Author Salman Rushdie, who received death threats in the 1980s because of his writing, was attacked Friday before giving a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.
A man stormed on stage and began stabbing Rushdie as he was being introduced. Rushdie, 75, fell to the floor, and the attacker was restrained, according to Travis Seward, general manager for 10Best at USA TODAY, who witnessed the incident.
A small group of people quickly surrounded the "The Satanic Verses" author, holding up his legs to presumably send blood to his chest. Rushdie was taken by helicopter to a hospital, state police said.
The author suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye he was likely to lose. His agent, Andrew Wylie, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Rushdie was "on the road to recovery" and his “condition is headed in the right direction,” but his recovery would be a long process.
The suspect, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, was arrested and later charged with attempted second-degree murder and assault. During an arraignment hearing Saturday, Matar's attorney entered a not-guilty plea on Matar's behalf.
Salman Rushdie stabbed: Author taken off ventilator after attack, 'on the road to recovery'
USA TODAY has reached out to Rushdie's representatives for comment.
What books did Salman Rushdie write?
The Indian-born novelist has authored more than a dozen books and six of his novels are USA TODAY best sellers.
His 1981 "Midnight's Children," detailing India's transition from British colonial rule to independence, won the Booker-Prize. Other books Rushdie wrote include 1983's "Shame," 1990's "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," and 2017's "The Golden House."
Rushdie's most recent novel, "Quichotte," published in 2019, puts his spin on the Miguel de Cervantes classic with a modern-day Don Quixote, satirizing former president Donald Trump's America. The book has been long-listed for the Booker Prize.
In 2023 the author is expected to publish his thirteenth book titled, "Victory City: A Novel," following a woman who "breathes a fantastical empire into existence, only to be consumed by it over the centuries," according to the Amazon description.
But the author is best known for his controversial book "The Satanic Verses," which was published in 1988 and has been banned in multiple countries.
What is the controversy surrounding Rushdie’s books?
Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" is considered blasphemous by many Muslims and led to its ban in Iran. The book tells a fictional tale of a prophet experiencing a demented dream. History.com says, "The book mocked or at least contained mocking references to the Prophet Muhammad and other aspects of Islam, in addition to and a character clearly based on the Supreme Leader of Iran."
In early 1989, a few months after the book's publication, Iran's former leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for Rushdie's death, issuing a fatwa, or edict, offering an over $3 million reward for anyone who kills him.
It is not clear if the Aug. 12 attack on Rushdie had any connection to the edict.
At the time, other countries such as India and Bangladesh banned the book.
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 has shared he wrote the book without fear of censorship or death sentences, considering intellectual freedom a birthright. He's also previously dismissed the threats, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward.
Contributing: Mary Cadden
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who is Salman Rushdie? How his writing put his life at risk