President of American PEN Visits Johannesburg

12 Jun 2012

Peter Godwin, the Zimbabwean-born new President of American PEN, paid a fleeting visit to South Africa for a day or so in March and was entertained at dinner by a few Johannesburg members at the Johannesburg Country Club. SA PEN President Tony Fleischer and his wife Lores were unable to leave Cape Town so it fell to Kevin Fleischer, Tony’s son, to be the elegant host. The Johannesburg members were Vice President Raymond Louw and his wife Jean, Executive Committee member Mandla Langa and his wife June and Mail and Guardian Editor, Nic Dawes.

Being a PEN occasion it was anticipated that the conversation would range over PEN issues, at least those troubling or uplifting American PEN members, but the focus was on southern Africa, in particular, on the current controversies exciting South Africans and Zimbabweans. The exchange, however, did apply PEN Charter principles to the matters under discussion. Peter Godwin, who is a former foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times and a documentary producer for the BBC, included pithy reminiscences from that period as well as about his life in Zimbabwe. It was growing up in that environment that resulted in several books, the better known among them being When a Crocodile Eats the Sun and the award-winning Mukiwa, a White Boy in Africa. His visit to South Africa on this occasion was to compile a travelogue on some of the countries in the region.

Afterwards Mandla Langa wrote to Vice President Margie Orford: “Even though Peter Godwin is President of American PEN his heart is still firmly in Southern Africa and he sounds eager to push frontiers and use his influence to capacitate and support his far-flung kith and kin in South Africa” And that sums up a very pleasant social occasion.

Dr Raymond Louw

Vice President, South African PEN

Raymond Louw 2011