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Salman Rushdie Blinded In One Eye After Attack, His Literary Agent Says

“It was a brutal attack,” Salman Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, told Spanish newspaper, El País.

By Dorian Geiger
Salman Rushdie on October 10, 2015

Author Salman Rushdie has lost sight in one eye after being stabbed multiple times at a speaking engagement in upstate New York this summer, his literary agent confirmed.

Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, said on Sunday that the “Satanic Verses” author was blinded in one eye — and lost the use of his right hand — following nerve damage he sustained as a result of a knife attack at Chautauqua Institution on Aug. 12. Wylie confirmed the extent of Rushdie’s injuries during a weekend interview with Spanish newspaper El País.

“[His wounds] were profound, but he’s [also] lost the sight of one eye,” Wylie told El País. “He had three serious wounds in his neck. One hand is incapacitated because the nerves in his arm were cut. And he has about 15 more wounds in his chest and torso. So, it was a brutal attack.”

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Wylie didn’t specify whether Rushdie is still hospitalized and receiving medical treatment. He said Rushdie will survive.

A police handout of Hadi Matar

Prosecutors say that on Aug. 12, 24-year-old Hadi Matar stabbed Rushdie in the neck, stomach, chest, hand and right eye as the award-winning novelist took the stage to deliver a speech at western New York’s nonprofit education and retreat center, Chautauqua Institution.

The attack left Rushdie in critical condition with a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm, and forced the 75-year-old writer to be on a ventilator for a number of days. He was hospitalized in Pennsylvania. 

Matar was charged with attempted murder and assault charges in connection with the violent incident. He’s pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors have described the stabbing as “a targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack.”

In August, shortly after the attack, Wylie had predicted Rushdie, while on the “road to recovery,” would likely lose an eye. He then-said Rushdie’s recovery would be long and arduous.

“Though his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humor remains intact,” Rushdie's son Zafar Rushdie said in August. 

In 1988, Rushdie’s novel, “The Satanic Verses” was widely condemned as blasphemous in a number of Muslim-majority countries. In response, protests, which at times spiraled into chaos and violence, erupted across several countries in the Middle East. At least 45 people died amid the rioting. The text was also banned in Iran where the late leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie's death.

For a number of years, Rushdie was forced into hiding over the high degree of concern for his safety following the backlash to his book.

Salman Rushdie, writer, Pordenone, Italy, 2010.

On Sunday, Wylie stated the prospect of a coordinated attack on Rushdie had been an occasional topic of conversation over the years.

“I think the attack was probably something that Salman and I have discussed in the past, which was that the principal danger that he faced so many years after the fatwa was imposed is from a random person coming out of nowhere and attacking [him]," Wylie said.

The literary agent ultimately compared Rushdie’s attack to the high-profile assassination of the Beatles’ John Lennon, who was gunned down outside his Manhattan apartment in 1980.

“So, you can’t protect against that because it’s totally unexpected and illogical. It was like John Lennon’s murder,” he said.

Rushdie’s agent didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment on Monday morning.

Matar is being held without bond at a Chautauqua County detention center without bond, according to online jail records.

“At this point, we really have no comment regarding anything that’s developed,” Matar’s public defender, Nathan Barone, told Oxygen.com on Monday afternoon, referring to recent reports regarding Rushdie’s condition. “Certainly, we’ll check into it and stay on top of it, but again it’s obviously we knew that Mr. Rushdie was being treated for some injuries.”

In September, the Chautauqua County District Attorney's Office requested a delay in trial proceedings to pore over a trove of documents in the case, stating they needed more time to review some 30,000 files and other evidence. 

Barone, who opposed the delay, said he’s now waiting on prosecutors to file discovery in the case. The attorney noted his client is a devout Muslim.

“We’re denying the allegations,” Barone added. “We’re preparing a defense to the matter and certainly we’re waiting for the discovery and once we get that, perhaps we can comment in more detail on where we’re going.”

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