- News of the award was kept a secret as whereabouts of the acclaimed author have largely been withheld from the general public since he was stabbed repeatedly in August of 2022 during a literary festival in Western New York.
Salman Rushdie last week received the first-ever ‘Lifetime Disturbing the Peace Award,’ presented by the Vaclav Havel Center in New York. News of the award was kept a secret, the Associated Press reported. “Only a handful of the more than 100 attendees had advance notice about Rushdie, whose whereabouts have largely been withheld from the general public since he was stabbed repeatedly in August of 2022 during a literary festival in Western New York,” the report noted.
The Havel Center, founded in 2012 as the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation, is named for the Czech playwright and dissident who became the last president of Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Communist regime in the late 1980s. The center has a mission to advance the legacy of Havel, who died in 2011 and was known for championing human rights and free expression. Numerous writers and diplomats attended Tuesday’s ceremony, hosted by longtime CBS journalist Lesley Stahl.
Addressing the audience at the Nov. 14 event, Rushdie apologized for the mystery guest, adding that he doesn’t “feel at all mysterious. But it made life a little simpler.” He praised Havel, “a close friend whom he remembered as being among the first government leaders to defend him” after the fatwa issued against him in 1989, the AP report said. He called Havel his hero, and inspiration,” and described him as someone who was “able to be an artist at the same time as being an activist.”
Rushdie spent about 10 years under police protection in Britain, living in hiding after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran called for his execution in 1989 because his novel “The Satanic Verses” was considered offensive to Islam. “The book was banned in India, and he was barred from the country for more than a decade,” The New York Times reported.
Last month, he received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for “continuing to write despite enduring decades of threats and violence,” according to Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, a trade association of the German publishing industry. In his address at the awards ceremony, he highlighted the continued need to defend free speech and freedom of expression. “We live in a time when I didn’t think I would have to experience, a time when freedom — especially freedom of expression, without which the world of books would not exist — would end.”
He will publish his latest book about the onstage attack on him at a literary event in Upstate New York last August. Titled — “Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder” the book will hit the shelves on April 16, his publisher Penguin Random House announced earlier this month. According to him, the book is “a way to take charge of what happened and to answer violence with art.”
He was attacked onstage at the Chautauqua Institution, a summer arts community in New York, where he was scheduled to speak about the U.S. as a haven for exiled writers. As the event was about to begin, Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old New Jersey man jumped onstage and stabbed Rushdie repeatedly in the face and the abdomen before members of the audience pulled the assailant away. Matar, who has been charged with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault, has pleaded not guilty. Rushdie was gravely injured, placed temporarily on a ventilator, and left blind in his right eye.