'Rushdie's defiant sense of humour remains intact', son Zafar reveals

‘His usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact’: Salman Rushdie’s son Zafar says author spoke ‘a few words’ in hospital but remains in critical condition after suffering ‘severe’ and ‘life-changing’ injuries when he was stabbed on-stage

  • Salman Rushdie’s eldest son Zafar, 42, said father’s condition remains ‘critical’
  • The London-based PR posted heartfelt update on behalf of family this afternoon
  • ‘We are so grateful to all the audience members who bravely leapt to his defence’
  • Zaf revealed acclaimed author has spoken – and still has punchy sense of humour

Salman Rushdie has been able to speak and retains his ‘feisty and defiant’ sense of humour since he was stabbed on stage in New York, his son has revealed.

Zafar Rushdie, 42, tweeted a heartfelt update on his father’s condition, which remains ‘critical’ despite doctors being able to take him off a ventilator.

The Booker Prize-winning author, 75, was knifed up to 15 times before a literary talk at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York on Friday.

Suspected knifeman Hadi Matar, 24, has been charged with attempted murder and assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

London-based PR agent Zafar wrote: ‘My father remains in critical condition in hospital. We are extremely relieved that yesterday he was taken off the ventilator and additional oxygen and he was able to say a few words.

Salman Rushdie (left) stands with eldest son Zafar (right) at an event in London in June 2007

Rushdie told a German magazine earlier this month that the fatwa against him no longer scared him. Here bystanders and staff tend to Mr Rushdie on stage after the attack

Newly released mugshots show suspected knifeman Hadi Matar as he was detained in NYC

Rushdie is being held at UPMC Hamot Surgery Center in Erie, Pennsylvania (pictured yesterday). Son Zafar said the family has come together at their father’s bedside

‘Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact. 

‘We are so grateful to all the audience members who bravely leapt to his defence and administered first aid along with the police and doctors who have cared for him and for the outpouring of love and support from around the world.

‘We ask for continued patience and privacy as the family come together at his bedside.’

Zafar’s moving statement came moments before new mugshots taken at Chautauqua County Jail in Mayville, New York were published.

It was also revealed that the celebrated author is on the ‘road to recovery’ and is expected to survive the attack.

Zafar posted a defiant message after the attack, referencing his father’s habit of speaking out

Rushdie (pictured in Los Angeles in 2013) has now been taken off a ventilator and can speak. There had been fears he would be left unable to talk after the attack last week

Salman Rushdie was attacked before he was due to give a talk to an audience in New York state. Here he is pictured on stage moments before the attack

The acclaimed author was rushed to hospital after being stabbed ’10-15 times’ while on stage. Here he is pictured being taken to a air ambulance

Agent Andrew Wylie stated this afternoon: ‘It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.’

And Rushdie is now able to ‘talk and joke’, a friend who visited him confirmed this morning. 

A judge ordered that Matar be held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt said the suspect had purposely put himself in position to harm the author.

‘This was a targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack on Mr Rushdie,’ Mr Schmidt said.

Meanwhile Rushdie’s comments to a German magazine made two weeks ago but published in the wake of his stabbing reveal the author’s relentless optimism in the wake of ‘scary times’.

Mr Rushdie said death threats ‘have become more normal’ – but that the fatwa no longer scared him.

He explained: ‘A fatwa is a serious thing. Luckily we didn’t have the internet back then. The Iranians had send the fatwa to the mosques by fax. 

‘That’s all a long time ago. Nowadays my life is very normal again.’

Iran issued a call on Muslims worldwide to kill the India-born author in 1989 after his fourth novel, the Satanic Verses, was considered blasphemous.

This afternoon his agent Andrew Wylie said: ‘He’s off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun. 

‘It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.’

He added that Rushdie had the nerves severed in one of his arms, would likely lose an eye and had sustained damage to his liver. 

Matar has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault in New York.

Rushdie has has two children from his four marriages – his other son is called Milan – but has been linked with many other women including Indian model Riya Sen. 

The acclaimed writer also told Stern that despite the ‘scary times’ we live in – and the fact the internet has made the world ‘infinitely more dangerous’ – he no longer fears the fatwa.

Rushdie said: ‘I always tell people: don’t be afraid. 

‘But the bad thing is that death threats have become more normal. Not only politicians get them, even American teachers who take certain books off the syllabus.

‘I think a lot of people today live with similar threats to the ones I had back then. And the fax machines they used against me is like a bicycle rather than a Ferrari compared with the internet.’

Earlier this month Rushdie, 75, had said his life had become ‘very normal again’ as fear of the fatwa faded 

Mr Rushdie came out of a decade-long hiding in 1998 after incoming Iranian president Mohammad Khatamisaid he no longer supported the fatwa.

But some Muslims continued to back Ayatollah Khamenei’s extreme edict – and the bounty on Rushdie’s head was raised to $3million (£2.7million).

Rushdie, who became a US citizen in 2016 and lives in New York City, said he was most worried about threats to democracy in the United States.

‘Trump’s victory over truth is most important there. His people believe that they are lied to by the others, not by him,’ he said.

Hadi Matar, 24, arrives for a hearing at Chautauqua County Courthouse, NY yesterday. He pleaded not guilty to attempted murder

Rushdie added that he is optimistic about the future, stating: ‘I believe something very good is happening in the young generation. It is much more inclined to activism. We are seeing a generation grow of age that we urgently need right now, a combative one. 

‘We need people who can organise themselves, and people who are prepared to fight. Fighters. For a society worth living in. 

‘As an author I also notice that young authors are becoming role models again – instead of the way it used to be, namely just the dead ones.’

And asked whether he was nostalgic, Rushdie said, ‘Not necessarily. I love history, but when it concerns my own life, I prefer to look ahead.’

Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie spent years in hiding after being issued ‘spiritual’ death threat by Iran

Sir Salman Rushdie is a Booker Prize-winning author and novelist.

His writing is often based around the themes of connections and migrations between Western and Eastern civilizations.

He won the Booker Prize in 1981 for his second novel, Midnight’s Children. His writing has spawned 30 book-length studies, and over 700 articles on his writing.

Rushdie’s writings have broadly been acclaimed to the genres of magical realism and historical fiction.

He has been living in the US since 2000, and he was named a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University in 2015.

He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, including for Midnight’s Children, in 1983 for Shame, in 1988 for The Satanic Versus, in 1995 for The Moor’s Last Sign, and in 2019 for Quichotte.

Salman Rushdie, 75, is an Indian-born author who has been acclaimed for his writing in the genres of magical realism and historical fiction

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