Pen International

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PEN International (or just PEN) is an international community of writers dedicated to the celebration of literature and upholding the right to free expression of the written word. Founded in 1921 by the group now known as English PEN, it has offices in over 100 countries fighting censorship of reading and writing.

PEN was founded by Catherine Amy Dawson-Scott, a British poet, playwright and peace activist[1] who held dinner parties as a way to unite authors and share ideas after the devastation of World War I. In 1921 the group was formalised with John Galsworthy becoming its first president. Notable early members included George Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad and H.G. Wells. The name was originally an acronym of Poets, Essayists and Novelists, but this was later extended to Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists; so perhaps it should really be PPEEN, but that doesn't have quite the same symbolism as PEN.

The initial aims were:

  • To promote intellectual co-operation and understanding among writers;
  • To create a world community of writers that would emphasize the central role of literature in the development of world culture; and,
  • To defend literature against the many threats to its survival which the modern world poses.

As well as championing literacy, PEN also promotes the translation of works so that they may be accessed by all.

PEN Charter[edit]

The PEN Charter was ratified at the 1948 PEN International Congress in Copenhagen.

  1. LITERATURE KNOWS NO FRONTIERS, and should remain a common currency between nations in spite of political or international upheavals.
  2. In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.
  3. Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds, and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in one world.
  4. PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations; and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong as well as throughout the world whenever this is possible. PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world towards a more highly organized political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortions of fact for political and personal ends.

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