The 84th PEN International Congress closed on 29th October 2018 in Pune, India with a focus on the critical situation for freedom of expression in India, the representation and voices of women in literature and the life and legacy of Mohandas Gandhi and his wife Kasturba. More than 400 writers from over 80 countries gathered in Pune for the annual PEN Congress, for a week of debates, literary events and workshops.
Uniting in a celebration of peace-building, literature and translation, PEN’s global membership also remembered imprisoned and murdered colleagues: Oleg Sentsov, currently imprisoned in Russia; Amanuel Asrat, Dawit Isaak and Idris Said Abu Are - all imprisoned 17 years ago in Eritrea; Shahidul Alam, currently detained in Bangladesh; Miroslav Breach Velducea, killed in Mexico; Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed in Malta; Gauri Lankesh, shot dead outside her home in India.
The key outcomes of the sessions were:
- The re-election of American-Mexican writer Jennifer Clement as International President for a second term.
- Writers Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, (Kenya), Perumal Murugan (India) and Nayantara Sahgal (India) were each elected as Vice Presidents of PEN International for their services to literature.
- The election of Salil Tripathi as the Chair of PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, and the election of Zoe Rodriquez (PEN Sydney) as Chair of the Women Writers Committee, each for a three-year term. PEN said goodbye to Elizabeth Nordgren as Chair of the Women Writers Committee. Antonio Della Rocca (PEN Trieste), Caroline Stockford (PEN Wales-Cymru), Judith Rodriguez (PEN Melbourne), Rose Mary Espinosa (PEN Mexico), and Urtzi Urrutikoetxea (Basque PEN), were elected to the Search Committee, each for a three-year term. Caroline Stockford was appointed by the Committee as their Chair. PEN thanked Zoe Rodriguez (PEN Sydney), Alicia Quinones (PEN Mexico), Eugene Schoulgin (PEN Norway), Jens Lohamann (Danish PEN) and Larry Siems (PEN America) for their time on the Search Committee.
- The announcement of a global partnership between PEN International and VIDA: Women in Literary Arts to monitor gender disparities in literature through PEN Centres across the globe. The VIDA count highlights imbalances in publishing by collecting data across genre, book reviews and journalistic by-lines, offering a gender-based assessment of the publishing world.
- The Establishment of the five new PEN Centres: PEN Iraq, PEN Perth, PEN Moscow, PEN Cape Verde and PEN Guinea-Bisseau.
- The adoption of a record-number of resolutions – 27 – on freedom of expression issues of concern to PEN members around the world, on countries such as Nicaragua, Hungary, China, Eritrea and Australia, and across themes such as digital freedom, the rights of indigenous peoples, criminal defamation and the rise of xenophobia in Germany.
- PEN delegates joined in the planting of 180 trees at Savitribai Phule Pune University as part of the Global Language Park, celebrating the thousands of languages spoken around the world. The finished exhibition will be called Bhasha Van, literally 'walkway of trees'
- The PEN Gauri Lankesh Award for Democratic Idealism was given to the cartoonist P Mahamud. Mahamud was commended for his 'exemplary commitment to the advancement of social and economic justice and political democracy'. The jury for the award was comprised of sociologist Chandan Gowda, journalist Sangamesh Menasinakai, and authors Arshia Sattar and Vivek Shanbhag.
Click here for more information about PEN International's annual Congress.