For the first time since a stabbing attack in the United States in August that nearly cost him his life, British writer Salman Rushdie reappeared Thursday night in public in New York at a gala of a writers' organization. The famous Indian-born novelist, naturalized American and who lives in New York, received an honorary award from the free speech and literature advocacy group, PEN America, of which he served as president.
The 75-year-old intellectual, wearing glasses with a black lens in his right eye, was first photographed on the red carpet of the gala in the setting of the American Museum of Natural History near Central Park, in Manhattan. His presence had not been announced and he addressed, moved, the 700 guests of the gala.
Tonight at the 2023 #PENGala in New York, PEN America honored author @SalmanRushdie with PEN Centenary Courage Award.
Rushdie accepted the award in person, in his first public appearance since he was severely wounded in a knife attack nine months ago. https://t.co/GrbQsA2n6T
— PEN America (@PENamerica) May 19, 2023
PEN America, an association that works for freedom of expression, has never been more "important," Salman Rushdie said in a statement from PEN America. "Terrorism must not terrorize us. Violence must not deter us. The struggle continues," he proclaimed in French, Spanish and English.
Loss of sight in one eye and use of one hand
On August 12, he was invited to a literary conference in Chautauqua, a small cultural and bucolic town in northwestern New York, near Great Lake Erie. At the time of speaking, a young American of Lebanese origin suspected of being a sympathizer of Shiite Iran had thrown himself on him, armed with a knife, and had stabbed him a dozen times.
Onlookers and guards subdued the assailant as soon as he was arrested, charged and imprisoned since pending trial. "If it weren't for these people, I certainly wouldn't be here today. I was the target that day, but they were heroes. I owe them my life," Rushdie said. His literary agent Andrew Wylie revealed in October that he had lost the sight of one eye and the use of one hand.
In February, during the release of his latest novel "Victory City", the writer had confided to the magazine of cultural elites The New Yorker, in his first interview since his attack, to have a lot of trouble writing and suffer from post-traumatic stress.
Adulated by elites in the West, hated by Muslim extremists in Iran or Pakistan, Salman Rushdie is an icon of freedom of expression. He has been living since 1989 under death threat from a fatwa issued by Iran, after the publication of his book "The Satanic Verses".