Friday, July 24, 2009

International PEN newsletter July 2009

International PEN newsletter July 2009

Dear friends,

I write this month with news of many exciting activities that have been happening at International PEN. First I would like to tell you about the Writers in Prison Committee Conference that I attended in Oslo at the beginning of June. It was as always, an important gathering of PEN friends from across the world, sharing their stories and successes of the incredible work that we all carry out defending freedom of expression. It was wonderful to have Lydia Cacho and Jiang Weiping with us; the very fact that we were all together on the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square on June 4th was a powerful reminder that our work is as relevant today as it was in 1989. PEN continues to support many of the writers involved in the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests including the poet and writer Liu Xiaobo.

I visited Flemish PEN on June 13th and spent some time discussing ‘The Writer's Role in a World of Conflict'. It felt good to be able to visit our friends at this Centre and their hospitality warmed my heart.

I also want to share with you the news that the first issue of PEN International magazine for 2009, Heaven and Earth, has been published. You can download the online issue from the International PEN website and read a selection of great poetry, stories and essays. Every PEN Centre receives two copies of the printed issue so do remember to ask your President or Secretary if you can borrow it to read - or subscribe to it yourself through the International PEN website!

Lastly, please do forward this newsletter to your PEN friends in your Centre and to other friends interested in the work of PEN. It is very important that we share our news so that we are always informed of the different activities taking place in every corner of the globe.

Until the next time.

Best wishes,
Eugene, International Secretary


Dear Friends,

We are now looking forward to being together at the 75th annual Congress, which will take place in Linz from 19th to 25th October. Austrian PEN sent the letters of invitation to all Centres recently so please do let us know if you haven't received one as yet.

As I know you are aware, we are working to keep the business of the Assembly which is the Annual General Meeting of International PEN to a minimum and to ensure that literature plays a key role in our gathering. The 19th -22nd of October will be devoted to the Congress and from the 23rd to the 25th we will enjoy Free the Word! Linz - International PEN's festival of world literature. Thanks to grants from the European Union and the Prince Claus Foundation, Free the Word!, which is now a single festival taking place in different cities, will launch its new annual cycle in Linz and take place in nine countries over the course of the year.

Free the Word! celebrates the best in world literature and in particular promotes literature in translation, and presents eminent and emerging voices. We recently launched the Free the Word! World Book Club featuring authors from the festival on the International PEN website.

I look forward to seeing you in Linz!

Caroline McCormick


International Programmes
While the Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Programmes are developing and expanding, this year, the new focus of the Regional Programmes is Asia Pacific. To launch this new collaboration with the region, a meeting between International PEN and the PEN Centres of the Asia Pacific region will take place between 13th - 17th July. Current projects that are underway include initiatives in Nicaragua and Bolivia. Bolivian PEN is concerned with questions of translation and accessibility of literature. The Centre is locating texts in Quechua and in Spanish that will be used as a focal point for a series of workshops in five schools. The workshops will introduce the texts and use these to start a conversation about human rights and multiculturalism.

Nicaraguan PEN members are visiting 32 schools and universities across the country to initiate conversations about reading and writing, national literature, and the freedom to write. They plan to develop a project on a wider scale in the coming years.

PEN International: Heaven and Earth,

The spring 2009 issue of PEN International magazine, ‘Heaven and Earth' is now available. Taking its inspiration from the theme of the Free the Word! London 2009 festival of world literature, contributors to this issue include Lydia Cacho, Petina Gappah, Azar Nafisi and Florian Zeller.

We are currently accepting submissions for the Autumn/Winter 2009 edition, ‘Context: Asia Pacific', celebrating contemporary writing from the furthest reaches of Australasia to the Indian Subcontinent and into Afghanistan, plus all of East and Southeast Asia. Submissions are welcome from writers from these regions or residing there, as well as non-inhabitants who have written on or travelled through these parts of the world. Submission deadline is 25 July 2009. To contribute your work please contact


International PEN's Free the Word! festival of world literature is going global, beginning on 23 October 2009 in Linz, Austria, immediately after the 75th International PEN Congress. Free the Word! Linz will be followed by Free the Word! Guadalajara in November, Free the Word! Dakar in December and from January 2010, events continue in Cartagena, Barcelona and the third Free the Word! London in April.

In June we also launched the Free the Word! World Book Club. The books chosen will be from Free the Word! festival authors. The first book, for June's book club, was Tahmima Anam's A Golden Age, a fictionalised account of the Bangladesh War of Independence combined with Anam's family history. Anam wrote two specially commissioned pieces for the Book Club including a reflection on her inspiration for the novel.

The July book is Kamila Shamsie's Burnt Shadows. Commentaries and readers' guides are available on our website in English, French and Spanish at A blog has also been launched for book club readers to share their thoughts: For more information and to get involved in the book club visit


PEN Committee News

Writers for Peace
The Writers for Peace Committee have launched a new blog ‘A Permanent Whisper as a Cry for Peace'. It is featured within the website of Portuguese PEN and has been set up to provide a space for discussion about peace and war ‘as writers, not as sociologists or politicians'. To access the blog visit

Women Writers
Judith Buckrich's term as Chair of the Women Writers' Committee will end at the International PEN Congress in Linz this October. Nominations are currently being accepted for her successor. If you are a PEN Centre and would like to nominate a candidate please contact Judith Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee of Searches,

Lucina Kathmann and Dorothea Weis (Tsung Su), both members of the Women Writers' Committee, attended the 53rd CSW Session (Commission on The Status of Women of the United Nations) in March this year. The stated priority theme of the 53rd CSW Session was : The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care-giving in the context of HIV/AIDS. This primary concern brought a heavy presence of male participants to the multi-angled discussions of HIV/AIDS at the parallel NGO panels during the Session. Lucina and Dorothea's full reports will be in the next IPWWC newsletter that will be published this summer. For more information visit

Translation and Linguistic Rights
The Translation & Linguistic Rights Committee met in Barcelona in April for their annual conference. PEN members discussed the work of the Committee and their focus activities for the next three years. For more details about the Conference please contact


Writers in Prison
In April, Mexican author and activist Lydia Cacho spoke about her experience of persecution during a discussion entitled ‘Hell on Earth' at PEN's second Free the Word! festival in London, and at the London Book Fair in collaboration with English PEN. Also, The WiPC launched an interactive map detailing attacks on writers across the Americas since 2004 (available in English and Spanish).

For World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the WiPC made public its ‘Declaration in Defence of the Freedom to Write in the Americas', signed by more than 50 well known writers from the region such as Paul Auster, Ernesto Cardenal, Lydia Cacho, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz and Derek Walcott. We also released a postcard action calling for an end to the impunity surrounding journalist murders and disappearances in Mexico.

At the beginning of June, the WiPC conference was held in Oslo as a part of the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression. It included a review of the campaign, including testimony from Lydia Cacho and Edda Armas, President of Venezuelan PEN. To read more about the conference, including the future proposals discussed, go to

For more information on the campaign and how you can get involved, please see Freedom to write in the Americas (English) or Libertad para escribir en las Americas (Spanish), or contact Tamsin Mitchell, WiPC researcher for the Americas, at

---------PEN News-------------

  • Sydney PEN has launched the June 2009 edition of their magazine. Find the magazine on their website at This online magazine will be published twice annually.

  • South African PEN announced the winners of the first PEN/Studzinski Literary Award for original short stories in English by African authors. The award encourages new creative writing in Africa and is open to all citizens of African countries writing in English. From 827 entries ranging from ages 10 to 101, Nobel Laureate J.M.Coetzee gave the first prize to Karen Jayes's short story Where he will leave his shoes. Andrew Saloman's A visit to Dr. Mamba was awarded second place. To view the full list of 2009 PEN/Studzinski finalists, visit:
  • The 4th Regional Conference of the Trieste PEN Centre will take place in the period 1-4 October 2009 in Trieste. The theme, ‘The literary routes of the Mediterranean', takes the conference through European borders and beyond. The Trieste PEN Centre has also recently launched a blog allowing a space for international dialogue and current updates of the Centre's activities. The blog can be found at
  • In conjunction with Refugee Week, Scottish PEN has invited poetry and prose from refugees, asylum seekers, and those whose first language is not English to appear alongside the work of professional writers and Scottish PEN members. The writing, inspired by the theme of 'Home', will be posted on both the Scottish Refugee Council and Scottish PEN websites from 15th June 2009. In addition, plans are now underway for a regular Scottish PEN online literary magazine which will appear on a different theme later this year.
  • Due to a lack of literature regarding PEN in the Chinese language, PEN writer Yu Zhang is writing a book about the early history of International PEN. Within the book entitled World of Writers, he plans to have a chapter dedicated to each PEN Centre. He needs help collecting biographies of founding members and photos from each Centre. Please submit information in English or its original language. He plans to publish the book for the 90th anniversary of International PEN in 2011. Send your information as well as any suggestions to


News from Elsewhere

On April 16th, Azar Nafisi attended an evening at the Stockholm Cultural Centre dedicated to the writer, journalist and playwright Dawit Isaak from Eritrea. The evening followed a gathering outside the Swedish Parliament on April 28th. Isaak was taken into custody by the Eritrean authorities on 23 September 2001. He has not been charged formally or given a fair trial and has not been allowed visitors. The protest against his treatment is now international with an online petition:
  • A call for nominations for Sheikh Zayed Book Award was issued May 20, 2009. The awards programme recognises writers, translators, novelists and publishers who contribute to promoting the Arabic culture. There are nine separate awards which will be open until September 15, 2009. The prizes range from 750,000 to 1 million Durhams (US$ 205,000 - 270,000). An Arabic and English website has been launched with all of the latest information regarding the programme: For further information contact

The next newsletter will be available in September 2009.

PEN Centres: please send your news for inclusion to Emily Bromfield,


Originally founded in 1921 to promote literature, today International PEN has 144 Centres in 102 countries across the globe. Our primary goal is to engage with, and empower, societies and communities across cultures and languages, through reading and writing. We believe that writers can play a crucial role in changing and developing civil society. We do this through the promotion of literature, international campaigning on issues such as translation and freedom of expression and improving access to literature at international, regional and national levels. Our membership is open to all published writers who subscribe to the PEN Charter regardless of nationality, language, race, colour or religion. International PEN is a non-political organisation and has special consultative status at UNESCO and the United Nations.

International PEN, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER
International PEN is a registered charity, number 1117088
To find out more visit

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