Salman Rushdie’s agent says ‘the news is not good’ after the author was stabbed at an event in New York State.
He was attacked on stage and is now on a ventilator and unable to speak, Andrew Wylie said in a statement, adding the perpetrator may have lost an eye.
Mr Rushdie suffered years of Islamist death threats after writing The Satanic Verses, published in 1988.
Police have arrested a suspect named Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey.
New York State Police said the suspect ran onto the scene and attacked Mr. Rushdie and an interviewer at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.
“Salman is likely to lose an eye; the nerves in his arm have been severed; and his liver has been stabbed and damaged,” said his agent, Andrew Wylie.
No motives or charges have yet been confirmed by police, who are in the process of obtaining search warrants to examine a backpack and electronic devices found at the center.
Mr Rushdie was stabbed at least once in the neck and abdomen, authorities said. He was airlifted to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania.
The interviewer who was with him on stage, Henry Reese, suffered a minor head injury and was taken to a local hospital. Mr. Reese is the co-founder of a non-profit organization that provides refuge for exiled writers under threat of persecution.
Police told a news conference that staff and members of the public rushed the attacker and took him to the ground, and he was later arrested.
Linda Abrams, a spectator from the city of Buffalo, told the New York Times that the assailant continued to try to attack Mr Rushdie after he was restrained.
“It took about five men to pull him away and he was still stabbing,” Ms Abrams said. “He was just furious, furious. Like intensely strong and just fast.”
Another onlooker, Rita Landman, told the newspaper that Mr Rushdie appeared to be alive immediately after the attack.
“People were like, ‘He’s got a pulse, he’s got a pulse, he’s got a pulse,'” she said.
A video posted online shows the moment people rushed to the scene to restrain the attacker and help the injured. Police said a doctor in the audience gave Mr Rushdie first aid.
Indian-born novelist Mr Rushdie shot to fame with Midnight’s Children in 1981, which sold over a million copies in the UK alone.
But his fourth book, published in 1988 – The Satanic Verses – forced him into hiding for almost ten years.
The surreal, postmodern novel sparked outrage among some Muslims, who considered its content blasphemous, and was banned in some countries.
Several people were killed in anti-Rushdie riots in India and Iran, the British Embassy in the capital, Tehran, was stoned.
In 1991 a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death, while a few months later an Italian translator was also stabbed and the book’s Norwegian editor, William Nygaard, was shot – but both survived.
Reacting to Friday’s attack, Mr Nygaard said Mr Rushdie is a “great author who has meant so much to literature” who has paid “a high price” for his work.
A year after the book was published, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini called for Mr Rushdie’s execution. He offered a $3m (£2.5m) reward in a fatwa – a legal decree issued by an Islamic religious leader.
The bounty on Mr Rushdie’s head remains active, and although the Iranian government backed away from Khomeini’s decree, a quasi-official Iranian religious foundation added another $500,000 to the bounty in 2012.
The British-American citizen – who was born a non-practicing Muslim and is an atheist himself – has become an outspoken defender of free speech, defending his work on several occasions.
Salman Rushdie has faced death threats for over 30 years since The Satanic Verses was published. Mr Rushdie said the thrust of his novel was to examine the immigrant experience, but some Muslims were offended by the depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and the questioning of the nature of the Quran’s revelation as only word of God.
Satanic verses were first banned in the author’s birth country, India, and then in several other countries before Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini issued his infamous fatwa.
The fatwa called for the murder of anyone involved in the publication of the book and offered rewards to those who participated in the killings. This fatwa has never been formally repealed.
Surprised by the scale of the protests, Salman Rushdie apologized to Muslims but went into hiding.
When Mr Rushdie was knighted in 2007 by the Queen, it sparked protests in Iran and Pakistan, where a cabinet minister said the honor ‘justifies suicide bombings’.
Several literary events in which Mr. Rushdie participated have been the subject of threats and boycotts – but he continues to write. Her next novel, Victory City, is due out in February 2023.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right we should never stop defending.”
French President Emmanuel Macron wrote that Mr Rushdie “embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism” and had been the victim of “a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarism”.
Writer and graphic novel creator Neil Gaiman said he was “shocked and upset” by the attack on his friend and fellow writer.
“He’s a good, bright man and I hope he’s doing well,” Gaiman wrote on Twitter.
In a statement, Mr Rushdie’s editors at Penguin Random House said: ‘We condemn this violent public assault, and our thoughts are with Salman and his family at this distressing time.’
Author Taslima Nasreen, who was forced to flee her home in Bangladesh after a court ruled her novel Lajja offended the religious faith of Muslims, said she now fears for her own safety following the Mr. Rushdie’s attack.