Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gillian Slovo elected 25th President of English PEN

Gillian Slovo elected 25th President of English PEN

December 8, 2010The acclaimed South African born novelist, playwright and memoirist Gillian Slovo was last night elected the 25th President of English PEN, the writers' charity that promotes the freedom to write. She takes over from Lisa Appignanesi, who has served as President since 2007.


In a double celebration, Salman Rushdie was awarded the Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime's Achievement. In a specially recorded video acceptance speech (available on YouTube), Rushdie paid tribute to the solidarity offered by PEN whilst he was suffering under the fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini, saying: 'I well remember that when I was in need, PEN's support in the UK, in America and elsewhere, was colossally important.'


Gillian Slovo said: 'I am extremely honoured to have been elected President of English PEN. As number 25 in a long line of brilliant Presidents, not least my immediate successor Lisa Appignanesi who has achieved so much, I look back to the great successes of the past, including English PEN's recent 'No Offence' campaign and its ongoing campaign to reform the libel laws - and also to a future in which English PEN will continue to be at the forefront of the defence of free expression in this country and throughout the world.'


Previous Presidents of English PEN, which was founded in 1921, include John Galsworthy, HG Wells, Rosamond Lehmann, Stephen Spender and Antonia Fraser. Gillian Slovo was elected unanimously by English PEN's membership of more than one thousand writers and literary professionals.


Lisa Appignanesi said: 'It has been both exhilarating and demanding to serve as Deputy and then President of English PEN during a historical moment when the free expression of writers, journalists, and satirists has once more been so severely tried. The fall-out from the so-called 'war on terror' unleashed a new spirit made up in equal parts of timidity and prohibition. To mollify religious groups, our legislators attempted to criminalise offence. Meanwhile, authoritarian groups and regimes prohibited any expression which bore the whiff of criticism. All this was severely at odds with the new freedoms the virtual sphere permitted. I take huge pride in the way English PEN has met these challenges, mobilising the wit and wisdom of writers, taking their united voice to parliamentarians here and, in protest, to repressive or corrupt regimes from China to Cuba. Together we managed to nullify the British government's attempt to make writing about religion an 'offence'; we helped rid our statute books of obsolete blasphemy and defamation laws, and we propelled the move to reform our libel laws. Abroad, we campaigned for Liu Xiaobo and Aung San Suu Kyi amongst hosts of less well-known others. I shall miss this vibrant and crucial association of writers. I know that Gillian Slovo, our wonderful new President, will guide English PEN with great panache and steady intelligence.'



NOTES


  • Gillian Slovo and Lisa Appignanesi are available for interview
  • English PEN is the founding centre of PEN International, the worldwide association of writers. Established in 1921, PEN will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2011.
  • English PEN's international campaigns are led by its Writers in Prison Committee, which celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2010. There are currently over 900 people on the Writers in Prison Committee case list of writers under threat worldwide. www.englishpen.org
  • Previous Presidents of English PEN include John Galsworthy, H.G. Wells, J.B. Priestley, V.S. Pritchett, Antonia Fraser and Ronald Harwood.

Sir Salman Rushdie wins 2010 Golden PEN award

Golden Pen Award for a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature

Sir Salman Rushdie wins 2010 Golden PEN award



Watch Salman Rushdie's acceptance speech:

On 6th December 2010, English PEN presented Sir Salman Rushdie with the 'Golden PEN' award for his contribution to literature. In this acceptance speech, Sir Salman pays tribute to the work of PEN and notes the contributions of PEN's Writers in Prison Committee, which celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2010.


Statement on Alan Shadrake

English PEN Statement on Alan Shadrake

November 24, 2010English PEN calls on the government of Singapore to abolish Criminal Defamation LawsFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 24 November 2010

English PEN, the authors charity promoting the freedom to write, today issues a statement in support of the writer Alan Shadrake, and urges the government of Singapore to abolish its laws of Criminal Defamation.


On 15th November, the British author Alan Shadrake was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment after being found guilty of ‘contempt’. His book Once A Jolly Hangman criticises the government of Singapore’s use of the death penalty to suppress opposition. This week, the author Victoria Glendinning, Vice-President of English PEN, visited Shadrake in Singapore as he waited to learn whether he can appeal against his sentence. In a report to PEN published today, she explains what motivates Shadrake to write:


So what is powering Shadrake? After the sentence had been passed, he had, between sleeping and waking, what he calls a 'visitation' - in which the faces of those powerless unfortunates condemned to caning, jailing or hanging, while the affluent got off lightly, pressed In on him. 'I am trying to show the people of Singapore that they can be defiant, and not knuckle down under injustice as most do.'


Glendinning also writes that Shadrake is “not downhearted”, but he does have a heart condition. The author requires urgent medical attention for an irregular heartbeat, a condition that can only be exacerbated by the judicial process that he has been subjected to.


Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN, said:


In a modern country like Singapore, it is outrageous that someone can be prosecuted just for writing a book. The subject matter is clearly in the public interest and the people of Singapore deserve to read what Alan Shadrake has to say about their government. Unfortunately, colonial era laws of sedition and criminal defamation have allowed the government to victimise a seventy-six year-old man with a serious illness. Singapore simply cannot claim to be serious about democracy while it continues to make use of these outdated and illiberal laws.


Laws of ‘sedition’ (criticising the state) are routinely used by governments all around the world to threaten critics of official policy and state actions. In former British colonies, these are based on archaic English laws. Last month, the author Arundhati Roy was threatened with sedition by ideological opponents for comments she made on Kashmir. In 2009, English PEN was part of the coalition of NGOs which successfully to ensure the remnants of such laws were removed from the English statute books... but elsewhere in the Commonwealth they remain law. A briefing on these laws and their applications is available online.


Statement by Victoria Glendinning - Report, 21 Nov 2010

Alan Shadrake 's book 'Once a Jolly Hangman ', published in Kuala Lumpur, exposes the way he sees the judicial process of Singapore protecting the rich and influential while visiting extreme punishment on the poor and powerless for similar offences. Shadrake is an Essex lad of 76, in touch with his family - three daughters and a son, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Over tea and a muffin in a Singapore courtyard he tells me he doesn't smoke, eats healthily, and likes a drink. He does have a heart problem. Doctors' bills have sent him into massive overdraft, and he has to pay for the medication prescribed for his irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He has had an angioplasty, and the next step is a pacemaker. The rough way he was arrested in Singapore at 6.30 the morning after his launch party (and a subsequent session in a karaoke bar) was not calculated to improve his condition.


He is not downhearted. At 5 pm on Monday Nov. 21 he and his dynamic young lawyer, the human rights specialist M Ravi, will file papers in the High Court of Singapore requesting permission to appeal against his sentence of six weeks In jail plus a fine of 20,000 Singapore dollars (£9,500), thus inaugurating a process which may or may not result In the appeal being allowed. Ravi concedes that even if the appeal is allowed it is unlikely to be successful. Neither of them is put off by this.


So what is powering Shadrake? After the sentence had been passed, he had, between sleeping and waking, what he calls a 'visitation' - in which the faces of those powerless unfortunates condemned to caning, jailing or hanging, while the affluent got off lightly, pressed In on him. 'I am trying to show the people of Singapore that they can be defiant, and not knuckle down under injustice as most do.'


Notes

  • English PEN is the founding centre of PEN International, the worldwide association of writers. Established in 1921, PEN will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2011.
  • English PEN’s international campaigns are led by its Writers in Prison Committee, which celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2010. There are currently over 900 people on the Writers in Prison Committee case list of writers under threat worldwide.
  • The English laws of Criminal Libel and Seditious Libel were abolished as part of the Coroners & Justice Act 2009. Our PDF briefing gives more information about this campaign and argues for the abolition of such laws worldwide.
  • Other Commonwealth countries to have abolished laws of sedition include New Zealand and Ghana.

New poems from Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo: One Letter is Enough, Longing to Escape, A Small Rat in Prison, and Daybreak

Source : International PEN
Liu Xiaobo: One Letter is Enough, Longing to Escape, A Small Rat in Prison, and Daybreak
Translated by Jeffrey Yang, recipient of the 2009 PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry.
"One Letter is Enough," "Longing to Escape," "A Small Rat in Prison," and "Daybreak" are new poems from Liu Xiaobo, who received the 2009 PEN/ Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. They appear in PEN America 11: Make Believe.
________________________________________

One Letter Is Enough

for Xia

one letter is enough
for me to transcend and face
you to speak

as the wind blows past
the night
uses its own blood
to write a secret verse
that reminds me each
word is the last word

the ice in your body
melts into a myth of fire
in the eyes of the executioner
fury turns to stone

two sets of iron rails
unexpectedly overlap
moths flap toward lamp
light, an eternal sign
that traces your shadow

8. 1. 2000

Longing to Escape

for my wife

abandon the imagined martyrs
I long to lie at your feet, besides
being tied to death this is
my one duty
when the heart's mirror-
clear, an enduring happiness

your toes will not break
a cat closes in behind
you, I want to shoo him away
as he turns his head, extends
a sharp claw toward me
deep within his blue eyes
there seems to be a prison
if I blindly step out
of with even the slightest
step I'd turn into a fish

8. 12. 1999

A Small Rat in Prison

for Little Xia

a small rat passes through the iron bars
paces back and forth on the window ledge
the peeling walls are watching him
the blood-filled mosquitoes are watching him
he even draws the moon from the sky, silver
shadow casts down
beauty, as if in flight

a very gentryman the rat tonight
doesn't eat nor drink nor grind his teeth
as he stares with his sly bright eyes
strolling in the moonlight

5. 26. 1999

Daybreak

for Xia

over the tall ashen wall, between
the sound of vegetables being chopped
daybreak's bound, severed,
dissipated by a paralysis of spirit

what is the difference
between the light and the darkness
that seems to surface through my eyes'
apertures, from my seat of rust
I can't tell if it's the glint of chains
in the cell, or the god of nature
behind the wall
daily dissidence
makes the arrogant
sun stunned to no end

daybreak a vast emptiness
you in a far place
with nights of love stored away

6. 30. 1997
________________________________________
Copyright © 2009 by Liu Xiaobo. English translation copyright © 2009 by Jeffery Yang. All rights reserved.

PEN News: December 8, 2010‏


WHO WE ARE WHAT WE DO HOW TO HELP WORLD VOICES ADVOCACY PRESS
PEN Monthly News


UPCOMING EVENTS

Freedom to Write Card-Writing Blitz

On December 20, join PEN as we send greetings to imprisoned writers and their families around the world.

>> More



New Members/New Books/New Date


PEN's 2010 New Members/New Books Party will take place January 10, 2011 at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn.

>> More

FIND PEN ONLINE
Advocacy News


PEN Celebrates Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize

The awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to our PEN colleague Liu Xiaobo is both a cause for celebration and a call to action. Authorities have placed his wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest and prevented her and other family members from attending Friday's award ceremony in Oslo. Please join PEN in making Liu Xiaobo's voice heard around the world, and accomplishing what the Chinese government has worked so hard to prevent:

Egyptian Blogger Kareem Amer Freed from Prison

Blogger and PEN American Center Honorary Member Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, better known as Kareem Amer, was released from prison after serving a four-year sentence for his writings. Amer was convicted of "disparaging Islam" and "defaming the Egyptian president" for critical articles on his blog. >> More




PEN International Commemorates its 50th Year

On the International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International commemorated its 50th year, paying tribute to 41 writers around the world who have been killed in the past year.
Throughout 2010, PEN centers have been casting a spotlight on current and previous WiPC work, with special projects, books, awards, and events. >> More
New at PEN


PEN America 13: Lovers

Who is dear to you? PEN America 13: Lovers features short fiction by Don DeLillo, new poetry by John Ashbery and Marilyn Hacker, a conversation between Patti Smith and Jonathan Lethem, and much more, including a forum on literary love with John Barth, Jessica Hagedorn, Yusef Komunyakaa, and others. >> More



Saturday, December 4, 2010

English PEN Events December 2010

English PEN Events December 2010

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The Libel Reform Campaign One Year On – with Rt Hon Lord McNally

Thursday 2 December, 7pm

Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3GA

It’s one year since English PEN, with Index on Censorship and Sense about Science, formed the Libel Reform Campaign to ensure that writers, journalists, scientists and NGOs are no longer prevented from publishing material in the public interest by the chilling effect of English libel law. To mark our achievements so far, and to look to the future of this campaign – which was shortlisted for this week’s Liberty Human Rights Awards – please join us at a drinks reception with:

Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice
Richard Allan,
Director of European Policy for Facebook
Richard Mollet,
Chief Executive of the Publishers Association

In November 2009, after a year-long inquiry, the Free Speech Is Not For Sale report was published by English PEN and Index on Censorship. In June 2009, Sense About Science launched a campaign publicising libel threats against scientists such as Simon Singh and Peter Wilmshurst. In December 2009 the three charities came together to form the Libel Reform Campaign. The impetus this lobby has created is startling.

Over 50,000 people have joined the campaign and together we have campaigned for major reforms to England’s libel laws to protect free speech, including a public interest defence, restrictions on corporate bullying, recognition of the status of internet publishing, and improvements to existing defences.

Libel reform was not on the political agenda before our campaign; now the coalition government has announced it will bring forward a draft bill early in 2011. We look forward to seeing you on 2 December to celebrate this achievement and to share our thoughts on the challenges ahead.

RSVP: mike@libelreform.org

Add your voice to the Libel Reform Campaign at www.libelreform.org.

AGM and Christmas Party 2010

Monday 6 December, 4pm and 6pm

Art Workers' Guild, 6 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AR

Free/£10

There’s still time to join English PEN before bookings close for the AGM and Christmas Party. As a member, you’ll be entitled to attend PEN’s Annual General Meeting, where committee members will report on the year’s work and the new President-elect will be announced.

Afterwards, members and their guests are welcome at the Christmas Party, one of English PEN’s most popular annual events. The ticket price of £10 includes wine and a buffet supper. Book for the Christmas party on the English PEN website, or call the office on 020 7324 2535.