Salman Rushdie’s agent has said “the news is not good,” after the author was stabbed at an event in New York state.
He was attacked on stage, and is now on a ventilator and unable to speak, Andrew Wylie said in a statement, adding that the author may lose one eye.
Rushdie has suffered years of Islamist death threats after writing The Satanic Verses, published in 1988.
Police detained a suspect named as Hadi Matar, 24, from Fairview, New Jersey, the BBC reports.
New York State Police said the suspect ran onto the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York state.
“Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” Wylie said.
No motive or charges have been confirmed by police, who are in the process of obtaining search warrants to examine a backpack and electronic devices found at the centre.
Rushdie was stabbed at least once in the neck and in the abdomen, authorities said. He was taken to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, by helicopter.
The interviewer who was with him on stage, Henry Reese, suffered a minor head injury and was taken to a local hospital. Reese is the co-founder of a non-profit that provides sanctuary to writers exiled under threat of persecution.
Police told a press conference that staff and audience members had rushed the attacker and took him to the ground, and he was then arrested.
Linda Abrams, an onlooker from the city of Buffalo, told The New York Times that the assailant kept trying to attack Rushdie after he was restrained.
“It took like five men to pull him away and he was still stabbing,” Abrams said. “He was just furious, furious. Like intensely strong and just fast.”
A video posted online shows the moment people rushed onto the stage to restrain the attacker and help the injured men. Police said a doctor in the audience gave Rushdie first aid.
Indian-born Rushdie catapulted to fame with Midnight’s Children in 1981, which went on to sell over one million copies in the U.K. alone.
But his fourth book, in 1988 — The Satanic Verses — forced him into hiding for nearly 10 years.
The surrealist, post-modern novel sparked outrage among some Muslims, who considered its content to be blasphemous, and was banned in some countries.
A Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death in 1991. A few months later, an Italian translator was also stabbed, and the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot — but both survived. And several people were killed in anti-Rushdie riots, while the British embassy in Tehran was stoned.
A year after the book’s release, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini called for Rushdie’s execution. He offered a $3-million reward in a fatwa — a legal decree issued by an Islamic religious leader.
The bounty on Rushdie’s head remains active, and although Iran’s government has distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, a quasi-official Iranian religious foundation added a further $500,000 to the reward in 2012.
The British-American citizen — who was born to non-practising Muslims and is an atheist himself — became a vocal advocate for freedom of expression, defending his work on several occasions.