Leading literary figures including Paul Auster and Gay Talese gathered in Manhattan on Friday for a reading of the works of Salman Rushdie, in solidarity with the author who was seriously injured in a stabbing attack.
More than a dozen acclaimed writers, including friends and colleagues of Rushdie, took to the steps of the New York Public Library for the event, which organizers said the novelist had been invited to watch from the hospital.
A week ago he was about to be interviewed for a lecture series in upstate New York when a man rushed onto the stage and stabbed him repeatedly to the neck and abdomen.
Talese, wearing his signature fedora and three-piece suit, read an excerpt from the novel “The Golden House,” while Irish writer Colum McCann read an excerpt from Rushdie’s 1992 New Yorker essay “Out of Kansas “.
McCann told members of the public, who were holding posters promoting free speech, that he looked forward to Rushdie’s recovery and return to the literary world.
“He always rose to the occasion,” McCann said. “I think he will have something profound to say.”
Rushdie spent years under police protection after Iranian leaders called for his assassination for his portrayal of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad in his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.
Hari Kunzru, the British novelist and journalist, read the opening of the book.
“Salman once wrote that the role of the writer is to name the unspeakable, to point out frauds, to take sides, to launch arguments, to shape the world and keep it from falling asleep” , said Kunzru. “That’s why we are here.”
Rushdie’s alleged attacker, Hadi Matar, 24, of New Jersey, was tackled to the ground by staff and bystanders before being taken into custody.
Matar responded to a grand jury indictment on Thursday, pleading not guilty to attempted murder and assault.
After the attack, Rushdie, 75, was airlifted to a nearby hospital for emergency surgery.
His condition remains serious but he has shown signs of improvement and no longer requires respiratory support.
“Not even a blade in the throat could drown out the voice of Salman Rushdie,” said Suzanne Nossel, head of the US branch of PEN, an international organization that defends freedom of expression and which hosted the rally.
“Salman spoke on behalf of dozens of writers who were persecuted and tormented, and did not want their ordeals to subsume their identity or drown out their imagination.”
Indian author Kiran Desai read a passage from Rushdie’s “Quixote”.
“Dear Salman and very dear Salman family, last week many of us realized that we were counting on you to support heaven,” Desai said before the reading.
“I hope you know you can count on us too. We’re here for you, and we’re here for the long haul.”