On December 11, 1991, Salman Rushdie "quietly ventured outside Britain and emerged"  to speak at a Columbia University dinner celebrating the 200th anniversary of the First Amendment. The thunderous applause that greets Mr Rushdie's unexpected appearance sets the tone for his speech.
After being in hiding for one thousand days, Mr. Rushdie compares his existence to being inside a sinking balloon, where tough choices have to be made to keep it from dropping into the abyss. He peppers his speech with often bitter anecdotes and quotes from friends, opponents, and politicians. Mr. Rushdie enumerates differences between his ideal Islamic religion and what he calls "Actually Existing Islam." Expressing several times that he refuses to "give in to despair," one gets a sense of a man near the end of his rope, yet defiantly strong in his convictions.