Salman Rushdie Greeted With Standing Ovation as He Returned to the Literary World Grateful and Unbowed
- Accepting the Pen Centenary Courage award in New York City, the author of “The Satanic Verses” and “Midnight’s Children,” thanked people who saved his life.
Pen is mightier than the knife, after all. Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed at a literary event in upstate New York in August last year, made a surprising but triumphant return to the literary world on Thursday night. Wearing an eye patch over the eye he lost after he was stabbed by an Islamic fanatic, attended a Pen America gala where he was greeted with a standing ovation, according to news reports.
Without losing a beat of his ebullient self, Rushdie reportedly greeted the audience jovially saying, “It’s nice to be back — as opposed to not being back, which was also an option. I’m pretty glad the dice rolled this way.”
Accepting the Pen Centenary Courage award, he thanked the people who saved his life. “The true courage was not shown by me”. Rather, the people who rushed to save his life “were the heroes,” The Guardian reported. “If it had not been for these people, I most certainly would not be standing here today,” he was quoted as saying. “The courage, that day, was all theirs.”
Rushdie was stabbed nearly 10 times by New Jersey resident, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, at a literary event. Matar, who has been charged with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault, has pleaded not guilty. Matar was born in the U.S. and is of Lebanese ethnicity.
Although he only spoke briefly at the Pen gala, he “was his voluble self during the cocktail hour, for which he had slipped in through a side door before taking his place for a red-carpet photo op,” the New York Times reported. Not surprisingly, he was greeted with handshakes and hugs by the crowd which was elated to see him.
“I just thought if there’s a right thing to chose as a re-entry, it’s this,” he told the Times in an interview. “It’s being part of the world of books, the fight against censorship and for human rights.”
Once again proving that he is a profile in courage, earlier in the week Rushdie told the British book awards via a video message, that Pen America’s mission to protect free expression was never “more important” and that “Terrorism must not terrorize us. Violence must not deter us. A luta continua. The struggle goes on.”
(Top photo, screenshot of Rushdie speaking at the Pen gala)