Man on stage with Salman Rushdie during attack initially thought it was ‘a bad joke’

Asked about CNN, Henry Reese explained that he first believed in a hoax on Friday, before realizing the seriousness of the situation.

The man who was to host the conference with Salman Rushdie in the northern United States, and who was on the stage with the writer when he was stabbed, said on Sunday that he first believed in “a bad joke”.

It was “very difficult to understand” the situation at the time, explained Henry Reese in an interview with CNN. “It looked like some kind of bad joke, and it didn’t seem real. When there was blood behind it, it became real,” said the 73-year-old, who is not did not wish to speak in more detail about the exact course of the attack.

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He said he “immediately” thought of the fatwa targeting the writer for 30 years, but initially believed it was a bad taste “hint” at it, not an “actual attack”. He himself was injured, and answered CNN’s questions with a large white bandage over his black, swollen right eye.

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“I’m fine,” he said. “We should all be worried about Salman Rushdie, not me.”

The association is dedicated to defending the freedom of expression of writers and artists in danger.

The event, which took place at a cultural center in the small town of Chautauqua, New York, was to focus on the “City of Asylum” movement, co-founded by Henry Reese. The association is dedicated to defending the freedom of expression of writers and artists in danger because of their work, and in particular offers them temporary accommodation in the United States.

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It was precisely a speech by Salman Rushdie, in the nearby town of “Pittsburgh, in 1997, which inspired my wife and me for the creation of this organization”, explained Henry Reese. “That’s the grim irony, or maybe the intent: to not just attack his body, but everything he stands for,” he continued.

“As readers, we should all go buy a Salman Rushdie book this week and read it,” he called.

The author, targeted by a fatwa from Iran for his novel “The Satanic Verses” published in 1988, remains hospitalized in the United States and his injuries are serious, but he is currently on the way to recovery, according to his agent.

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