MAYVILLE, NY (AP) — Salman Rushdie is “on the road to recovery,” his rep confirmed Sunday, two days after “The Satanic Verses” author was seriously injured in a stab wound during a of a conference in New York.

The announcement followed news that the lauded writer was taken off a ventilator on Saturday and able to speak. Literary agent Andrew Wylie warned that although “Rushdie’s condition is heading in the right direction”, his recovery would be long. Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and in an eye that he was at risk of losing, Wylie previously said.

“While his life-altering injuries are severe, his usual fiery and defiant sense of humor remains intact,” Rushdie’s son, Zafar Rushdie, said in a statement Sunday that noted the author remains in a state critical. The family’s statement also expressed gratitude for the “members of the public who bravely stood up for her”, as well as the police, doctors and the “outpouring of love and support”.

Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty on Saturday to attempted murder and assault in what a prosecutor called “a targeted, unprovoked and planned attack” at the Chautauqua Institution in the Western New York, a non-profit education and retreat center.

The attack has sparked global shock and outrage, as well as praise for the man who for more than three decades – nine of which were hidden under the protection of the British government – ​​withstood death threats and a bounty of $3 million on his head. “The Satanic Verses.”

“It’s an attack on his body, his life and all the values ​​he stood for,” Henry Reese, 73, told The Associated Press. The Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum co-founder was on stage with Rushdie and suffered a gash to his forehead, bruises and other minor injuries. They had planned to discuss the need for writers’ safety and freedom of expression.

Authors, activists and government officials have cited Rushdie’s bravery and longstanding defense of free speech in the face of intimidation. Writer and longtime friend Ian McEwan called Rushdie “an inspirational advocate for persecuted writers and journalists” and actor-author Kal Penn called him a role model, “especially many of us in the South American Diaspora. Asian”.

“Salman Rushdie – with his insight into humanity, with his unrivaled sense of history, with his refusal to be bullied or silenced – represents essential and universal ideals,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement on Saturday. a statement. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear.

Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family and has lived in Britain and the United States, is known for his surreal and satirical prose, beginning with his 1981 Booker Prize-winning novel Midnight’s Children. in which he sharply criticized then- Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Steeped in magical realism, 1988’s “The Satanic Verses” angered some Muslims who viewed elements of the novel as blasphemy.

They believed that Rushdie had insulted the Prophet Muhammad by naming a character Mahound, a medieval corruption of “Muhammad”. The character was a prophet in a town called Jahilia, which in Arabic refers to the period before the advent of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. Another sequence includes prostitutes who share names with some of Muhammad’s nine wives. The novel also implies that Muhammad, not Allah, may have been the true author of the Quran.

The book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere when Iranian Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989. Khomeini died the same year, but the fatwa remains in force – although Iran, in recent years, had not focused on Rushdie.

Iran’s state-run newspaper, Iran Daily, on Sunday hailed the attack as an “implementation of divine decree”. Another radical newspaper, Kayhan, called it “divine revenge” that would partly calm the anger of Muslims.

Investigators were trying to determine if the suspect, born nearly a decade after the novel’s publication, acted alone. A prosecutor alluded to the current fatwa as a potential ground for opposing bail.

“His resources don’t matter to me. We understand that the program that was executed yesterday is something that has been embraced and sanctioned by larger groups and organizations far beyond the jurisdictional boundaries of Chautauqua County,” District Attorney Jason Schmidt said. .

Schmidt said Matar got a pass to the event where the author was speaking and arrived a day early with a fake ID. The judge ordered Matar detained without bail.

Court-appointed attorney Nathaniel Barone complained that authorities took too long to bring Matar before a judge, leaving him “hanging on a bench in the state police barracks”, and pointed out that Matar had the right to the presumption of innocence.

Barone said after the hearing that Matar had communicated openly with him and would try to find out if his clinet had any psychological issues or addictions.

Matar was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, the village’s mayor, Ali Tehfe, told the AP. Flags of the Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah, as well as portraits of Hezbollah and Iranian leaders, were visible across Yaroun before visiting journalists on Saturday were told to leave.

Hezbollah spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment. Lebanon’s Shiite grand mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan, vilified Rushdie in a speech on Sunday without directly endorsing the attack, saying the perpetrator was “the cheapest and worst personality to deal with history and heritage by fabricating lies and hypocrisies”.

In Tehran, some Iranians interviewed by the AP welcomed the attack on a perpetrator who they said tarnished the Islamic faith, while others feared it could further isolate their country.

A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to the Rushdie conference, and police say the trooper made the arrest. But afterwards, some longtime visitors to the bucolic summer camp wondered why there wasn’t tighter security given Rushdie’s history of threats.

On Friday, an AP reporter saw the assailant stab or punch Rushdie about 10 or 15 times. Reese, the moderator, told CNN he initially thought the attack was a prank.

News of the stabbing sparked renewed interest in ‘The Satanic Verses’, which topped bestseller lists after the fatwa was published in 1989. As of Sunday morning, the novel ranked 11th rank on Amazon.com’s list.

One of Rushdie’s ex-wives, author and TV host Padma Lakshmi, tweeted on Sunday that she was “relieved” by Rushdie’s prognosis.

“Worried and mute, can finally breathe out,” she wrote. “Now I hope for a speedy recovery.”

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Italy reported from New York. Associated Press reporters Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Kareem Chehayeb and Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jill Lawless in London and Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report.

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