Press release of June 13th, 2022
PEN Berlin founded – 367 members. New: Wallraff, Sorokin, Bachér
On Friday, 10th of June 2022, PEN Berlin was legally founded as an association under German law in the Literaturhaus Berlin. Some 360 authors, translators and publicists joined the new association as founding members. Since the first public announcement of the new writers’ association last Tuesday, more than a hundred authors writing in German or living in Germany have added their support, including Ingrid Bachér, Bora Ćosić, Günter Wallraff, Ronja von Rönne, Sven Regener, Nicole Seifert, and Vladimir Sorokin. The complete and now final list of the 367 co-founders can be found on our website.
Sorokin wrote that he “left the Russian PEN when it became conformist and pro-Putinist. Now in these dramatic times I am a Berliner and with PEN Berlin”. The Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, who was put up for search by authorities in Russia, was picked up by members of PEN Berlin at the Airport, escorted to the founding meeting and appointed an honorary member by acclamation. Julian Assange, who scandalously remains imprisoned in England and is threatened with extradition to the USA, has likewise accepted an honorary membership of PEN Berlin.
The 91-year-old Ingrid Bachér was the first woman to head a German PEN center. In 1996 she resigned as president of the West German PEN and resigned from PEN to protest the blanket admission of all members of the former East German PEN without prior examination of Stasi involvement. For the same reason, many others including Marcel Reich-Ranicki and Katja Lange-Müller left the German PEN. We are happy to welcome Katja Lange Müller as one of the co-founders of PEN Berlin.
Eva Menasse and Deniz Yücel were elected as speakers. The further members of the board are Simone Buchholz, Alexandru Bulucz, Joachim Helfer, Konstantin Küspert, Ralf Nestmeyer, Ronya Othmann, Mithu Sanyal, Elke Schmitter and Sophie Sumburane. “This is not a club of like-minded people and it doesn’t want to be that”, said Eva Menasse. “By putting aside internal disagreement, we can throw all the symbolic capital of our impressive membership list into the balance – for the persecuted colleagues and the freedom of speech.”
PEN Berlin is already in talks with PEN International to achieve recognition as a PEN Center. The PEN Centers Uganda and Ukraine have already signaled that they will vouch for PEN Berlin at the General Assembly in Uppsala, Sweden, at the end of September. Until then and until the first general meeting in November, the elected representatives and all those who have agreed to volunteer still have a lot of work to do. But that’s exactly how we wanted it.
We stand by our word.