The interviewer who sat on stage alongside Sir Salman Rushdie as he was brutally attacked recounted the shocking moment.
Henry Reese was about to moderate a discussion with the novelist when a knife-wielding assailant rushed onto the stage and inflicted life-changing injuries on him.
The 75-year-old was airlifted to hospital for surgery, where he is still recovering and at risk of losing an eye.
Mr Reese, also 75, suffered facial injuries himself in the chaos that ensued at the Chautauqua Institution in New York on Friday.
When asked how he was doing after the incident, Mr Reese told the BBC: “I’m fine, everything’s going – I’m pretty good.”
“I think our concern is for Salman, and I mean that for himself, but also what he means in the world.
Asked about the significance of the incident for the significance of Sir Salman’s values, Mr Reese added: ‘There could be nothing more vivid in his materialization of our values.
“Our mission is to protect writers who are in sanctuary and to see Salman Rushdie assaulted for his life is unimaginable…it’s hard to describe what it’s like to see this happen in front of you.”
Mr. Reese said his ambition was to one day complete the conversation they had planned to have at the event on the subject of literary freedom in the United States.
He continued, “It would be my ideal to do this, and see this happen and not be hindered in any way from doing what we set out to do.
“To show both that these values will be defended and that they can be defended.”
Sir Salman’s family say he has retained his “usual fiery and defiant sense of humour” despite horrific injuries including a damaged liver and severed nerves in one arm.
The Booker Prize winner is now breathing without the aid of a ventilator.
Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man who was arrested at the scene, has pleaded not guilty through his attorney to charges stemming from the assault and is due to appear in US court on Friday.
Sir Salman endured decades of death threats and spent several years in hiding after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses.
Partly inspired by the life of Muhammad, it was decried as blasphemous by the Iranian Ayatollah and a fatwa was issued ordering his followers to assassinate the writer.
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