Shortly before he was stabbed at an event in New York on Friday, author Salman Rushdie had agreed to serve as a traveling envoy advocating for fellow writers in peril, according to the co-founder of group that offers refuge to exiled scribes.
“I asked Salman would he be willing to travel to promote the idea of cities of asylum and grow them in the US,” Ralph Henry Reese of the Pittsburgh-based City of Asylum tells the Guardian. “He signed up.”
Henry Reese was moderating the event, and was also injured in the attack.
He says Rushdie was in very good spirits prior to going onstage in and that the two were looking forward to further talking about exile for writers in danger. “We go out minutes later on stage,” Reese says. “He wanted to talk about welcoming writers in exile into communities and how positive that is for everyone.”
Then came the attack, in which Rushdie was stabbed multiple times and left seriously injured. “It was a tragic irony in so many ways,” Reese says. “The horror of it, all the layering of the realities.”
“Here was Rushdie who had lived this already, who was speaking so courageously for many years, who was about to talk about his experiences and the value of protecting writers, and now we have this extraordinary materialization happening right on stage. It was so resonant of why we need to defend precisely those values,” he adds.