. It’s shameful. But it’s a big force in the country now.”
The man accused of stabbing Rushdie pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and assault charges when he appeared in court on 18 August.
Hadi Matar, 24, was arraigned during a brief hearing in Chautauqua county district court on an indictment returned by a grand jury that charged him with one count of second-degree attempted murder and one count of second-degree assault.
Two weeks before the attack, Rushdie had told an interviewer that he felt his life was “very normal again” and that fears of an attack were a thing of the past.