Salman Rushdie Honored at PEN America Gala, First In-person Appearance Since Stabbing 2023
Just nine months after being repeatedly stabbed and being hospitalized, Salman Rushdie made an emotional and unexpected return to public life on Thursday night by attending the PEN America annual gala and giving the event’s closing speech as Salman Rushdie accepted a special award, the PEN Centenary Courage Award.
Being back is good compared to not being back, which was also an option. Rushdie, 75, told the crowd assembled at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, where he was given a standing ovation, “I’m delighted the dice went this way.
It was his first public appearance in person since being attacked in August of last year while performing at a literary festival in western New York.
Rushdie, whose visit had not been previously disclosed, gave a brief speech and dedicated parts of it to those who helped him last year at the nonprofit education and retreat center Chautauqua Institution. He thanked the audience members who also intervened and credited fellow guest Henry Reese of the City of Asylum initiative in Pittsburgh with tackling the attacker.
Therefore, on behalf of everyone who helped me, I accept this prize. They were the heroes that day, but I was the target. They all displayed courage that day, and I’m grateful to them for saving my life, he said.
“And I want to add one more thing. It is that we must not be terrorized by terror. We must not let violence stop us. The battle goes on. The lull continues. The conflict continues.
Salman Rushdie’s book
Since the late 1980s with the release of Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, which Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini denounced as blasphemous for parts relating to the Prophet Mohammad, attacks against Rushdie have been feared. Rushdie was forced into hiding after the Ayatollah issued a decree ordering his execution, even though he had been traveling freely for years before the stabbing.
Since the incident, he has only given a few interviews and has mostly used Twitter and prepared speeches for communication. He gave a video speech earlier this week at the British Book Awards when he received the Freedom to Publish award.
Although Rushdie was delighted to attend the PEN America dinner, his voice sounded weaker than it ever did, and the right frame of his spectacles was dark, hiding the eye that his attacker had blinded.
Alec Baldwin and Senator Angus King of Maine are just a few of the celebrities who have attended PEN galas throughout the years, which have traditionally been a mix of literature, politics, action, and fame. The “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels and the jailed Iranian journalist and activist Narges Mohammadi were also honored on Thursday. Mohammadi received the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
In a letter read aloud at the ceremony, Mohammadi penned from behind bars, “Dear writers, philosophers, and sympathizers, I beseech you to help the Iranian people liberate themselves from the hold of the Islamic Republic, or morally speaking, please help stop the agony of the Iranian people. “Let us demonstrate the power of world unity against those in power and greed.”
Thursday night’s emcee was “Saturday Night Live” head writer Colin Jost, who made jokes about the dangers of being in the same room as Rushdie and compared it to being on the balcony with Abraham Lincoln. These remarks caused tense laughs from the audience. The Hollywood writers’ strike, which has kept ‘Saturday Night Live’ off the air since early May, was also briefly mentioned by him. He said it was “disorienting” to spend the afternoon on a picket line and then turn up “for the museum cocktail hour.”
Rushdie, a past president of PEN, the literary rights organization with freedom of speech as one of its primary missions, is accustomed to attending PEN events. He frequently attends and is a co-founder of the PEN World Voices Festival, an international literary festival.