Salman Rushdie receives first-ever Václav Havel award in New York

The award recognizes writers persecuted for their beliefs who exemplify the late Czech dissident's commitment to human rights advocacy.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 15.11.2023 10:16:00 (updated on 15.11.2023) Reading time: 1 minute

British author Salman Rushdie accepted the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation's first-ever Lifetime Disturbing the Peace Award in New York City on Tuesday. Rushdie's attendance was unknown to most of the 100 guests until he rose from his chair to receive the honor, AP reported.

The award recognizes writers persecuted for their beliefs who exemplify the late Czech dissident's commitment to human rights advocacy. Rushdie has lived under death threats for over 30 years following a 1989 Iranian edict calling for his killing over his book The Satanic Verses.

Apologizing for his mysterious attendance, as he accepted the award from fellow writer Azar Nafisi, Rushdie acknowledged he had been keeping a low profile since being stabbed multiple times at a New York literary event last August.

The author was hospitalized for six weeks following the attack, which left him with stab wounds on his neck and torso and blinded his right eye. His attacker, a 24-year-old man, said he disliked Rushdie because he had "insulted Islam."

Undeterred, Rushdie said he continues "disturbing the peace" through his craft. He plans a forthcoming book detailing his attack as an artful response to violence.

The author spent much of his speech praising Havel, a close friend whom he remembered as being among the first government leaders to defend him after he was driven into hiding.

Rushdie said Havel was “kind of a hero of mine” who was “able to be an artist at the same time as being an activist."

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“He was inspirational to me as for many, many writers, and to receive an award in his name is a great honor,” Rushdie added.

Established in 2012 as the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation, the Havel Center is dedicated to the Czech playwright and dissident. Named after the last president of Czechoslovakia's post-Communist regime, the center aims to promote Havel's legacy.

Havel, who passed away in 2011, was renowned for advocating human rights and free expression.

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