Salman Rushdie: author in surgery after being stabbed in New York – live

Salman Rushdie in surgery after stabbing

Salman Rushdie is currently in surgery, said his agent Andrew Wylie via email, reports Reuters.

Wylie provided no further updates on the author’s condition.

Key events

Eye witnesses who were at Friday’s planned lecture have spoken publicly about the moment Rushdie was stabbed.

Here is a video with interviews of several people who were at the talk, from Capital Tonight reporter Ryan Whalen:

We are waiting at the New York State Police barracks in Jamestown for an update on the attack on Salman Rushdie this morning just as he was about to start a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution. Here’s more from some people who were at the lecture: pic.twitter.com/GGeecUd6Dz

— Ryan Whalen (@RyanWhalenCT) August 12, 2022

Here is more on the ongoing controversy surrounding Rushdie’s book, the Satanic Verses, from the Guardian’s Julian Borger:

When Salman Rushdie wrote his novel The Satanic Verses in September 1988, he thought its many references to Islam might cause some ripples.

“I expected a few mullahs would be offended, call me names, and then I could defend myself in public,” Rushdie would tell an interviewer much later.

The Indian-born author had come from a career as an advertising copywriter, confecting slogans such as “naughty but nice” for cream cakes, for example. He had no idea of the tsunami of outrage that was to overshadow the rest of his life, or that he was about to become a geopolitical booby trap.

By October 1988, he already needed a bodyguard in the face of a deluge of death threats, cancelling trips and hunkering down. One Muslim-majority country after another banned the book, and in December thousands of Muslims demonstrated in Bolton, Greater Manchester, and burned a pile of the books. In Islamabad, six people were killed in a mob attack on the US cultural centre in the Pakistani capital to protest against the book. There were riots in Srinagar and Kashmir.

The day after those riots, 14 February 1989, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious decree, a fatwa, calling on all Muslims to execute not just Rushdie but everyone involved in the book’s publication. The fatwa effectively carved the death threat into stone, making it impossible to erase. An Iranian religious foundation offered a $1m bounty, $3m if an Iranian carried out the killing. Iran broke off relations with Britain over the issue…

Read the full article here.

Salman Rushdie’s book, the Satanic Verses, is one of his most well-known works and the fourth book by the critically acclaimed author.

In 1989, a year after the book was banned in Iran, former Iranian Supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa instructing Muslims to kill Rushdie over alleged blasphemy in the book.

Here is a 2012 Guardian article with multiple accounts from authors, publishing insiders and friends of Rushdie, on the controversy surrounding the book and its impact on Rushdie at the time.

In other updates, Erie police chief Dan Spizarny confirmed that Rushdie is receiving treatment at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Hamot, with police from the Erie, Pennsylvania, police department acting as security.

From reporter Jon Harris:

Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny confirmed Salman Rushdie was taken to UPMC Hamot in Erie, Pa., where Erie police are helping with security at the hospital. UPMC Hamot is a 458-bed hospital and a regional referral hub and Level II Trauma Center, with nearly 4,000 employees.

— Jon Harris (@ByJonHarris) August 12, 2022

Writer Ian McEwan, author of Atonement and other works, also commented on Rushdie’s attack, writing in an email to the Guardian:

This appalling attack on my dear friend Salman represents an assault
on freedom of thought and speech. These are the freedoms that underpin
all our rights and liberties. Salman has been an inspirational
defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world. He
is a fiery and generous spirit, a man of immense talent and courage
and he will not be deterred.

The current president of PEN America also commented on today’s attack of Rushdie, calling the author “a tireless advocate for imperiled writers, for unfettered intellectual and creative exchange, and one of the last half-century’s great champions of freedom of expression.”

PEN America president Ayad Akhtar wrote, in a statement:

It is hard to find words to express the emotions occasioned by today’s shocking attack on Salman Rushdie. As a former President of our organization, Salman means so much to us…

But it is in his own truly seminal, challenging body of work that Salman has stood most powerfully for the values of PEN America — work that has questioned founding myths and expanded the world’s imaginative possibilities, at great cost to himself.

On a more personal note, as a writer whose own work is fundamentally shaped by an early encounter with The Satanic Verses, it is particularly horrifying to me that the nightmare set in motion by the fatwa in 1989 is still with us. We are thinking of Salman today across the PEN America community, and praying for his recovery.”

Read the full statement here.

Chautauqua Institution, the education center where Rushdie was speaking, released a statement on the incident via Twitter.

The institute’s account posted:

We ask for your prayers for Salman Rushdie and Henry Reese, and patience as we fully focus on coordinating with police officials following a tragic incident at the Amphitheater today. All programs are canceled for the remainder of the day. Please consult the NYS Police statement.

— Chautauqua Institution (@chq) August 12, 2022

Henry Reese was the moderator for the planned conversation with Rushdie.

Reese suffered a minor head injury, according to an earlier statement from New York state police.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled” at the stabbing of Rushdie in comments he made on today’s attack.

On Twitter, Johnson wrote:

Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend.

Right now my thoughts are with his loved ones. We are all hoping he is okay.

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 12, 2022

Salman Rushdie in surgery after stabbing

Salman Rushdie is currently in surgery, said his agent Andrew Wylie via email, reports Reuters.

Wylie provided no further updates on the author’s condition.

Here is a timeline of Rushdie’s full career, broken down by the Guardian’s Tobi Thomas:

The article is also available here.

The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman previously wrote a profile of Rushdie last year:

Poor Salman Rushdie. The one thing I am most keen to talk to him about is the one thing he absolutely, definitely does not want to discuss. “I really resist the idea of being dragged back to that period of time that you insist on bringing up,” he grumbles when I make the mistake of mentioning it twice in the first 15 minutes of our conversation. He is in his elegant, book-lined apartment, a cosy armchair just behind him, the corridor to the kitchen over his shoulder. He’s in New York, which has been his home for the past 20 years, and we are talking – as is the way these days – on video. But even through the screen his frustration is palpable, and I don’t blame him. He’s one of the most famous literary authors alive, having won pretty much every book prize on the planet, including the best of the Booker for Midnight’s Children. We’re meeting to talk about his latest book, Languages Of Truth, which is a collection of nonfiction from the last two decades, covering everything from Osama bin Laden to Linda Evangelista; from Cervantes to Covid. So why do I keep bringing up the fatwa?

The full story is available here.

Interim Summary

For those just joining us, here is a summary of everything known so far about the attack on author Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed Friday morning during a planned talk at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.

  • Several members of the literary community have expressed outrage, concern, and worries about today’s attack on Rushdie, with many wishing the famed author a speedy recovery.

  • New York state governor Kathy Hochul condemned the attack and praised first-responders who treated Rushdie at the scene, adding that the author is “getting the care he needs” at an area hospital.

  • A suspected attacker was taken into custody, said the New York state police earlier today. No further information on the suspect was provided.

  • Rushdie suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck and was treated on-site before being transferred to a local hospital via helicopter, reported the New York state police via a statement.

  • Rushdie’s writing previously led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, though no information is known on his attacker.

This story is still developing.

The CEO of PEN America, the literature and human rights non-profit, released a statement on Rushdie’s stabbing, writing that Rushdie had emailed her about placements for Ukrainian writers hours before he was attacked.

In a statement published on the organization’s website, Suzanne Nossel said:

“PEN America is reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former President and stalwart ally, Salman Rushdie, who was reportedly stabbed multiple times while on stage speaking at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York.

Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning, Salman had emailed me to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge from the grave perils they face. Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered. He has devoted tireless energy to assisting others who are vulnerable and menaced.

While we do not know the origins or motives of this attack, all those around the world who have met words with violence or called for the same are culpable for legitimizing this assault on a writer while he was engaged in his essential work of connecting to readers. Our thoughts and passions now lie with our dauntless Salman, wishing him a full and speedy recovery. We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.”

Rushdie was formerly the president of PEN America.



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