Supporters of author Salman Rushdie hold signs at a rally held in support of Salman Rushdie at the New York Public Library in New York City on Friday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 19 (UPI) — Notable writers including Gay Talese and Kiran Desai read works by Salman Rushdie to a crowd gathered outside of the New York Public Library one week after he was attacked onstage during a speaking event and hospitalized with multiple stab wounds.
The event, livestreamed from the iconic steps of the library’s main branch on Fifth Avenue, was organized with Pen America and Rushdie’s publisher, Penguin Random House, and House of SpeakEasy.
Rushdie, a former president of the free expression nonprofit Pen America, intended to view the livestream of the event from his hospital room, Pen America CEO Suzanne Nossel said at the start of the event.
“For all their years of tracking and stalking, the ayatollahs and their accomplices badly underestimated this target,” Nossel said.
“Not even a blade to the throat could still the voice of Salman Rushdie, not for a minute and certainly not for a week.”
Rushdie, 75, was stabbed at 10:47 a.m. last Friday while he was being introduced onstage before his scheduled lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.
Hadi Matar, 24, was arrested at the scene and pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault on Saturday.
The author, who has a bounty on his head from Iranian religious leaders dating to the 1980s, suffered three stab wounds to the right side of his neck and four to the stomach among other wounds and was placed on a ventilator.
He was removed from the ventilator days later and has since been recovering.
“When a would-be murderer plunged a knife into Salman Rushdie’s neck, he pierced more than just the flesh of a renowned writer. He sliced through time, jolting all of us to recognize that horrors of the past were hauntingly present,” Nossel said.
‘”He infiltrated across borders, enabling the long arm of a vengeful government to reach into a peaceful haven. He punctured our calm, leaving us wide awake at night, contemplating the sheer terror of those moments exactly one week ago.”
Jeffery Eugenides, the American novelist known for his book The Virgin Suicides, recounted wanting to meet Rushdie as a young author.
“I looked him up in the London phone book. There it was, under the Rs — Rushdie, Salman — along with an address and a telephone number. I took the tube out to his house. As it turned out, Salman wasn’t at home,” Eugenides said.
He said that Rushdie’s mother-in-law let him in and gave him a piece of paper when Eugenides told her why he was there.
“I wrote a note to Mr. Rushdie and I left it for him and I went back to my hotel,” Eugenides said.
“That was a world we used to live in, a world where the only craziness that might be visited upon a writer came in the form of a young, over-exuberant reader who showed up at his doorstep. That world was called civilization. Let’s try to hang on to it.”
Actor Aasif Mandvi read from Rushdie’s upcoming novel, Victory City, and Rushdie’s son Zafar tweeted that it was “great to see a crowd gathered.”
The event took place the day after a judge denied bail to Matar, who scorned Rushdie as anti-Muslim in a video interview with the New York Post.
“I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person,” he said about Rushdie. “I don’t like him. I don’t like him very much, Matar said.
“He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”