Salman Rushdie is back in the spotlight, nine months after being critically injured in a stabbing.
The author made a surprise appearance May 18 at the PEN America Literary Award Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where he was honored with the Centenary Courage Award. And while addressing the crowd, Rushdie, 75, who received a standing ovation as he appeared onstage, alluded to the horrific incident.
"Well, hi everybody," the novelist told the crowd. "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."
Last August, Rushdie was preparing to speak at an event at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY, when a man rushed the stage and stabbed him multiple times in areas such as his face, neck, abdomen and chest.
The attack left Rushdie blind in one eye and also affected the use of one of his hands. Soon after the incident, the suspect, Hadi Mater, was charged with attempted murder and assault. He has pleaded not guilty and his case is pending.
In his speech at the PEN America Literary Award Gala, Rushdie said he was accepting the award on behalf of the "heroes" who tackled his assailant following the attack. "I was the target that day, but they were the heroes," he explained. "The courage that day was all theirs. I don't know their names, I never saw their faces, but that large group of people, I owe my life to them."
The attack took place more than 30 years after Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a "fatwa" on Rushdie, calling on Muslims to kill him over his novel The Satanic Verses. The 1988 book was banned in many countries with large Muslim populations over allegedly blasphemous passages.
At the gala, Rushdie said PEN America and its mission to protect free expression was never "more important" in a time of book bans and censorship. "Terrorism must not terrorize us," he added. "Violence must not deter us. As the old Marxists used to say, 'La lutte continue. La lutta continua.' The struggle goes on."