After a heated argument and ongoing quarrels at the writers’ association PEN, there is now an additional association, PEN Berlin. During the meeting on Friday in Berlin and an online switch, around 150 members elected the journalist Deniz Yücel and the writer Eva Menasse (“Dunkelblum”) to head the association. Yücel was previously President of the PEN Center Germany for a few months. After fierce arguments, he was confirmed there in May, but subsequently resigned.
In the election, Menasse received 143 of 143 votes, Yücel received 136 votes with eight votes against. Nine members were appointed to the board of the new association. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was imprisoned in Great Britain, immediately became an honorary member. This had been offered to him, he had accepted it in the morning, it said. This was acknowledged by the assembly in Berlin with sustained applause.
The writer Simone Buchholz (“River Clyde”), also elected to the board, left the meeting prematurely “for the first official act of PEN Berlin”. Together with board member Alexandru Bulucz (“what parsley knows about the soul”), she picked up the writer Dmitry Glukhovsky (“Der Posten”, “Text”), who was wanted by the Russian judiciary, at the airport in Berlin.
According to Yücel, the new association also wants to work with PEN International. The necessary support is already available from the associations in Uganda and Ukraine. “It’s not a club of like-minded people and it doesn’t want to be, it’s a club of authors in this whole range,” Yücel told dpa. “As authors, writers and publicists, we can express ourselves competently on certain debates.” Yücel cited the issue of freedom of expression and its limits as an example. “Any discussion about freedom of expression is always a question of democracy.” What remains in common is the PEN charter, “the idea of practical solidarity with authors who are being persecuted”.
Menasse also recognizes peculiarities in the new union. “This wide range of voices and diversity, the mix of women and men, of migrant literature as well as other literature, just everything that comes together from our list can and will make a big difference, in addition to the many prominent names we also have,” said Menasse of the dpa. The writer does not see the new association in Berlin as competing with the existing organization. “What we have ahead of PEN Darmstadt is the momentum, the energy, also the good will and the hope of so many, which was really lost there dramatically.”
The supporters of PEN Berlin include Daniel Kehlmann (“Tyll”), Christian Kracht (“Eurotrash”), Karen Köhler (“Miroloi”), Lucy Fricke (“Die Diplomatin”), Ursula Krechel (“Landgericht”), as well as Thea Dorn, who moderates the “Literarisches Quartet” on ZDF, Mithu M. Sanyal (“Identitti”), Christian Berkel (“Ada”) and Feridun Zaimoglu (“Hinterland”). There are more than 140 writers’ associations worldwide, united in the international PEN. The three letters stand for the words Poets, Essayists and Novelists.