It’s only been three weeks since things went haywire at the PEN Germany conference in Gotha, and already there’s news from PEN again.
However, not from the previous writers’ association, which after Gotha tried to consolidate, even to start over. It’s about a new PEN that has removed Germany from its name, is instead called PEN Berlin and will be officially founded on Friday in the Literaturhaus. 232 authors have come together for this, from A for Doris Akrap to K for Christian Kracht and Y for Deniz Yücel.
According to an official media report, this PEN should be “contemporary” and “diverse”, “without presidents and other titles, with an equal board at the top”. The abbreviation NGO is also used, and of course the focus is on freedom of speech and opinion and the support of persecuted authors.
So Deniz Yücel does not want to completely renounce his idea of a literature and essay NGO, although he emphasizes that he was not the driving force.
It was others like Eva Menasse, Nora Bossong or Herbert Wiesner, around twenty people in all, who brought him in to win more supporters for the idea of a new PEN over Pentecost: “There is no reckoning with the PEN in Darmstadt,” says Yücel. “We’re doing something new.”
There are also some who stayed in the old PEN and still take part in the new one.
However, there are already comments in the “Welt”, where Deniz Yücel works full-time, that “the old PEN center is now becoming meaningless.” But was PEN Germany ever of outstanding importance? Hasn’t it only received a certain amount of attention since Yücel’s presidency, or at least gained in symbolic importance?
The first founding words of PEN Berlin read as if everything would now be better, less complicated, as if the prominence of most authors alone stood for more effective work. The controversies are likely to become even more intense with members like Jan Fleischhauer, Svenja Flasspöhler or Daniel Cohn-Bendit, as long as they are ambitious.
And let’s see where, for example, the money comes from to be able to support persecuted authors materially. The PEN in Darmstadt gets this from BKM funds for its “Writers-in-Exile” program. Yücel says: “One step after the other. We have to constitute ourselves first. It’s primarily about concrete, practical solidarity.” It’s clear how you react to the other PEN: Two German PEN clubs are better than none.