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PEN International launches its centenary book, “PEN International: An Illustrated History”

Monday 20 September 2021 - 10:22am


Literature knows no frontiers / 100 years protecting the freedom of expression.

PEN International is proud to announce, as part of its 87th PEN International Congress, the launch of its centenary bookPEN International: An Illustrated History”.

An Illustrated History presents PEN’s journey and work on the promotion of literature and the protection of freedom of expression over the last 100 years. Published in nine languages to date, with more than 300 pages, 500 documents, including photographs, letters, posters and maps, the book celebrates writers, members, supporters and all those who, since its foundation in 1921, have spoken truth to power and urged governments to uphold the right to freedom of expression. It also provides a window to the reality of PEN’s work today.

“The PEN book tells the extraordinary story of writers from all over the world who, for one hundred years, have worked to protect freedom of expression and uphold the unique revolutionary value of literature in the transformation of individual lives and societies.” Jennifer Clement, PEN International President.

Produced as part of PEN International’s Centenary celebrations, An Illustrated History takes the reader through the many moments and debates that shaped PEN’s identity and sense of mission during a century.

The poet, novelist, feminist and internationalist Catharine Amy Dawson Scott created PEN in 1921 as a London club where both female and male writers could meet, no such club existed at that time. Within four years there were 25 PEN Centres in Europe, and by 1931 there were several Centres in South America and China.

Since its early days, PEN International embodied the mission to defend writers who were imprisoned for their use of the word, with Jacques Roumain, Ludwig Renn, Federico García Lorca and Arthur Koestler being the first writers in prison for whom PEN campaigned.

Other key moments include the creation of PEN’s Committees - Writers in Prison (1960), Translation and Linguistic Rights (1978), Writers for Peace (1984), and Women Writers (1991),- with each committee approving several declarations and manifestos which define PEN’s mission, including the Democracy of the Imagination Manifesto (2019), and the establishment of the PEN Emergency Fund (1971) which introduced support for writers in exile or those seeking asylum.

These milestones have enabled PEN to successfully connect writers, human rights defenders and community groups, celebrate literature, defend freedom of expression and linguistic diversity, and protect writers at risk, most recently imprisoned writers Sedigeh Vasmaghi (Iran), Paola Ugaz (Peru), Osman Kavala (Turkey), and Kakwenza Rukirabashaija(Uganda) in 2020.

“150 PEN centers in 115 countries are celebrating 100 years of delivering a common mission. The book is a crossroads of narratives, building again and again the unity of PEN’s presence in all cultural fronts where freedom of expression is at stake. Because, from its founding to the present day, PEN's goal remains the same: to foster tolerance and dialogue across cultures, languages and political affiliations, within and between nations” Carles Torner, PEN Centenary Director.

“An Illustrated History” was written by Ginevra Avalle, Jennifer Clement, Peter McDonald, Rachel Potter, Carles Torner and Laetitia Zecchinican, and edited by Carles Torner and Jan Martens. It can be purchased on PEN International’s website, available in English, Spanish and French.

Note to editors:

• For further information, please contact Sabrina Tucci, Communications and Campaigns Manager, Sabrina.Tucci@pen-international.org t. +44 (0)20 7405 0338 |Twitter: @pen_int | Facebook: www.facebook.com/peninternatio... | www.pen-international.org