Panel: Anti-Semitism in the cultural sector

 
Since the Hamas attack on Israel, there has been repeated discourse in Germany that the cultural sector also has a significant anti-Semitism problem. However, is this even accurate? Where does legitimate criticism of Israeli policy end, for instance, and where is anti-Semitism actually expressed? Especially in the cultural sector, anti-Semitism and any other form of hatred and discrimination must indeed be outlawed. Do decrees, bans and clauses really help here?

The event is part of the Berlin Book Festival.
 
Saturday, 8 June, 3 pm, Bebelplatz, Berlin-Mitte 

The Berlin Senator for Culture and Social Cohesion, Joe Chialo (CDU), sociology professor Teresa Koloma Beck from Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, and journalist and spokesperson for PEN Berlin, Deniz Yücel, will participate in the discussion. The event will be moderated by journalist Jens Balzer.

 


What unites us? Two Tuesday talks to overcome polarisation

 
What can we do against division in society and discourse?
 
1. Shared values, undivided attention? What significance do “Western” values, religious values and “German” values have today? 
Tuesday, 14 May, 8 p.m.  
Expert: Regina Ammicht Quinn (professor of ethics)
Moderator: Tanja Dückers (writer)
 
2. Stimulus words “Woke, Intersectional and Postcolonialism”. How can we use language to make the world a better place?
Tuesday, 11 June, 8 p.m. 
Expert: Dr. Eva von Redecker (philosopher)
Moderator: Dr. Asmus Trautsch (philosopher)
 
 

 

Free Toomaj Salehi! 

 

Rapper Toomaj Salehi sentenced to death: PEN Berlin joins the call of Ye-One Rhie, a member of the Bundestag who has taken on a “political godparenthood” for the rapper Toomaj Salehi. »”Mullahs of Iran, revoke the death penalty for Salehi and drop the charges! And finally stop torturing people. Grant freedom of expression. The more you try to brutally suppress the critical words of your citizens, the louder we hear them”, said PEN Berlin spokesperson Deniz Yücel.

Salehi is an honorary member of PEN Berlin. He was arrested in October 2022 during the Mahsa Amini protests for his dissident writings, released on bail a year later and arrested again shortly afterwards.« MORE

 

 


PEN Berlin in Bled: Literature in the Balkans, Human Rights in Pakistan

F.l.t.r.: Uli Rothfuss and Najem Wali (Board PEN Germany), Tanja Tuma (Secretary General PEN International) and Sophie Sumburane (PEN Berlin)

PEN Berlin board member Sophie Sumburane attended the 56th meeting of the International Writers for Peace Committee in Bled, Slovenia, from 15 to 18 April. In April weather by the lake, there were round-table discussions on »The Consequences of Catastrophe for Peace: Writers’ Response« and »Multiculturality and Dialogue in Balkan Literature«, as well as updates on the current human rights situation in Pakistan.

This friendly photo was taken with Tanja Tuma, Interim Secretary General of PEN International, and the delegates from our sister organisation PEN Germany.

 

 

 


Setting an example. Against anti-Semitism

 

The Regional Group West of PEN Berlin, together with the Cologne Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation and the Literaturhaus Cologne, invites you: Monday, 29 April, 7 pm | Literaturhaus Köln | Großer Griechenmarkt 39

The reading of texts by Jewish authors is intended to send out a signal against anti-Semitism and in favour of solidarity and peaceful co-existence in Germany..
 
Reading: Markus Berges, Dietlind Falk, Jörg Phil Friedrich, Andreas Graf, Julia Grinberg, Tamara Labas, Barbara Peveling, Mithu Melanie Sanyal, Simone Scharbert, Gundula Schiffer and Angela Steidele.
 
Admission is free of charge. You can register here.

 


 

Julian Assange : No victory, just no defeat

Julian Assange

Press Release 26 March, 2024: On the British High Court’s decision to suspend Julian Assange’s extradition to the US. »›Julian Assange could not win today; for him it was only a matter of not losing – as so often in the past 13 years’, Menasse said‹. (…) PEN Berlin recalls that Julian Assange has been in prison for over 13 years because of the publications of WikiLeaks. However, no one has yet been brought to justice for the war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan exposed by WikiLeaks.« MORE

 

 


Round table : Protest farmers, farmers’ protests

 

The smell of dung is in the air. For months, lines of tractors have been blocking motorways and city centers. The farmers’ anger at the traffic-light government shows no sign of abating. It is no longer just the cut in their subsidies that has upset them. Now the media want to impale them on their pitchforks: ›Lying press, lying press” was the chant in Biberach in Baden-Württemberg, where Cem Özdemir’s official car was damaged and his Ash Wednesday event had to be canceled for security reasons. Between the proponents of a progressive awakening and the right-wingers, where do today’s farmers really stand, what problems do they have? And do they all share them? Are they just a problem for the traffic light coalition or for all of us?

With: Cem Özdemir (Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture), Karen Duve (writer and environmentalist), Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker (writer and farmer) und Nataša Kramberger (writer and farmer). Hosted by: Doris Akrap (journalist and Board PEN Berlin)
Tuesday, 5 March 2024, 7.15 pm
Humboldt Forum, Schlossplatz Berlin 

Admission: from 6.45 pm via Portal 3 (entrance on the left above the revolving door). Free admission
A PEN Berlin event at the Humboldt Forum. MORE

 


Julian Assange: The Dreyfus of our century

Julian Assange

Press Release 20 February, 2024: On the threat of Julian Assange’s extradition:  »The Assange case is an act of arbitrary justice and is already a serious defeat for liberal democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Despite all the worldwide protests, despite the admissions of leading politicians such as Annalena Baerbock (“serious violations of fundamental freedoms under the European Convention on Human Rights”), despite all his prizes and honorary memberships (including in PEN Berlin), Julian Assange’s fate seems to be unfolding before everyone’s eyes like a natural disaster. ​​(…). ​​In its treatment of the Wikileaks founder and journalist Julian Assange, the West is showing just how much its values are really worth in an emergency.« MORE

 

 


Ronya Othmann uninvited: No to cancellation, yes to conversation – Anytime, Anywhere

Ronya Othmann

Press Release 18 February, 2024: »​​PEN Berlin strongly criticises the disinvitation of the writer and columnist Ronya Othmann, our former board member, from the Karachi Literature Festival. The disinvitation was preceded by a social media campaign and an open letter with over 400 signatories accusing Othmann of ›Zionist and Islamophobic positions‹. It is irritating, even disturbing, that the signatories include many writers and intellectuals who would claim freedom of expression at any time. (…) As PEN, we are convinced that conversation and exchange must remain possible across all political differences«, said PEN Berlin spokesperson Eva Menasse. Every serious debate must include the willingness not only to tolerate positions that are diametrically opposed to one’s own, but to listen to them: ›Otherwise every conversation turns into a soliloquy.‹« MORE

 

 


Reading in Cologne: »Against Silence. Against Antisemitism«

The NRW regional group of PEN Berlin invites you together with the Cologne Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation and the Literaturhaus: Tuesday, 30 January, 7 pm, Literaturhaus Köln, Großer Griechenmarkt 39.

Reading: Alida Bremer, Katinka Buddenkotte, Christoph Danne, Peter Jamin, Andrea Karimé, PeterLicht, Ulrich Peltzer, Monika Rinck, Kathrin Röggla, Bastian Schneider, Daniela Seel and Ute Wegmann.

This event is already fully booked. However, there will be another reading on 29 April.

 


Reading in Hamburg: »Never Again is Now – Texts Against Antisemitism«

Katharina Hagena reads Heinrich Heine. Photo: Michael Kohls

NDR Kultur, Journal, Interview by Katja Weise with Katharina Hagena, January 16, 2024: »It was actually also an initiative of PEN Berlin. We Hamburg members of PEN Berlin said: ›We are the second largest city – there’s no way we can’t organize such an event.‹ So we started getting people together. The difference between our event and the other two is that it was our ambition, or rather our wish, to work together with the Jewish Salon am Grindel, not only to talk about Jewish life or being Jewish, but also to stay in conversation with Jewish people. We are especially happy about this.« LINK and AUDIO (in German)

 

 


A poet, a founding member and a friend: We mourn the loss of Harry Oberländer

Foto: Alex Englert

We mourn the loss of our founding member Harry Oberländer, who died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 73.

We remember the poet, translator and literary mediator as a dedicated member who supported the new German PEN in word and deed with full conviction. He welcomed the founding of a »markedly rejuvenated PEN, for which the word ›diverse‹ is not an angry foreign word and which sees itself as a non-governmental organization for freedom of speech and publication and for the support of persecuted authors«, he wrote after the founding meeting of PEN Berlin, to which he had traveled from his home in Hesse. MORE

 

 


Interview with Alexandru Bulucz: »Contributing to the socio-political debate«

Alexandru Bulucz speaks at the PEN Berlin Congress about the Uighur ethnologist Rahile Davut, who was abducted in China. Photo: Ali Ghandtschi

MDR Kultur, Interview with Alexandru Bulucz, 20 December 2023: »Another PEN in Germany became necessary because the times we live in are fraught with conflicts and their own needs that require a flexible response. 18 months after the founding of PEN Berlin, there are clear differences to the German PEN in Darmstadt: above all, the willingness to contribute to the socio-political debate. This has become clear in the last few weeks (…) There were two resolutions that complement each other: one on ‘Solidarity with Jews in Germany, Israel and everywhere’ and one on ‘Against social polarisation and illiberal tendencies in the cultural sector’. (…) With the latter, we emphasise the need to define the concept of freedom of speech as broadly as possible. This, in turn, is something that touches on so many complex issues in Germany, with its particular history.« AUDIO (GERMAN)

 

 

 

Keynote speech by A. L. Kennedy: »I’m sorry everything is shit«

A.L. Kennedy. Photo: Peter-Andreas Hassiepen

Keynote speech by A.L. Kennedy at congress of PEN Berlin, 16 December 2023: »When PEN was founded in the UK of 1921, authoritarianism was rising as it is today. An emboldened British ruling class was, as it is today, disproportionately powerful and beguiled by the idea that good fortune is predetermined by blood and soil, that privilege isn’t privilege but divine right. A group of prominent writers took steps to defend writers of fiction, professional liars, if you will. I think, because of the truths central to what we do: all people are people, all have voices, the world is a difficult place and needs mercy, a good life finds its way in pursuing the next loving thing. That sounds weak, unfamiliar, odd even as I say it – but love is the strongest thing. It is to Britain’s eternal shame that, were PEN being founded today, it would be controversial in an energy-sapping way, condemned as an alien contaminant, an example of a self-aggrandising elite.« FULL SPEECH

 

 

Opening speech by Deniz Yücel: »Active despair or: Behind the scenes of PEN Berlin« 

View of Deniz Yücel’s opening speech from the Festsaal Kreuzberg. Photo: Ali Ghandtschi

Opening speech of Deniz Yücel at PEN Berlin congress, 16 December 2023: »Even if this is often confused, the debate in Germany is fortunately not about the question ›Israel boycott: yes or no?‹, but about how to deal with artists who support the BDS campaign. (…)

Because, in case of doubt, we are always in favour of keeping spaces for debate as open as possible. Because freedom of speech includes the freedom to say stupid, disturbing, even supposedly scandalous things. Because, like last year’s keynote speaker Ayad Akhtar, we are against any ›climate of digital intimidation‹. Because we don’t just reject Cancel Culture when it suits us. For all these reasons, we, the board of PEN Berlin, do not support a blanket boycott of everything and everyone that is somehow labelled ›BDS-related‹. Which is why we don’t support BDS. It’s logical, isn’t it?« FULL SPEECH

 

 

Speech by Ursula Krechel: »The spirit of freedom of speech« 

Ursula Krechel

Speech by Ursula Krechel at congress of PEN Berlin, 16 December 2023: »Everything is on the decline: The parties are losing members, the churches are standing frozen in horror at the huge numbers of people leaving, sports clubs are complaining that people no longer want to commit to a club, and the voluntary fire brigades are complaining that only a few people want to carry out voluntary roles – at the fire engine or in a burning house. Let others burn their fingers and snouts. And here we are: All volunteers with a job that our parents warned us about. Writers who have come together voluntarily, setting up working groups that try to offer protection to those in need. Branches all over the world, strong in quotas, diverse, super performers. FULL SPEECH (GERMAN)

 

 

 

Debate Adrian Daub vs. Susan Neiman: »What Is Woke, Where Is Left?«  

Adrian Daub (left), Susan Neiman, in the background: Host Jan Feddersen. Photos [m]: Ali Ghandtschi  

Impulse speeches at the PEN Berlin Congress »With Our Head Through the Walls« 16 December 2023

»A right-wing battle cry: woke« by Adrian Daub: »There is a suspicion that what is being fussed about in Woke does not exist at all, or if it does, then only in the fussing about it. The criticism, the rejection, is the only thing that is really sharp in the characteristics.« FULL SPEECH (in German)

»Anti-universalist thinking: woke« by Susan Neiman: »As difficult as it may be in some cases to distinguish between justice and claims to power, the fundamental distinction is the basis of left-liberal thinking.« FULL SPEECH (in German)

 

 

 

 

General meeting: New members in the association and on the Board, resolutions

Boardbeats by Doris Akrap and Simone Buchholz. Photo: Ali Ali Ghandtschi

Press release, 16 December 2023: »On Friday, the authors‘ association PEN Berlin held its second general meeting in presence at the Humboldt University of Berlin. The assembly elected 68 new members, 43 of whom are women. Among others, the writers Nava Ebrahimi, Deborah Feldman, Charlotte Gneuss, Navid Kermani and Fiston Mwanza Mujila, the playwright Sivan Ben Yishai, the poet Martin Piekar, the publicists Hamed Abdel-Samad, Bernd Stegemann and Sophie Passmann, the historian Per Leo and the philosopher Omri Boehm were admitted to PEN Berlin. The association has thus grown to around 650 members – and 49 per cent women.« MORE

 

 

 

 

Resolution of PEN Berlin: »Solidarity with Jews in Germany, Israel and everywhere«

Resolution of the general assembly of PEN Berlin, 15 December 2023: »PEN Berlin dissociates itself from the position of PEN International on the terrorist attack of 7 October 2023, which in our view is not compatible with the values of PEN. PEN International’s statement shows no empathy for the Israeli victims and finds the cause of Hamas’ actions not in its own political objectives, but in Israel’s policies. Since PEN International’s statements give the impression that it speaks for all its members instead of letting its members speak for themselves, we believe that a clarification is necessary. This comes very late, and we do apologize to all those affected, who rightly feel left alone.« FULL RESOLUTION

 

 

 

Resolution: »Against social polarization and illiberal tendencies in the cultural sector«

Resolution of the general assembly of PEN Berlin, 15 December 2023: »For us writers, this means a special obligation: the greatest possible tolerance towards other opinions, points of view and perspectives. And special care in our own choice of words. This requires moderation, not wanting to immediately and harshly confront every statement that is perceived to be wrong, not every slanted formulation. It requires not turning individual words into red lines that supposedly divide good from evil. It requires the patience to listen and sometimes the self-control not to respond. Peaceful coexistence cannot succeed without the willingness to be tolerant. Democratic dialog means considering the opinions of others to be legitimate, even if you do not share them.« FULL RESOLUTION

 

 


Article by Eva Menasse: »Would you accept Hannah Arendt as a PEN colleague?«

Eva Menasse on a panel of PEN Berlin at the Frankfurt Book Fair, October 2023. Photo: Ali Ghandtschi

Article by Eva Menasse in the Die Zeit No. 53/2023, 13 December 2023: »The ›not insignificant historian‹ Ernst Piper (Berliner Zeitung) resigned via a Facebook announcement because of my political views and those of a simple member, the philosopher Susan Neiman. A joint membership of the association became unbearable for him; he received almost a thousand likes online for this ‘courage’ and ‘clear stance’. With a little inner distance, this is just a little German satire. (…) Someone like Piper could at least ask himself why he joined this organisation if his only activity was a resounding resignation. Why he never sought dialogue. But above all, whether he would accept the greatest Piper author Hannah Arendt, who at least once compared Menachem Begin and his party to terror, fascism and Nazism in an open letter, as a fellow member of the association if he is unable to do so with Susan Neiman.« FULL ARTICLE [€]

 

 

 


Interview with Deniz Yücel: »We’re not a community of like-minded people«

Board members S. Sumburane, E. Menasse, D. Yücel and Minister of State for Culture C. Roth at the Israel event of PEN Berlin, Frankfurt, October 2023. Photo: Ali Ghandtschi

Interview by Axel Rahmlow with PEN Berlin spokesperson Deniz Yücel about PEN Berlin. Deutschlandradio Kultur, Studio 9, 7 December 2023: »On Wednesday morning, the day after Slavoj Žižek‘s opening speech, we held an event on a large stage in cooperation with the Frankfurt Book Fair. The title of our event was ‘In Concern for Israel’. I’d like to mention this because the very title says something about the character of the event. (…) But right from the start, we didn’t found this association as a community of like-minded people. We’ve made a point of having founders who are diverse in every conceivable way, including politically. That’s what we wanted this association to be. (…) It’s true that we didn’t make a statement: ‘PEN Berlin is on Israel’s side’. With all due respect: I would have found such a statement highly embarrassing. There is not a single statement of this kind from our association, not even on Ukraine.«

FULL INTERVIEW (GERMAN)

 

 


Interview with Eva Menasse and Deniz Yücel »Why are controversies an issue?« 

Eva Menasse and Deniz Yücel at the founding of PEN Berlin in June 2022

Berliner Zeitung (Cornelia Geißler): »Why doesn’t PEN Berlin take a clear stance in favour of Israel?« Deniz Yücel: »We do, you only have to want to see it. (…) I’ve always found pure statement politics strange: moustachioed men sitting in pipe smoke and proclaiming with holy seriousness: ›The German PEN Centre rejects the NATO double-track decision and calls for world peace.‹  (…) It is not our job to comment directly on major world politics. We have a say when our own area is at stake – freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of the arts. When we do, we also comment on the context.« Berliner Zeitung: »Putting A.L. Kennedy’s name at the top of announcing the public congress on 16 December seems provocative because of her stance on BDS. Is this deliberately provocative?.« Eva Menasse: »Of course not, and those ranting on Facebook could have figured that out on their own. The congress has been planned for a long time; the invitation to A.L. Kennedy went out over six months ago (…). I didn’t know she might have BDS sympathies, and I haven’t checked since. But even in this new context, if we take ourselves seriously as an open society, we have to let her speak and listen to her before we criticise her. And not before.«  MORE


Iran: Release our honorary member Toomaj Salehi!

Toomaj Salehi

Press Release from December 3, 2023: The Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi was beaten by armed police on the streets of Tehran on 30 November and taken to an unknown location. He had previously posted a video on social media describing the torture he had been subjected to during his last eleven months in prison. The Iranian regime accused him of making false statements and inciting hatred in the video. (…) Deniz Yücel, spokesperson for PEN Berlin, said: “While the world focuses on Israel and Gaza, the Islamist dictatorship is executing more and more opponents of the regime.« MORE

 

 

 
 
 

Causa Sharon Dodua Otoo: PEN Berlin calls for a sense of proportion

Press Release from November 29, 2023: »Now another literary prize has been ›suspended‹: the Peter Weiss Prize, awarded by the city of Bochum to the British-German writer Sharon Dodua Otoo. She is accused of having signed two statements by ›Artists for Palestine UK‹. (…) Eva Menasse, spokesperson for PEN Berlin, said: ›PEN Berlin is fundamentally opposed to any politically motivated boycott of art and culture. The BDS approach is wrong and incompatible with the values of the PEN Charter. But it is equally wrong to turn this misguided approach against its supporters. In light of the increasing number of cases in recent weeks, we strongly remind cultural institutions in Germany of their duty of care towards recognised artists. There is no entitlement to literary prizes. However, publicly withdrawing a prize that has already been awarded is such a reputational blow that it must not become routine.‹« MORE

 

 


PEN Berlin raises objection: Criminalisation of Last Generation goes too far

Photo: adobeStock – MiReh 565272394

Press Release from November 23, 2023: »The Munich I Regional Court has classified the climate protection group ›Last Generation‹ as a criminal organisation. Deniz Yücel, spokesperson for PEN Berlin, commented on this legally binding decision: ›You don’t have to like Last Generation. You can agree with their drastic warnings of an imminent climate catastrophe, or you can regard them as an exaggerated form of apocalypticism. You may find some of their demands, such as the establishment of a ›climate council‹, anti-democratic, and you may blame them for ensuring that social support for climate policy measures is lower today than it was a few years ago, through their street blockades and other actions. However, their protest, always peaceful, should not be criminalised in this way.‹« MORE

 

 

 


»Never Again Is Now«: Readings against antisemitism 

Anna Yeliz Schentke during her opening speech

Reading on 10 November in Frankfurt

Reading »Never Again Is Now – Texts Against antisemitism« at Deutschen Theater with Stephan Anpalagan, Eva Demski, Özlem Dündar, Yannic Han Biao Federer, Arno Frank, Juan Guse, Kathrin Röggla and Anna Yeliz Schentke 

Report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper by Florian Balke, 20 November 2023: »Following Hamas’ attack on Israel and the hesitant solidarity of the German cultural sector, PEN Berlin organised a reading in the capital, which has now been repeated in Frankfurt with a slightly different selection of texts and nine other authors.« LINK [€]

 

 

 

 

Potos: Herta Müller, Seyran Ateş at the reading

Reading on 10 November 2023 in Berlin

Reading »Never Again Is Now – Texts Against antisemitism« at the Deutsches Theater with Seyran Ateş, Ralf Bönt, Nora Bossong, Thea Dorn, Michel Friedman, Joachim Helfer, Katja Lange-Müller, Ulrich Matthes, Herta Müller, Düzen Tekkal and Marko Martin 

Opening speech by Joachim Helfer: »Where Jews cannot live safely and free from fear, soon no one will be able to live safely and free from fear. Hatred of Jews has always been and will always be hatred of freedom, of tolerance and of plurality. As democrats, we will not allow ourselves to be divided into tribes, but we stand together for the universal rights and freedoms of all people.« FULL SPEECH

 


Deniz Yücel: »If you aren’t willing to talk about hatred of Israel, you had better keep quiet about antisemitism«

Speech at the commemorative event on the 85th anniversary of the November Pogrom in Hamburg: »Luisa Neubauer has just explained what civil society can do. But there are things that civil society cannot do: for example, closing down the Islamic Center, the Iranian regime’s representative office disguised as a mosque. Madam State Secretary [Juliane Seifert from the Federal Ministry of the Interior], you have just said that we must not stop at words and that action must follow. That is very true. That is why I would like to invite and call on the Federal Government: Finally close down this representation of the mullah regime disguised as a mosque, without which Hamas could not have become the terror apparatus as it is today!« FULL SPEECH [GERMAN]

 

 


Article by Sophie Sumburane: PEN Berlin in Kiev

Report by Sophie Sumburane in taz newspaper

»No longer in Kiev, but in the Donbas, people are still dying every day, with no way forward or back, in the trenches, stepping on mines, in artillery fire. A war that caused great horror in this country, but is now, overshadowed by numerous other crises and wars in the world, increasingly moving out of focus and becoming less and less present. This is one of the reasons why the PEN Writers’ Association of Ukraine invited a delegation of European PEN centers to Kiev.« MORE 

 

 


Reading at the Book fair: Adania Shibli 

Due to current events: Reading from Adania Shibli’s novel »Minor Detail«

With: Julia Franck, Deborah Feldman, Tomer Dotan-Dreyfus, Eva Menasse, Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Dana Vowinckel, Deniz Yücel

Opening speech by Deniz Yücel: »As PEN Berlin, we refute insinuations that Adania Shibli sympathizes in any way with the murderers of Hamas. However, we also do not share the view that Palestinian voices are not heard in Germany and that no one is interested in the suffering of the Palestinians. (…) What is missing, however, are Palestinian voices – intellectuals, artists, activists (…) who do not leave opinion leadership to the religious or secular radicals on the streetsMORE 

Message from Adania Shibli: »From my sad silence, I thank them, you and the audience. This attention confirms for me that literature is a lifeline for many of us.« MORE

 


PEN Berlin at the Frankfurt Book Fair

5 days, 16 panels, 50 authors. And with the friendly support of the Frankfurter Buchmesse company.

Quotes and photos from all events

Media coverage on PEN Berlin’s panels [only German]

Video of the panel »In concern for Israel« [English]

Video of the panel »Hope For Russia: Somebody, Somehow, Sometime?« [English]

 

 


PEN Berlin supports Seyran Ates: Our Salman Rushdie

Following the uncovering of plans by an offshoot of the Islamic State terror militia to attack the progressive Ibn Rushd Goethe Mosque in Berlin, PEN Berlin has expressed its solidarity with its founding member Seyran Ateş. »Fortunately, the killers were stopped in time«, said PEN Berlin spokesperson Deniz Yücel. (…) »In Germany, there is no one whose life has been threatened by Islamists for as long as Seyran AteşMORE

 

 

 

 


Not a minor detail: Let Adania Shibli get awarded!

A growing number of voices in the German media are calling the planned book prize for Adania Shibli ‘unacceptable’ or ‘tactless’ in light of the brutal attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists.

This criticism is, of course, legitimate. But the criticism must also accept its own critique. PEN Berlin spokesperson Eva Menasse said: “No book becomes different, better, worse or more dangerous because the news situation changes. A book is either worthy of a prize or not. I think the jury’s decision to award the prize to Shibli, made weeks ago, was a very good one. A withdrawal of the prize would be a profound mistake, both politically and literarilyMORE

 

 


Goethe Institutes: You better save!

It comes as no surprise that the Goethe Institutes (with a current annual budget of 239 million euros) are having to cut costs. After years of pandemic and a wartime energy crisis, the traditionally expansive German cultural work abroad has been hit. The recent announcement that nine of the world’s 159 Goethe Institutes are to be closed, while new ones will be opened in other parts of the world (such as Poland, the Republic of Moldova and the South Pacific), appears at first sight to be a cautious, soft measure. But a closer look reveals a poorly thought-out and even more poorly communicated decision with devastating external consequences. MORE

 

 

 


Elections in Slovakia: We have not forgotten Ján Kuciak

PEN Berlin is concerned about the situation of freedom of expression in Slovakia after the left-wing populist politician Robert Fico again won the parliamentary elections on Sunday. “No one should forget that Fico had to resign in the wake of the protests following the brutal murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová,” said PEN Berlin spokesperson Deniz Yücel.

The background to the double murder has never been clarified, despite numerous indications of the involvement of the highest authorities within the then Fico government. “The fact that this apparently no longer matters to almost a quarter of Slovaks is shocking,” Yücel said. MORE

 

 


Why the hell not: PEN Berlin now member of PEN International!

PEN Berlin has officially become a member of the international PEN family! At this year’s General Assembly, held via videoconference from Tuesday to Thursday, PEN Berlin received the necessary two-thirds majority of votes cast.

»We are thrilled«, said Eva Menasse, spokesperson for PEN Berlin. »This is also a recognition of our work over the past 15 months – supporting persecuted authors as well as our commitment to freedom of speech, press and art. We thank the board and office of PEN International, especially Tanja Tuma, Beatrice Lamwaka, Danson Kahyana, President Burhan Sönmez and the wonderful Olha Mukha. And we thank the PEN centres around the world, from Uganda to Ukraine, from the US to Slovenia to Kurdistan, for their trust.« MORE

 


Credit: AndyLeungHK

Cuts in cultural programs at public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk: PEN Berlin protests!

The BR wants to cut formats like »kulturWelt«, »Diwan: Das Büchermagazin«, »Kulturjournal: Kritik Dialog Essay«, »Nachtstudio«, »radioTexte – die Lesungen«, as well as in-house radio dramas. The cuts affect seven hours of broadcasting time each week. Critics within the station say that »culture is becoming a niche product«. This was reported by the Münchner Abendzeitung. PEN Berlin strongly protests against this decision.MORE

 


Osman Kavala

Cultural and media associations condemn defamatory film series about Osman Kavala

Turkish-German Forum of Culture, PEN International, PEN Centre Germany, (aspiring)
PEN Berlin, Academy of Science and Reporters without Borders are deeply concerned about the broadcast of a film series on the streaming service of the Turkish state broadcaster TRT, which shows a discrediting and disparaging portrayal of cultural promoter and intellectual Osman Kavala. MORE

 


Deniz Yücel (PEN Berlin), Yavuz Ekinci and Deniz Utlu (writer) at the LCB

Yavuz Ekinci arrived in Berlin

The well-known Turkish-Kurdish writer Yavuz Ekinci has been tried several times in Turkey for tweets and sentenced to 18 months probation; his novel »Dream Splinters« – presented at the Turkish Ministry of Culture stand at the 2014 Frankfurt International Book Fair – was recently banned and confiscated. Now he has arrived in Berlin. MORE

 


Kakwenza Rukirabashaija honored with Václav Havel Prize

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija and Deniz Yücel at the PEN International meeting in Uppsala (Sweden), September 2022

PEN Berlin congratulates its newly elected member Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who was awarded the »Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent« in Oslo today.  The 35-year-old lawyer and writer is a celebrity in his native Uganda for his satirical novels.

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First Birthday, now nearly 600 members

The new authors’ association PEN Berlin, founded after conflicts in the German PEN Centre (Darmstadt), turned one year old on 10 June. To mark its first birthday, the association held a digital general meeting and elected 85 new members, including Esther Kinsky, Gerd Koenen, Felicitas von Lovenberg, Harald Martenstein and Tien-Chi Martin Liao.

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Turkey: Arrest warrant for Deniz Yücel

Photo: Marlene Gawrisch / WELT

In the May hearing of the trial against the journalist and spokesperson of PEN Berlin, Deniz Yücel on charges of »insulting the president« and »openly degrading the Turkish state and the Turkish nation«, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled that a warrant for Yücel’s arrest should be issued. MORE

 


Georg Stefan Troller: Honorary member of PEN Berlin

Photo: Bodo Witzke / CC; Illustration: PEN Berlin

Georg Stefan Troller turns 102 this year. We are extremely pleased to welcome him as an honorary member of PEN Berlin. MORE

 


We mourn the death of Sibylle Lewitscharoff

Foto: Renate von Mangoldt

On Saturday, May 13, Sibylle Lewitscharoff, our esteemed colleague, Büchner Prize winner and founding member of PEN Berlin, died in Berlin after a long illness. She was an outstanding, immensely original, stupendously educated writer and artist, and an exemplary strong, free person. MORE

 

 


Solidarity with Yevgenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriychuk

Yesterday, May 4, 2023, Moscow director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk were arrested. Berkovich is a central figure in the alternative and resistant literary scene in Moscow and Russia.She has chosen not to go into exile and to fight for a democratic Russia, this is the reason why she is being harassed under unjustified allegations. MORE

 

 


Second aid delivery of the »Fire trucks for Kharkiv« campaign

Last weekend (15.04.- 16.04.2023) our driver Christian handed over the second aid delivery of the campaign »Fire trucks for Kharkiv« in Lviv to Switlana from the »Lviv Volunteers«. This organization will further transport the goods to Kharkiv to Serhiy Zhadan. Our thanks to all who contributed to this campaign and to all donors! MORE

 


Impunity reigns – Writers resitst: PEN International’s Caselist 2022

PEN International has published the current case list of persecuted and endangered authors and the global situation under the title »Impunity reigns – Writers resitst«. The complete list can be found at PEN-Case-List-2022 as PDF document or on PEN International’s website.

 


Earthquake in Turkey and Syria: Helping, but how?

Though humanitarian aid in the event of natural disasters is not our area of responsibility as PEN Berlin, we have been asked frequently by members in recent days which institution to donate to in order to ensure that the help reaches the needy as quickly as possible. Who does what, where can you donate? An overview of initiatives and organisations beyond the big German aid organisations. MORE 

 


About us

PEN Berlin.
We stand by our word. 

We want a new PEN.

A contemporary and diverse PEN, that brings together writers and translators of all literary and journalistic genres writing in German or living in the German-speaking countries.

A PEN by and for colleagues who stand up for freedom of expression and open discourse, without presidents and other titles, with a gender-equal board.

A PEN which, in the spirit of the Charter of PEN International, opposes all forms of hatred, whose members put themselves at the service of freedom of expression and work together for a better future.

In the spirit of our namesake Berlin, the multilingual city that today stands for openness and for the overcoming of borders, we call ourselves PEN Berlin: an NGO committed to the ideals of enlightenment, diversity of opinion, tolerance, and solidarity.

Freedom of speech is increasingly threatened worldwide. More and more authors and translators fear for their lives and physical integrity. Our focus will therefore be on the material and moral support of persecuted colleagues. 

We need this new PEN to give literature, poetry, and any other text-based genre the space to unfold free from fear. 

We need this new PEN to denounce grievances and effectively help those who are threatened in their freedom of expression, regardless of origin and attitude.

We welcome all those who work with the word and are willing to join us in this endeavor.

We stand by our word. PEN Berlin was founded on June 10, 2022, and currently has almost 600 members.

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