Following hours of surgery, he had been put on a ventilator and was unable to speak as of Friday evening, Wylie had said in a prior health update, adding that he would likely lose an eye and had nerve damage in his arm and wounds to his liver.
One of Rushdie’s sons said on Sunday that his father remained in critical condition but was able to say a few words after getting off the ventilator.
“Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact,” Zafar Rushdie wrote on Twitter.
The stabbing was condemned by writers and politicians around the world as an assault on freedom of expression. In a statement on Saturday, President Joe Biden commended the “universal ideals” of truth, courage and resilience embodied by Rushdie and his work.
“These are the building blocks of any free and open society,” Biden said.
Authorities in Iran have made no public comment about the attack, though hardline state media outlets have celebrated it with headlines including “Satan has been blinded” and some Iranians voiced support online for the stabbing.
Many other Iranians expressed their sympathies for Rushdie, however, posting on social media about their anger at the Islamic Republic’s clerical rulers for issuing the 1989 fatwa that told Muslims to kill the author.
BOUNTY WORTH MILLIONS
Iranian organisations, some linked to the government, have raised a bounty worth millions of dollars for Rushdie’s murder. Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said as recently as 2019 that the edict remained “irrevocable.”
Matar was born in California and recently moved to New Jersey, the NBC New York report said, adding that he had a fake driver’s licence on him.
Witnesses said Matar did not speak as he attacked the author. He was arrested at the scene by a state trooper after being wrestled to the ground by audience members.
Rushdie was stabbed 10 times, prosecutors said during Matar’s arraignment, according to the New York Times.
Prosecutors said in court that Matar travelled by bus to the Chautauqua Institution, an educational retreat about 12 miles (19km) from the shores of Lake Erie, and bought a pass that admitted him to Rushdie’s lecture, the Times reported. Attendees said there were no obvious security checks.
Matar was the son of a man from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, according to Ali Tehfe, the town’s mayor. Matar’s parents emigrated to the US, where he was born and raised, the mayor said, adding he had no information on their political views.
Tehfe told Reuters on Sunday that Matar’s father had returned to Lebanon several years ago, and after word of Rushdie’s stabbing spread he had locked himself in his Yaroun home and was refusing to speak to anyone.
The Iran-backed armed group Hezbollah holds significant sway in Yaroun, where posters of Khomeini and slain IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike in 2020, adorned walls at the weekend.
A Hezbollah official told Reuters on Saturday that the group had no additional information on the attack on Rushdie.
— Additional reporting by Maya Gebeily and Maria Ponnezhath.
Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.