Monday, August 4, 2008

International PEN : newsletter July 2008

International PEN : Newsletter July 2008

Dear Friends,This newsletter is a special one as it focuses on an area of our work that is very important to us. Last year we had a newsletter dedicated to the International Programmes work with the African PEN Centres. So this year we want to bring your attention to our focus region of Latin America and the Caribbean. There was a Conference in Bogota in May with 11 of the Centres in this area and we learned all about their work and successes, and how they would like International Programmes to support their work and help them to achieve even more. We talked about the ways we could all work together to promote the voices of Latin American and Caribbean literature that deserve to be known outside the region, and also about the need for better freedom of expression. We are all very excited about working with the Centres and look forward to sharing the progress over the next few months. I hope that everybody who is having a summer holiday is relaxing well. And I look forward to hearing more about your wonderful activities and working with you all in the autumn towards Congress and beyond. All the best,
International Secretary
A brief history: ‘International PEN’
Originally founded in 1921 to promote literature, today International PEN has 145 Centres in 104 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 1010627
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PEN Charter:
* Literature, national though it be in origin, knows no frontiers, and should remain common currency among nations in spite of political or international upheavals.
* In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art and libraries, the heritage of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.
* Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favor of good understanding and mutual respect among nations; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class, and national hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in the world.
* PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and among all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in their country or their community.
PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders free criticism of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood, and distortion of facts for political and personal ends...

Beginning the Latin America and Caribbean Programme
At the conference in Bogotá, writers from each Centre presented the work of their Centre, evoking the rich history of PEN in the region, with many Centres established in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as the breadth of concerns held by the writers in the PEN Centres. While the Centres in the region represent the heterogeneous nature of the PEN family, there were common issues and goals that were identified.
A democratic culture through literature
A key goal for many Centres is to develop the role of writers in education and developing a culture of ongoing engagement with reading and writing, through programmes in schools and universities and developing a democratic culture through literature.
The promotion and translation of indigenous languages was an important concern for many of the Centres, specifically the need for translation of work by indigenous writers and the increased participation of indigenous writers and oral cultures in public literary life.
Freedom of expression
Freedom of expression is an important focus for many of the Centres with the deterioration of freedom of expression in Venezuela and Peru and ongoing problems in Colombia, Cuba and Mexico and the need to promote freedom of expression in countries where there is a concentration of the media, increasing political polarisation and decreasing tolerance for dissent.
The Centres will work with the International Programmes Team and the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN to develop strategies to develop the Centres and their work in these key areas.
Warm wishes,
Frank Geary, International Programmes Director
Karen Efford, International Programmes Officer
Ana Fletcher, International Programmes Intern

(Photo from left to right: Frank Geary, Rubén Darío Flórez of Colombian PEN, Karen Efford)
Palabra y Persona

74th International PEN Congress
The 2008 International PEN Congress will take place from the 17th to 22nd of September in Bogotá, Colombia. Colombian PEN is delighted to be hosting this year's Congress, the theme of which is 'The Role of the Word'. At this year's General Assembly international delegates shall vote to elect two members of the board. A parallel programme of literary events featuring both national and international literary figures shall run alongside the Congress itself.

Centres in the Region
The Iberian American Foundation was founded in 1998 in order to provide a network for the Spanish-speaking Centres within PEN. Its aims are to work for the defence of Spanish-speaking and indigenous languages and literature and to promote Spanish language within PEN. The Foundation has translated all of PEN's key documents into Spanish and paid for interpreting costs at Congress. It has also funded transport costs for Hispanic delegates to go to conferences and advised Centres on how to fight repressive laws. Recently the Foundation supported PEN's presence at the Guadalajara book fair, and established its own web page.
Argentinian PEN was established in 1930. During the dictatorship the Centre concentrated on working for freedom of expression and campaigned on behalf of writers. Today the Centre continues its efforts in this field, as well as promoting the importance of the role of literature and writers in society. It aims to divulge the work of its members by organising events and debates, as well as through the publication of its literary journal, Palabra y Persona.

Bolivian PEN in its current incarnation grew out of the establishment of a Women Writers Committee in 1992. The Centre organizes an annual two-day festival of world poetry every March. The festival includes the work of indigenous writers, the promotion of which is one of the Centre's primary goals. The Centre is active in the Bolivian publishing scene: it publishes work written by members, takes part in book fairs, and also produces a magazine with contributions from members as well as from writers from around the world.
Chilean PEN was founded in 1935 and reformulated in 2004. The Centre holds monthly meetings where members read and discuss their own work as well as debate topical cultural issues. Over the past year the members of Chilean PEN has published anthologies, poetry and short stories. The Centre aims to support new writing and has sponsored the publication of first works by young authors.
Colombian PEN has been has been active since its inception in 1936. It has organized and participated in book fairs, reading circles and presentations with international authors. It currently holds bimonthly sessions for members to present their work. The Centre is now focused on organising the Congress which will take place in Bogota in September. With sixty languages spoken in the country, Colombian PEN also hopes to set up a translation and linguistic rights committee to address and reflect the questions arising from the linguistic plurality.
Cuban Writers in Exile PEN was founded in 1988. Its main objectives are the promotion of culture and of freedom of expression in Cuba and worldwide. The Centre holds a monthly cultural session in Miami, and organizes a biannual meeting in New York. In May of 2008 the Centre held a meeting in Madrid which was attended by their members living in France and Spain. The Centre keeps in touch with human rights activists, writers, journalists, and librarians in Cuba.
Guadalajaran PEN publishes a quarterly journal and has a stand at the Guadalajara book fair, where members attend and read from their work. Established in 1994, the Centre has since published ten books, including - last year - an anthology supported by the Iberian American Foundation. The Centre is also heavily involved in the Women Writers Committee.
Guatemalan PEN is a young Centre, established in 2006. The Centre's focus is on freedom of expression. Plans for the near future include a national conference for members based outside the capital. The conference will serve as a forum to debate on freedom of expression issues and publication issues.
Jamaican PEN was founded in 2006 with the help of UNESCO and International PEN members. Its priority goal is to further opportunities for writers in the region. The Centre has plans to develop a programme of writing workshops, as well as a small press to publish the works of members.
Mexican PEN was founded in 1923, making it one of the oldest PEN Centres in the world. The Centre has maintained a high profile throughout its history, thanks to the work of notable writers such as Alfonso Reyes, Genaro Estrada, Rosario Castellanos, Octavio Paz, Manuel Ulacio, Ramon Xirau and Homero Aridjis, amongst many others. Its publication, La Pajarita de Papel, contains news on literary happenings and freedom of expression issues, as well as works written by members.
Nicaraguan PEN was founded in 2000. It has developed a project designed to use literature as a means of promoting democratic culture and change. Aimed at secondary school students, the project involves writers' visits to schools, where they read work and organise debates and talks related to democratic values. The Centre also has a women writer's magazine, Anide.
Panamanian PEN has worked on a variety of popular projects since the Centre's inception in 1992. These include a programme to promote reading implemented across national libraries, and an online library of women's writing. It has also been involved in international book fairs. The Centre is currently regrouping to identify future activities.
Paraguayan PEN was established in 1948. It has published a biannual magazine since 2002, which includes poetry, essays and stories by Paraguayan writers. In the past year it has also established a monthly newsletter with national and international news. The Centre aims to increase awareness of Paraguayan writers on an international level so as to foment understanding and cultural exchange. It is also active in defending linguistic rights in relation to Guaraní, the country's native language.

Peruvian PEN have always been involved in freedom of expression issues. The Centre was re-established in 1996, and has recently focused its attention on the case of the imprisoned young poet Melissa Patino. The Centre is hoping to publish a magazine with writing in translation, while the Women Writers Committee holds regular events and is on its way to establishing a website.
San Miguel de Allende PEN, established in 1979, differs from most of the Latin American centres in that its members are largely English speaking. The Centre organizes a successful annual lecture series that takes place in January and February. It has also established a scholarship programme that provides financial support to students of all ages. It is currently preparing for its 30th anniversary celebratory festival next year.
The Centre is heavily involved in freedom of expression issues through own Freedom to Write Committee. Members are committed to responding to Rapid Action Alerts whenever possible.
Uruguayan PEN was founded in 2006 with the twin aims of bringing together writers who share democratic principles, and promoting the work of writers from Uruguay. The Centre is currently developing projects for the future, including poetry seminars and literary conferences. They hope to hold their first event later this year.
Venezuelan PEN was established in 2003 as a response to the difficult political situation, and the freedom of expression issues arising from it. It has since dedicated itself to promoting Venezuelan literature through a number of initiatives. One such initiative is the Adriano González León Prize for Novels, established in association with Norma publishing house and Econoinvest, a private company. Every year the Centre organises a New Urban Narratives conference dedicated to young writers, and subsequently publishes an anthology of the texts to emerge from it. It has also co-edited a bilingual anthology of women poets with Bid&Co. With this anthology, as well as others, it hopes to promote Venezuelan literature internationally.

Other News
Ideas for Annual Theme Needed for International PEN literary programmes!

International PEN would like to call upon PEN Centres worldwide to propose an annual theme which will link all our literary programmes in the year ahead, including the London Free the Word! festival, the spring edition of PEN International magazine and other events staged around the world. The deadline for ideas is 8 August 2008. The current theme, The Writer Next Door, was suggested by Hong Kong English Speaking PEN Centre. Once the Board has agreed the theme, we will write to all Centres again asking you to nominate writers that you think should be included in the programme. We would like to hear about writers who may have already written on this topic, but also about writers who are not as well read internationally as the quality of their work deserves. Please email your suggestions regarding the theme to Hilary Davidson, Literary Events Administrator,

China Campaign Update

Using the Olympic Games as a focus, PEN members worldwide are campaigning for the release of 46 writers detained in China and an end to the abuses of freedom of expression. There are 27 Centres engaged in the China campaign, receiving regular updates and taking actions. In addition to the numerous alerts being issued through the Rapid Action Network, the China Network provides monthly actions. The ‘We Are Ready for Free Expression' campaign initiated by American, Canadian and Independent Chinese PEN and the virtual Poem Relay organised by Sydney and Swiss German PEN continue to create interest both within PEN and in the international media.
International PEN website in French and Spanish
We are pleased to announce that the International PEN website is now live in French and Spanish. To access the sites please go to and click on Español or Français. In the autumn, we will launch the PEN members' area where there will be opportunities to share ideas and learning as well as further engage in all aspects of PEN's work. If you have any questions or comments about the website please contact Emily Bromfield, Communications Director,

International PEN is delighted to acknowledge the financial support of Japanese PEN and PEN American Centre in enabling it to achieve its goals in the last year. Generous donations made by these Centres have allowed International PEN to ensure that it is able to work in all of the areas in which the organisation is active: From building strong grass roots organisations, to programmes which engage people in continued reading and writing, the removal of barriers to literature whether freedom of expression or the limits of literature available in translation, to the promotion of literature. We would also like to note that many other Centres support the work of International PEN through their time and energy and this is equally appreciated.


The International PEN : newsletter July 2008 , All matter received from International PEN, and Posted here without any addition or omission, on behalf of All-India PEN center, WestBengal, by Albert Ashok ( member PEN)

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