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Salman Rushdie 2023 PEN America Literary Gala (2)

PEN America Honors Salman Rushdie with Centenary Courage Award at Literary Gala; Author’s First Public Appearance Since Being Wounded in Knife Attack Nine Months Ago

PEN America honored author Salman Rushdie, its former president, who accepted the PEN Centenary Courage Award in person, his first public appearance since he was severely wounded in a knife attack nine months ago. Rushdie, speaking to 700 guests at the American Museum of Natural History, said PEN America and its mission to protect free expression was never “more important” in a time of book bans and censorship and issued a call to action: “Terrorism must not terrorize us. Violence must not deter us. La lutte continue. La lutta continua. The struggle goes on.”

Read the press release >>

Watch Salman's acceptance speech >>

Highlights From the 2023 Awards and Ceremony

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Highlights From the 2023 Red Carpet

Getty Images for PEN America

Images from the 2023 Gala, courtesy of Getty Images, are available for your usage:
Arrivals Dinner & Program / After Party 
Video footage available HERE

2023 Honorees

PEN/Audible Literary Service Award

Lorne Michaels

Creator, writer and executive producer
Saturday Night Live

Salman Rushdie

PEN Centenary Courage Award

Salman Rushdie

Writer, former PEN President

PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award

Narges Mohammadi

Iranian writer, human rights defender


Master of ceremonies

Colin Jost

Co-anchor, “Weekend Update”
Saturday Night Live
Watch his opening remarks >>





Ayad Akhtar headshot

Ayad Akhtar

Playwright, Novelist, and Screenwriter
PEN America President

Jennifer Finney Boylan

Author, Professor, and Columnist
PEN America Trustee

John Mulaney

Comedian and Writer


Gala Committee Co-Chairs
Colette Bennett • Markus Dohle • Sean Kelly • Anya Salama

Gala Committee Members
Pamela and Peter Barbey • Kimberly Morgan Blank • Deirdre Finney Boylan and Jennifer Finney Boylan
Binta Niambi Brown • John Chao •
Bridget Colman • Jennifer Copaken and Todd Yellin • Roxanne Donovan
Patricia Duff •
Sheree and Jerry Friedman • Ashley Garrett and Alan Jones • Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Tom Healy and Fred P. Hochberg • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger • Tracy Higgins • Beth Hutchens • Zachary Karabell
Sandra Leong • Yvonne Marsh • Jay McInerney •
Michael Pietsch • Keri and Marvin Putnam • Alix L.L. Ritchie
Andrew Solomon • Jamie Wolf

(in formation)

The annual PEN America Literary Gala is a highlight of the New York literary and social calendars, with over 700 guests and an exceptional group of leading writers who sit among them as Literary Hosts. Every year, it is an inspiring, exhilarating, moving event; as we honor those who embody PEN America’s mission to celebrate, champion and defend freedom of expression. The proceeds from this dinner are crucial to PEN America’s dynamic cultural programming and critical advocacy work.