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Salman Rushdie stopped by the PEN America Gala in New York City on Thursday for his first in-person appearance after the August stabbing attack in western New York.
The author of The Satanic Verses and former president of the organization took to the stage at the American Museum of Natural History to accept the PEN Centenary Courage Award, just nine months after he was severely wounded in a knife attack at the Chautauqua Institute. His injuries included three stab wounds to the front of his neck, four stab wounds to his stomach, a puncture wound to his chest, a laceration on his right thigh and a puncture wound to his right eye, which eventually led to him losing sight in that eye.
In his speech, Rushdie explained that PEN America and its mission to protect free expression has never been “more important” at a time when book bans and censorship are at a high. He said that he was accepting the award on behalf of all of the people who came to his rescue that day at the institute.
“I was the target that day, but they were the heroes,” he added. “The courage, that day, was all theirs, and I thank them for saving my life.”
He concluded his speech with a call to action: “Terrorism must not terrorize us. Violence must not deter us. La lutte continue. La lutta continua. The struggle goes on.”
In his first interview after the attack in February, the author told The New Yorker that he had nightmares following the attack, not exactly of the incident but of “frightening” situations. He also shared that he hadn’t been able to type quickly because of the lack of feeling in his fingertips.
“I’m fine. I’m able to get up and walk around,” he said at the time. “When I say I’m fine, I mean, there’s bits of my body that need constant checkups. It was a colossal attack.”
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