Author Salman Rushdie was on a ventilator after being attacked at an event in western New York state on Friday morning.
The Indian-born British author, who faced death threats for his book The Satanic Verses published in 1988, was stabbed in the abdomen and the neck at an event at the Chautauqua Institution in New York.
After being airlifted to a hospital in Pennsylvania where he underwent surgery, the Booker Prize winner’s agent Andrew Wylie told the Associated Press that the writer was on a ventilator, with damage to his liver and nerves in an arm. He added that Rushdie will likely lose an eye.
The police arrested a man from the scene and identified him as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of New Jersey.
New York State Police Major Eugene Staniszewski told reporters on Friday afternoon that officials have not yet determined a motive for the attack.
The moderator at the event, 73-year-old Henry Reese, was also attacked and suffered a minor head injury, the police said.
Rita Landman, an endocrinologist, who was present at the event, told The New York Times that Rushdie suffered multiple stab wounds, including one to the right side of his neck.
Linda Abrams, another onlooker, said that the man kept trying to attack the author despite being restrained. “It took like five men to pull him away and he was still stabbing,” she said. “He was just furious, furious. Like intensely strong and just fast.”
A reporter of the Associated Press news agency saw the attacker stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as he was being introduced.
Rushdie rose to prominence in 1981 when his second novel, Midnight’s Children, won the Booker Prize.
The Satanic Verses, his fourth book, ran into controversy after being accused of blasphemy and mocking the Muslim faith.
In 1989, Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a religious edict known as a fatwa, asking Muslims to kill Rushdie.
The author was placed under police protection by the United Kingdom government for many years, and he was subjected to numerous threats of assassination. Several bookstores were attacked and the novel was banned in many countries, including India.
The book’s Japanese translator was killed in July 1991. A few months later, an Italian translator was also stabbed and the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot.
Protests also erupted against the book’s publication and 12 people died in a riot in Mumbai in February 1989, and six were killed in a mob attack on the US Information Center in Islamabad during demonstrations.