Noam Chomsky, 95, recovering in hospital in his wife’s native country of Brazil after stroke

The 95-year-old famed linguist has not been seen in public since June last year

Maira Butt
Wednesday 12 June 2024 08:37
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Noam Chomsky has suffered a stroke and is recovering in hospital, his wife has confirmed.

The 95-year-old famed linguist has not been seen in public since June last year, with many commenting on the weight of his absence from the broader debate surrounding the war in Gaza.

Chomsky, who has been vocal about his support for the Palestinian cause and what he has called the “crimes” of the Israeli state, has been notably absent from demonstrations and discussions on the issue over the last year.

Valeria Chomsky told the Associated Press via email, that the MIT professor is currently in a Sao Paulo hospital in her native country of Brazil after suffering from a stroke in June last year. The couple travelled on an ambulance jet with two nurses once he was well enough to leave the United States.

Mrs Chomsky confirmed reports in Brazilian newspaper Folha de S Paulo, that her husband had difficulty speaking and that the right side of his body is affected. She said that a neurologist, speech therapist and lung specialist visit the academic on a daily basis.

The famed intellectual is still following the news and his wife confirmed that he raises his left arm in a gesture of lament and anger when he sees images of the war in Gaza.

Mrs Chomsky, who married the professor in 2014, also told Folha de S Paulo that she is thinking about moving to an apartment near the beach in Rio de Janeiro after reading that living in a sunny place can help stroke patients. The couple have had a residence in Brazil since 2015.

It comes after a post shared by Media Lens last week, revealed that the MIT professor is unlikely to ever return to the public eye following the deterioration of his health.

The post quoted Professor Chomsky’s former assistant Bev Stohl, who first shared the news on a reddit forum as she explained why the usually responsive academic “hasn’t been returning emails, or interviewing”.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Stohl, who worked as Chomsky’s office manager at MIT for 24 years until her retirement in 2017, wrote on 5 February: “I’m in contact with a close family member, and we know the basics, and hope to know more in the near future.

“In a nutshell, Noam is 95-years-old and suffered a medical event in June. As many have noticed, he has not been writing, corresponding, or interviewing, as his health situation has taken the majority of his time and energy.

“He is still with us, now watching the news (he doesn’t look happy about what he’s watching).”

Stohl shared further details on the linguist’s ability to communicate, adding that he was no longer mobile or walking either.

“His ability to speak is complicated by factors I can’t yet disclose,” she continued. “When the relative I’m in touch with visited him a month ago, he did not communicate with her.

“He is not ambulatory. I’m not sure for how long this will go on. He is not in pain. His eyes are open and he seems to be watching what’s happening around him.”

The assistant, who also wrote a memoir titled Chomsky and Me on her time working with the world-renowned thinker, provided an update in April as she wrote, “Noam has not made significant progress, I’m sorry to say. I doubt he will be able to return to the public eye, as he is not communicating much if at all.”

Some of the comments have since been deleted as Stohl edited a post to say that Chomsky’s “family is very private” and she will “no longer be adding to this discussion”.

The Independent has contacted Noam Chomsky and his literary agent for comment.

Tributes have poured in from across the media industry as many noted the linguist’s passion for language, having dedicated over seven decades to the study of words and communication, and expressed sadness at his now limited ability.

Nathan Robinson, founder and editor of socialist magazine, Current Affairs, is also co-author of Chomsky’s forthcoming book, The Myth of American Idealism: How US Foreign Policy Endangers the World. He wrote: “Chomsky has been unbelievably kind over the years I’ve known him.

“He treats everyone as an equal. Doesn’t care who you are. He would give as much of his time to a high school student as some celebrity or NYT reporter. And devoted himself to attacking cruelty and injustice.

“So many thousands of people have stories about how he has changed their lives. He certainly changed mine.”

British-American journalist and Zeteo founder Mehdi Hasan added, “Sending prayers Noam’s way. There has been no one else like him in our lifetime.”

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