Salman Rushdie
Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture, on August 12, 2022, at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York. Image Credit: AP

New York: British author Salman Rushdie was put on a ventilator Friday after being repeatedly stabbed at a literary event in New York state, his agent told the New York Times.

“The news is not good,” the Times quoted agent Andrew Wylie as saying. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

'Getting the care he needs'

Rushdie, the Indian-born novelist who spent years in hiding under death threats from Iran because of his writing, was stabbed in the neck onstage at a lecture in New York state on Friday and airlifted to a hospital, police said.

He was alive and "getting the care he needs," New York Governor Kathy Hochul said.

A man rushed to the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and attacked Rushdie, 75, as he was being introduced to give a talk on artistic freedom to an audience of hundreds, an eyewitness said. A New York State Police trooper present at the event took the attacker into custody, police said.

Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest.

State police said the condition of Rushdie was not known and did not give a motive for the attack and it was not clear what kind of weapon was used.

Andrew Wylie, a spokesperson for Rushdie, said in an emailed statement that "Salman is in surgery," but did not have further details to share.

Hundreds of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were then evacuated.

Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie's death over his writings.

Iran has also offered over $3 million in reward for anyone who kills Rushdie.

Iran's government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini's decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingered. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.

Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was "no evidence"' of people being interested in the reward.

That year, Rushdie published a memoir, "Joseph Anton," about the fatwa.

The Chautauqua Institution, about 55 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, is known for its summertime lecture series. Rushdie has spoken there before.