International PEN

International PEN
International PEN
Motto Poets, Essayists and Novelists
Formation 1921
Type NGO
Purpose/focus to promote friendship & intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere
Headquarters London
Region served International

PEN International (International PEN to 2011), the worldwide association of writers, was founded in London in 1921[1] to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere.

PEN originally stood for "Poets, Essayists and Novelists",[2] but now includes writers of any form of literature, such as journalists and historians.

Other goals included: to emphasise the role of literature in the development of mutual understanding and world culture; to fight for freedom of expression; and to act as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned and sometimes killed for their views.

It is the world’s oldest human rights organization[3] and the oldest international literary organization.[citation needed]


Role of PEN

PEN is a non-governmental organization in formal consultative relations with UNESCO[citation needed] and Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.[citation needed]

The first PEN Club was founded in London in 1921 by Catherine Amy Dawson Scott, with John Galsworthy as its first President. Its first members included Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Craig, George Bernard Shaw, and H.G. Wells.

The club established the following aims:

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

Past Presidents of International PEN have included Malcolm Afford, Alberto Moravia, Heinrich Böll, Arthur Miller, Mario Vargas Llosa, Homero Aridjis and Jiří Gruša. The current President is John Ralston Saul.

International PEN is headquartered in London and composed of 145 autonomous PEN Centres in 104 countries around the world, each of which are open to qualified writers, journalists, translators, historians and others actively engaged in any branch of literature, regardless of nationality, race, colour or religion.

PEN Affiliated Awards

PEN awards dozens of literary awards each year. Some examples include:

PEN Charter

Literature, national though it be in origin, knows no frontiers, and should remain common currency among nations in spite of political or international upheavals.

In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art and libraries, the heritage of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.

Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favor of good understanding and mutual respect among 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 the world.

PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and among all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in their country or their community.

PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders 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 distortion of facts for political and personal ends...

Writers in Prison Committee

International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee works on behalf of persecuted writers worldwide. Established in 1960[4] in response to increasing attempts to silence voices of dissent by imprisoning writers, the Writers in Prison Committee monitors the cases of over 900 writers who have been imprisoned, tortured, threatened, attacked, made to disappear, and killed for the peaceful practice of their profession. It publishes a bi-annual Case List documenting free expression violations against writers around the world.

The Committee also coordinates the International PEN membership's campaign towards an end to these attacks and to the suppression of freedom of expression world wide.

International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee is a founding member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of non-governmental organisations that monitors censorship worldwide and defends journalists, writers, internet users and others who are persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

It is also a member of the Tunisia Monitoring Group, a coalition of 16 free expression organisations that lobbies the Tunisian government to improve its human rights record.


Memorial grove, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

A grove of trees beside Lake Burley Griffin forms the International PEN memorial in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. The dedication reads, "The spirit dies in all of us who keep silent in the face of tyranny." Officially opened on 17 November 1997.

Notable Members of International PEN

See also


  • German Writers in French Exile, 1933-1940, by Martin Mauthner (London: 2007), ISBN : 978 0 85303 540 4.

External links

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