Salman Rushdie has made his first public appearance since he was stabbed and lost sight in one eye after being attacked at a literary event, joking that it was “nice to be back – as opposed to not being back, which was also an option”.

Rushdie was a surprise attendee at the Pen America gala on Thursday night in New York. The author was greeted with a standing ovation according to the New York Times. After his remarks about being back, he said he was “pretty glad the dice rolled this way”. …

The gala came the same week as Pen America announced it was, along with publisher Penguin Random House and a group of authors and parents, suing Florida’s Escambia County school district and school board over book bans.

Rushdie, who also this week appeared at the British book awards via a video message, said that Pen America’s mission to protect free expression was never “more important” and added: “Terrorism must not terrorise us. Violence must not deter us. A luta continua. The struggle goes on.”