How nice! Finally there seems to be room in the German media for statements by writers. Come, come! Suddenly everyone has something to say about PEN. Shortly before his death, Friedrich Christian Delius shared why he was leaving PEN Germany, and prominent names followed him.
Everyone in this country is beginning to realize that when the word PEN is mentioned, it’s not about sleep problems, it’s about a writers’ association. How nice! And now, in addition to the PEN Center Germany, based in Darmstadt, and the PEN Center for Writers in Exile in German-speaking Countries, based in Berlin, there will be another PEN from June 10, 2022, the PEN Berlin.
Now, like Bernhard Schlink in the “FAZ” of June 14, one could ask oneself: “Does that have to be?” This split of PEN Berlin from PEN Germany, after the annual meeting in Gotha in mid-May 2022? There, as one could read everywhere, President Yücel resigned, although he was re-elected with a majority of at least one vote – but not his treasurer.
That would be worth a comedy. But it’s not that funny. Less than four weeks after Gotha, PEN Berlin was launched, to which more than 300 writers signed up in no time at all.
“If we can put aside our many internal differences of opinion, our political and moral attitudes here in rich, peaceful Germany, we will gain enormous symbolic power together,” wrote Eva Menasse in the “FAZ” of June 20.
Why not in PEN Germany? Because at the meeting in Gotha a few screamers lost their composure? (It was the first time since I was elected in 2008 that I didn’t attend the annual meeting.) Or because so many unpleasant things had happened since the election of the President in Frankfurt, just half a year before?
On March 9, the Yücel Executive Committee wrote to its members: “Today we address you and you with a gesture of humility. Recently we have made mistakes in communication within the bureau. We very much regret that. We got the tone wrong, and that’s not the standard we expect of ourselves.”
Everyone rubbed their eyes, what was that supposed to mean? Just a few days later, insults such as “hippos” and “silverbacks” (meaning the many older members were meant), finally the now legendary Bratwurstbude flew through the room. Oddly enough, some of the silverbacks have now moved into PEN Berlin with eyes gleaming with enthusiasm.
Forget everything? Swam over it? Deniz Yücel’s constant bullying – especially of his treasurer – to which the employees in the Darmstadt office and those responsible for the “Writers in Exile” department were exposed, has not been mentioned in any of the many reports so far.
How strange, when this behavior is no longer a secret – and where otherwise all media alarm bells ring immediately if there is a suspicion of bullying. There is still a lot to question.
“There is more than enough work.” With that, and with the indication that they want to support Julian Assange, Eva Menasse’s “FAZ” article ends under the heading “Much more than a Yücel electoral association”. Since his imprisonment, PEN Germany has been demanding Assange’s release. Regula Venske, the former president, was among the protesters in front of the prison in London. Assange was made an honorary member in early November 2021.
So why another PEN in Germany? “The members of the Berlin foundation,” says Bernhard Schlink, “wanted nothing more to do with the Bratwurst stand and formed a new club – and didn’t realize that they were continuing the club cheating.” In any case, the club already has a new nickname – something like this always happens quickly in Berlin: PENnY.