Today PEN Belgium/Flanders received the Ark Prize for the Free Word, a symbolic prize that awards those who are actively involved in defending freedom of expression in Flanders. The Ark Prize was created in 1951 in order to prevent ideological narrow-mindedness from obstructing intellectual and artistic freedom. On behalf of the jury, Ingrid Vander Veken applauded PEN Flanders’ many projects:
- its secretly located writer’s flat, which has housed writers from all over the world;
- PEN Polyphonic, which helps authors who have emigrated to Belgium find their audience;
- a project promoting the sales of censored books;
- a recent project supporting Turkish intellectuals facing censorship and imprisonment;
- its continuous effort to educate school children in Flanders about its core concerns.
'What PEN Flanders does is absolutely impressive,' said the jury, 'PEN’s actions demonstrate that our cherished free word is capable not only to divide, but to connect as well.' Finally, Vander Veken quoted a poem by Liu Xiaobo, 'assuming that this year’s Ark Prize is awarded also to writers like him.'
Give me just a single drop of rain
to glaze this concrete floor.
Give me just one ray of light
revealing what the lightning wants.
Let me hear the single word
by which this door is opened
through which the night can go back home.