More than a dozen acclaimed writers address a crowd at New York Public Library to express solidarity with the controversial author, a week after the stabbing attack on him.

The turnout
The turnout "shows people are not afraid," says writer and historian Amanda Foreman. (AFP)

Prominent literary figures have gathered in Manhattan for a reading of Salman Rushdie's works, in solidarity with the controversial author seriously wounded in a stabbing attack in New York.

More than a dozen acclaimed writers, including friends and colleagues of Rushdie, spoke on Friday at the steps of the New York Public Library for the event, which organisers said the novelist had been invited to watch from the hospital.

In Rushdie's honour, the American literary journalist Gay Talese, sporting his signature fedora hat and three-piece suit, read an excerpt from "The Golden House" novel, while Irish writer Colum McCann read from the 1992 New Yorker essay "Out of Kansas."

AM Homes –– the American author whose own works including "The End of Alice" novel have triggered controversy over the years –– read from Rushdie's piece "On Censorship," which was drawn from a lecture he gave in 2012.

"No writer ever really wants to talk about censorship," she read. "Writers want to talk about creation, and censorship is anti-creation, negative energy, uncreation, the bringing into being of non-being."

Hari Kunzru, the British novelist and journalist, read the opening of that book.

"Salman once wrote that the role of the writer is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it from going to sleep," Kunzru said. "That's why we're here."

READ MORE: Salman Rushdie remains in hospital after New York stabbing

'People are not afraid'

Writer and historian Amanda Foreman said the turnout "shows people are not afraid."

"No matter what, we and they, we are all willing to stand up for what we are believing," she told the AFP news agency.

Among the attendees was Raymond Lotta, an author and spokesperson for the Harlem shop Revolution Books, who told AFP the stabbing of Rushdie was "an attack on critical thinking, on dissent, on creativity."

Rushdie, who was born in India in 1947 to a family originating in Kashmir, moved to New York two decades ago and became a US citizen in 2016.

He spent years under police protection after Iran's late Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini called for Rushdie's killing a year after the publication of his novel "The Satanic Verses" in 1988, which negatively portrayed Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

Iran's government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini's decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingered. Iran denied any link with Rushdie's attacker but blamed the writer himself for "insulting" Islam in his book.

READ MORE: Iran denies involvement in assault on Salman Rushdie

Suspect pleads not guilty 

In an interview given to Germany's Stern magazine days before last Friday's attack, Rushdie described how his life had resumed a degree of normality following his relocation from Britain.

One week ago Rushdie was about to be interviewed as part of a lecture series in upstate New York when a man stormed the stage and stabbed the 75-year-old writer repeatedly in the neck and abdomen.

Rushdie's suspected assailant, 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey, was wrestled to the ground by staff and audience members before being taken into police custody.

Matar answered to a grand jury indictment on Thursday, pleading not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges.

READ MORE: Salman Rushdie stabbing suspect pleads not guilty to attempted murder

Source: AFP