Salman Rushdie has won the first-ever Lifetime Disturbing the Peace Award presented by the Vaclav Havel Center in New York City, in news that was kept secret until he stood up to accept it – due to concerns over his safety, news reports said.
“I apologize for being a mystery guest,” Rushdie told the audience Tuesday night after being introduced, according to the Guardian newspaper. “I do not feel at all mysterious. It just made my life a little bit simpler.”
Rushdie has been the subject of formidable and constant threats over the course of his acclaimed literary career, following the 1988 publication of his novel The Satanic Verses which Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini deemed blasphemous. Rushdie spent years in hiding after Khomeini issued a fatwa for his death.
Just last year, he was seriously injured after being stabbed repeatedly at a literary festival in Chautauqua, New York, losing sight in one eye and suffering severe wounds to his neck, torso and one arm, his agent said at the time.
The Vaclav Havel Center said of Rushdie: “His forthright defense of freedom of expression emerges not only through his fiction, but also in the principled stances he takes in his trenchant commentaries and memoirs,” the Guardian reported.
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