Rushdie in bad shape with multiple serious injuries, on ventilator

August 13, 2022 • 6:15 am

The first thing I checked this morning was the condition of Salman Rushdie.  He’s still alive, but barely, it seems. If he survives, he won’t be the Rushdie we knew. From the NYT:

On Friday morning, any sense that threats to his life were a thing of the past was dispelled when an attacker rushed the stage of Chautauqua Institution here in Western New York, where Mr. Rushdie was scheduled to give a talk about the United States as a safe haven for exiled writers. The assailant stabbed Mr. Rushdie, 75, in the abdomen and the neck, the police and witnesses said, straining to continue the attack even as several people held him back.

Mr. Rushdie was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital in Erie, Pa., where he was in surgery for several hours on Friday afternoon. Mr. Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, said Friday evening that Mr. Rushdie was on a ventilator and could not speak.

“The news is not good,” Mr. Wylie said in an email. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

Rushdie is a fighter, and I have my fingers crossed that he’ll make it.

As for the attacker, little is known of him except that he may have had religious motives. From NBC4 in New York:

The suspect, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, was born in California, but recently moved to New Jersey, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. His last listed address was in Fairview, a Bergen County borough just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. FBI officials were seen going into the home of Matar Friday evening.

Sources said that Matar also had a fake New Jersey driver’s license on him.

State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said the motive for the stabbing was unclear. A preliminary law enforcement review of Matar’s social media accounts shows he is sympathetic to Shia extremism and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps causes, a law enforcement person with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News. There are no definitive links to the IRGC but the initial assessment indicates he is sympathetic to the Iranian government group, the official says.

But enough about the accused.

I fell in love with Rushdie’s writing when I was in New Delhi years ago. I saw a book called Midnight’s Children among other tattered paperbacks on the blanket of a used bookseller in Connaught Circus. Needing a fat book for my upcoming travels in the country, I bought it for a pittance, and soon was immersed in a fantastic, non-put-downable story of magical realism in post-partition India.  It was a mesmerizing tale, and not only won the Booker Prize in 1981, but was later named as the best Booker winner ever, the “Booker of Bookers.” Rushdie was knighted in 2008.

I’ve since read several of his works since some of which were excellent, but none came up to the standard of that first brilliant novel (what could?). Yet despite the 1989 fatwa put on him by Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for having written The Satanic Verses, Rushdie continued to make sporadic appearances. Many of them argued eloquently for freedom of speech, for which he suffered so much—and is suffering still.

It’s ironic that people are sending him “thoughts and prayers”, since Rushdie was a vociferous atheist. If you want to read something he wrote about his nonbelief, here’s Rushdie’s “Letter to the sixth billionths person” at the Guardian, part of The Portable Atheist, Hitchens’s superb collection of atheist writing. This is moving, and well worth reading (click on the screenshot for free access).

Below he gives his religious views in an exchange with Bill Moyers.

I’m sure his friends and family are near him, and I hope they, and we, don’t have to mourn him.  Do not go gentle, Sir Salman.

And if you haven’t read Midnight’s Children, do so now. If you haven’t, you’re missing one of the great novels of our time.

12 thoughts on “Rushdie in bad shape with multiple serious injuries, on ventilator

  1. More than ever I want Hitch’s reaction and commentary on this, moreso given that he and Rushdie were close friends and appeared at numerous public literary and other events together.

    Stay firm, Mr. Rushdie.

  2. I really hope Rushdie makes it, a great writer (I think he’s way more deserving of a Nobel prize for literature than some actual laureates), a great advocate for free thought and, as rumoured, a kind human host.
    The loss of an eye is, bad as it is, not really debilitating. You may even get a driver’s license for under 3000 kg vehicles (that might vary a bit in different countries, but the point remains the same). Severing of the nerves of one arm might be -at least partially- restored. He will carry the scars of Enlightenment. Of course, he must make it alive first.
    I’m just trying to be optimistic here.

  3. Well, if anything good at all is to come of this horror, it is perhaps the likelihood that Rushdie’s work might well experience a huge surge in interest and sales in the coming weeks and months. The money will surely be put to good use in supporting the causes that Rushdie has championed, and the assailant can fester in prison knowing that his action led to the significant further dissemination of blasphemy.

  4. And then there was the Curb Your Enthusiasm segment (can’t remember which season) where Larry David has a fatwa put on him and Rushdie appears in a few episodes.

  5. I’ve never read Midnight’s Children, but I purchased it last year- 40th year edition w/ a new introduction by Rushdie. It will be the next book I read. I sure hope he pulls through; what a horrific ordeal.

    1. I was going to post this. Interesting read for people who might not realize how many deaths actually did spring from this fatwa even if Rushdie was not one of them.

  6. Was nice to see him speak live at a book event in 2012 on his novel Joseph Anton I hope he recovers and the perpetrator never gets out of prison.

  7. First thing I checked this morning before work, and first thing after. I’ve followed his work over the years, and am just in knots about it. I so hope he’s able to pull through. His ‘Midnight’s Children’ really is a spectacular, moving novel. His literary friends will be rallying behind him, and I hope the secular world, too.

  8. Sir Salman has been a hero of mine for a long time. His way of speaking about atheism is especially eloquent and I wish more people got to hear it. The world needs him. We can’t lose him yet. I hope he’s able to hang in there.

Leave a Reply