Authors including Paul Auster, Gay Talese and Kiran Desai reminded the Midtown New York crowd that without free expression, “literature is nothing but an echo chamber.”

Perhaps the most appreciative response from the crowd gathered at the New York Public Library in support of Salman Rushdie on Friday came when the writer Hari Kunzru read aloud from Mr. Rushdie’s acclaimed, and infamous, novel “The Satanic Verses.” The book’s publication, in 1988, put a target on its author’s back and led to book bans, violent demonstrations and killings after Iran’s leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for his death.

It might have seemed daring, even provocative, to read openly from such a book, in such a setting, at such a time, just a week after Mr. Rushdie was attacked — stabbed multiple times by a man who rushed onto the stage at an arts festival in Western New York. But leaving it out might have seemed counter to Mr. Rushdie’s own uncompromising views on such things.