SALMAN RUSHDIE accepted an Austrian state literature prize May 16 in a rare appearance and spoke with reporters.
They had made cloak-and-dagger maneuvers to meet with the author, who was made a fugitive by an Iranian death threat.
The prize was actually awarded a year ago but kept quiet until newspapers publicized it earlier this year, prompting Austrian Culture Minister Rudolf Scholten to set up the ceremony.
After an hour's wait, a 45-minute bus ride, and a mysterious stop at a hotel and another 40-minute wait, Rushdie appeared before the reporters at a 19th-century palace now used for theater rehearsals.
He mixed humor with reflection and strong calls for more action against the ``terrorist regime in Iran,'' as he fielded questions on his life since Iran pronounced a death sentence on him five years ago for his alleged defamation of Islam in ``The Satanic Verses.''
Like other writers under threat, he said he had found the pressure almost beneficial, in that it forced him to decide what he wanted.
``You always know what you're against,'' he said, ``but you don't necessarily know what you're for.''