Rushdie rose to prominence with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” about children born during India’s partition
Indian-born novelist Salman Rushdie, whose controversial novel “The Satanic Verses” led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked Friday as he was about to give a lecture in western New York.
Rushdie rose to prominence with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” about children born during the Aug 15, 1947 midmight partition of India. But Rushdie’s fourth book, in 1988 – The Satanic Verses – forced him into hiding for nine years.
Associated Press said one of its reporters witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin punching or stabbing Rushdie as he was being introduced. The 75-year-old author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained.
Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest. His condition was not immediately known.
Witnesses cited by the BBC said they saw a man run on stage and either punch or stab Rushdie as he was being introduced.
A video posted online shows attendees rushing onto the stage immediately following the incident. The attacker is said to have been restrained by those on the scene. Police confirmed a stabbing but declined to immediately identify the victim.
“The Satanic Verses,” Rushdie’s surrealist, post-modern novel sparked outrage among some Muslims, who considered its content to be blasphemous, and was banned in some countries.
A year after the book’s publication, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini called for Rushdie’s execution and offered a $3million reward. Dozens of people died in the violence that followed its publication, including murdered translators of the work.
The bounty over Rushdie’s head remains active, although Iran’s government has distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree. Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward.
That year, Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton,” about the fatwa. The title came from the pseudonym Rushdie had used while in hiding.
The author, who has British and American citizenship, is a vocal advocate for freedom of expression and has defended his work on several occasions.
His appearance at the Chautauqua Institution event, in western New York, was the first in a summertime lecture series hosted by the non-profit.
BBC cited an artist at the venue as saying that rehearsals had been going as normal this morning until the attack inside its amphitheatre.
The venue has been on lockdown since, she said.
The Chautauqua Institution, about 55 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, is known for its summertime lecture series. Rushdie has spoken there before.
In 1983, Rushdie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was appointed Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France in 1999.
Read: Author Salman Rushdie attacked on stage in New York (August 12, 2022)
In 2007, he was knighted for his services to literature. In 2008, The Times ranked him thirteenth on its list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.
Since 2000, Rushdie has lived in the United States. He was named Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University in 2015. Earlier, he taught at Emory University. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.