August 2011 Letter from PEN International President John Ralston Saul
22 Aug 2011
A number of PEN Centres have asked me to write a monthly letter to our members. This is one small part of our eternal challenge – how are 20,000 writers in more than 100 countries to keep in touch with each other? We all hope that this will be helped by our new website which we will be showing to you in Belgrade. Of course, it will still be in a very preliminary form, but this means you will be able to give feedback.
I started this monthly letter last month with a message introducing The Girona Manifesto. I would be grateful if you would forward these monthly letters onto your membership. And please write back with any comments, questions or suggestions.
August is going to be a month of administrative change, with Laura McVeigh arriving as our new Executive Director. Those of you who come to Belgrade will have a good chance to get to know her.
It is also a time when we are solidifying some new structures – our PEN International Publishers Circle is growing and giving us new ways to work with our community and new ways to raise funds. Leading Norwegian publishers, with the support of Norwegian PEN, have already joined the initial group. I was in Stockholm last month to talk with Swedish publishers thanks to our Swedish PEN Centre. We will soon launch a PEN International Writers Circle. One immediate result of all of this is that our budget is better balanced at mid-year than it has been for a long time. This is also because Eric Lax, Sara Whyatt and Frank Geary have worked very hard at trimming the budget and solidifying existing funds over the last year.
PEN International is going to take part in the Frankfurt Book Fair this autumn for the first time, along with our German Centre, which is there every year. I will also go to the Göteborg Book Fair just after our Belgrade Congress.
In July, I spent time separately with the leaders of UNESCO, the Council of Europe and La Francophonie, all aimed at developing new programs for PEN’s work for literature and freedom of expression. During that time, Hori Takeaki was in Mongolia for PEN’s Ural- Altay network annual conference and Marian Bostford Fraser took part in a delegation to China organized by American PEN.
Many of you will have read about the report on the situation in Mexico put out by Canadian PEN in June. I am continuing to work on drawing attention to this and hope to go to Mexico later in the autumn. I will also be going to a meeting in Addis Ababa organized by Ethiopian PEN.
Finally, October the 24th will be the 90th Anniversary of the creation of PEN International. I hope that all of you will think about ways in which this can be celebrated, drawing attention to our work for literature and freedom of expression.
John Ralston Saul