By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Wylie: ‘The Road to Recovery Has Begun’Update 1:30 p.m. EDT, August 14: At The New York Times, Elizabeth A. Harris reports that author Salman Rushdie, 75, has been taken off a ventilator by physicians in hospital, according to his literary agent Andrew Wylie this morning (August 14).
Harris also has news of a statement from Rushdie’s son Zafar, who said the elder Rushdie was able to speak a few words, though he remains in critical condition.
As Hurubie Meko and Lauren D’Avolio at The New York Times reported Saturday, an arraignment was conducted in Mayfield, New York, with Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old from New Jersey being held without bail in Rushdie’s stabbing. Prosecutors are alleging that the attack was premeditated and targeted. They report that Rushdie was stabbed 10 times.
CNN coverage, by Paul P. Murphy and Aya Elamroussi with Nicki Brown and Ray Sanchez included information on the court appearance, saying that Matar pled not guilty to attempted murder in the second degree and second-degree assault. The report pointed to a developing element of the story: “questions raised about the security precautions–or lack thereof–at the host institution,” The Chautauqua Institution.
“The institution’s leadership had rejected recommendations for basic security measures, including bag checks and metal detectors, ” according to the report, “fearing that would create a divide between speakers and the audience, according to two sources who spoke with CNN. The leadership also feared that it would change the culture at the institution, the sources said. The two sources have direct knowledge of the security situation at the Chautauqua Institution and past recommendations and spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.”
It’s unclear whether Matar’s assault was a response to the 1989 Iranian fatwa which, in 1998, Tehran pledged not to carry out. Despite that, as recently as 2005, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the fatwa was still in place.
In his CNN Newsroom Saturday report today, CNN anchor and chief domestic correspondent Jim Acosta, has introduced new imagery obtained by CNN and taken by Stephen Davies on-site as the attack occurred. This offers a view from the stage-left side of the amphitheater and clearly shows audience members rushing to the stage to try to assist as it becomes evident what has occurred. The video was displayed during Acosta’s interview about the attack with Bill Richardson, Democrat of New Mexico and the state’s former governor.
Reactions, Outrage Follow the Attack
PEN America quickly issued a statement from its CEO, Suzanne Nossel, reading:
“PEN America is reeling from shock and horror at the 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.
“We can think of no comparable incident of a public attack on a literary writer on American soil.
“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.”
Frankfurter Buchmesse, at which Rushdie spoke in 2015, has issued a brief statement, saying, “We condemn this cowardly attack on Salman Rushdie and wish him well.”
In 2015, the news that Rushdie would give Frankfurt’s opening keynote address prompted Iran to threaten a boycott of the fair, which is the world book publishing industry’s largest annual trade show. At the time, Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos said that the trade show is “a place of dialogue,” and “for us, freedom of expression is non-negotiable.”
Boos praised Rushdie for “unsettling” readers, saying, as reported by Alison Flood at The Guardian, “Freedom of speech is currently in a very fragile state. It is under fire, in the truest sense of the words. The times we’re living through are defined by violent conflicts, with the violence seemingly always spiraling in one direction: the wrong direction.”
In a statement from the Authors Guild in New York City, the United States’ largest author- and writer-advocacy organization, reads, in part:
“As we tweeted this morning, the Authors Guild is deeply troubled and outraged by the attack on Salman Rushdie during an event at the Chautauqua Institution where Mr. Rushdie was speaking on ‘The United States as Asylum for Writers and Other Artists in Exile and as a Home for Freedom of Creative Expression.’ Rushdie’s onstage interviewer, Henry Reese, co-founder of City of Asylum, a residency program for writers in exile, suffered a minor head injury.”
Author Doug Preston, who is president of the guild, is quoted, saying, “At this time, we have no knowledge of and cannot comment on the motives or reasons behind this savage attack. What we can and will say is this: the assault on Rushdie was an attack on all writers and on free speech itself. We are all Salman Rushdie.”
The guild concludes, “The Authors Guild supported Rushdie in 1989 when the fatwa was first issued, and we stand by him now. We do not tolerate attacks on free speech of any kind, much less assault and murder. We are following the developments with extreme concern and Rushdie is in our hearts. We wish him a safe recovery.”
New York Governor Praises State Trooper’s Reaction
New York governor Kathy Hochul has said that a state trooper “stood up and saved his life and protected” Rushdie along with the moderator.
The setting for the attack, as described by The New York Times‘ David Gelles and Elizabeth A. Harris, was a 4,000-seat amphitheater at the Chautauqua Institution, a gated community well known for its summer programming of arts and literary events.
“Mr. Rushdie had just sat down and was being introduced when the assailant rushed the stage and assaulted him.” Gelles and Harris write.
“‘I could just see his fists sort of pounding on Salman,’ one witness, Bill Vasu, 72, said. A number of people rushed to Mr. Rushdie’s aid, Mr. Vasu said, and quickly pinned the attacker to the ground.”
Rushdie’s Victory City is scheduled to have a February 7 release from Penguin Random House.
More from Publishing Perspectives on Salman Rushdie is here.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.