Thursday, October 22, 2009

John Ralston Saul : New President ,International PEN, a new hope

International PEN elects new President

Today, on October 21st, the International PEN Assembly of Delegates elected as International President, John Ralston Saul, to succeed Jirí Grušá who has held the post for six years. Jirí Grušá was one of the most important dissident Czech writers. Earlier presidents have included Alberto Moravia, Heinrich Böll, Arthur Miller, Pierre Emmanuel, Mario Vargas Llosa and György Konrád.

John Ralston Saul is a celebrated Canadian novelist and essayist and former President of Canadian PEN. He has been awarded, among others, Chile's Pablo Neruda medal, Italy's Premio Letterario Internazionale and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres de France.

'International PEN is the world's most important and oldest freedom of speech and literary organisation. Almost 1000 writers in prison or in danger around the world look to us for help. We have to invent new ways of turning back the rise of authoritarian controls.

Threats to freedom of speech are expanding in new directions, especially with the rise of populism in the post 9/11 world.

In addition, hundreds of minority and indigenous languages and cultures are in danger of extinction. This is the ultimate denial of freedom of speech.' says Saul.


John Ralston Saul, CC (born June 19, 1947) is a Canadian author and essayist.

As an essayist, Saul is particularly known for his commentaries on the nature of individualism, citizenship and the public good; the failures of manager-, or more precisely technocrat-, led societies; the confusion between leadership and managerialism; military strategy, in particular irregular warfare; the role of freedom of speech and culture; and his critique of contemporary economic arguments.

John Saul is co-Chair of the new Institute for Canadian Citizenship. He is Patron and former president of the Canadian Centre of International PEN. He is also Founder and Honorary Chair of French for the Future, Chair of the Advisory Board for the LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium lecture series, and a Patron of PLAN (a cutting edge organization tied to people with disabilities), Engineers Without Borders (Canada), and the Canadian Landmine Foundation. A Companion in the Order of Canada (1999), he is also Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France (1996). His 14 honorary degrees range from McGill University and the University of Ottawa to Herzen State Pedagogical University in Saint Petersburg, Russia. From 1999 until 2006 when his wife Adrienne Clarkson was Governor-General of Canada he was Canada's vice-regal consort.

In 2009 John Saul was elected president of International PEN. He succeeded Jiří Gruša, a dissident Czech writer.


  • The Birds of Prey (1977)
  • Baraka (1983)
  • The Next Best Thing (1986)
  • The Paradise Eater (1988)
  • De si bons Américains (1994)
  • Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West (1992)
  • The Doubter's Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense (1994)
  • The Unconscious Civilization (1995)
  • Le Citoyen dans un cul-de-sac?: Anatomie d'une société en crise (1996)
  • Reflections of a Siamese Twin: Canada at the End of the Twentieth Century (1997)
  • On Equilibrium: Six Qualities of the New Humanism (2001)
  • The John W. Holmes Memorial Lecture (2004)
  • The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World (2005)
  • Joseph Howe and the Battle for Freedom of Speech (2006)
  • A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada (2008)



Canadian writer, philosopher and former vice-regal consort John Ralston Saul was named the new president yesterday of International PEN, a London-based writers’ group dedicated to the promotion of freedom of expression around the world.

Ralston Saul has been involved with PEN since 1987 and served as president of the Canadian chapter from 1990 to ’92.

In announcing his intention to run for the presidential post in a statement released last July, Ralston Saul noted “much work remains to be done to promote and translate minority literatures, especially those, like many indigenous languages, prevented from playing their cultural role.” Ralston Saul, husband of former Canadian governor general Adrienne Clarkson, promised to exploit his “international literary, political and diplomatic networks” for the cause.

Ralston Saul succeeds Jirí Grusá, a Czech writer.

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