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Posts Tagged ‘Kwame Anthony Appiah’

Chen Wei & Chen Xi Imprisoned

Chinese writers Chen Wei and Chen Xi were both given long prison sentences over the holidays. The PEN American Center denounced the action, calling it “an eerie replay of the 2009 trial of Liu Xiaobo.”

Both writers published digital essays criticizing China’s political system and government activities. Wei was charged with inciting subversion and sentenced to eleven-years’ imprisonment. Xi was charged with the same “crime” and sentenced to ten-years’ imprisonment.

PEN president Kwame Anthony Appiah gave this statement in the release: “Once more the Chinese regime has chosen to darken the holiday season with a reminder of its fear of independent thought. We salute the extraordinary courage of those Chinese, like Chen Wei, Chen Xi, and Liu Xiaobo, who love their country enough to risk long-term incarceration for speaking out against a government that betrays the hopes of the Chinese people every day.” What do you think?

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Iranian Journalist Siamak Pourzand Has Died

Journalist Siamak Pourzand (pictured, via) has reportedly committed suicide after enduring years of house arrest in Tehran. He was 80-years-old.

Pourzand built his career over the past fifty years, criticizing the Iranian government regime in his work. He managed a cultural center for writers, artists, and intellectuals called “Majmue-ye Farrhangi-ye Honari-ye Tehran.” The PEN American Center inducted him as an honorary member.

PEN American Center president Kwame Anthony Appiah had this statement: “At a time when men and women are finding their voices and crying out for dignity and basic rights throughout the region, Pourzand’s despair offers a disturbing measure of how arrested and isolated the Iranian regime now seems.”

Liu Xiaobo Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo and former Independent Chinese PEN Center board has won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

The Chinese author was arrested two years ago for the crime of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ by writing about political reform in China. On Christmas Day 2009, a Beijing court sentenced Xiaobo to 11-years in prison and and “two years’ deprivation of political rights” for subversion in his writings. His trial lasted hours.

In a conversation with a Chinese artist, Xiaobo explained why he wrote, despite government control: “From a certain point of view, what with artists dealing with so much suffering, and a nation facing so many tragic incidents, I feel that Chinese artists have deliberately held back. To express things in their reality would be to invite censorship and to ultimately lose one’s market – it’s a conflict of interests. So much accumulated suffering yet no corresponding artistic record – what a tragedy. Whether its in terms of politics or in terms of an individual life, that no such work exists to capture the totality of the moment is sad, very, very sad.”

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PEN American Center Supports Park51 Community Center

5252_appiah_75x72.jpgPEN American Center president Kwame Anthony Appiah defended the Park51 Community Center today, voicing the literary organization’s support for the proposed project many have labeled “Ground Zero Mosque.”

Here is an excerpt from his statement: “We oppose all efforts to circumscribe this freedom; we deplore the rhetoric of suspicion that seeks to deny our common humanity and shared aspirations; and we emphatically reject the tyranny of fear … None of this is to deny the anguish of those who lost family and friends in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, nor is it to diminish the trauma we experienced and still clearly share. Nevertheless, we are sure no lasting comfort or peace can come from abridging the rights of others or yielding to distrust and fear.”

His remarks also singled out the poetry of Sufi leaders Rumi and Ibn Arabi–arguing “writers have a key place in this moment” that has bitterly divided the United States.

National Book Critics Circle Awards Finalists Announced

nbcclogo23.jpgOn Saturday night, the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) announced the finalists for their annual literary awards.

Two awards were also delivered at the celebration. Here’s more from the release: “[T]his year’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is Joyce Carol Oates, announced by Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of PEN American Center, the 2008 Sandrof award winner. Winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, announced by former Balakian winner Albert Mobilio, is Joan Accocela.”

Here are the year’s finalists for Fiction. All finalists follow after the jump:
Bonnie Jo Campbell for “American Salvage” (Wayne State University Press)
Marlon James for “The Book of Night Women” (Riverhead)
Michelle Huneven for “Blame” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Hilary Mantel for “Wolf Hall” (Holt)
Jayne Anne Phillips for “Lark and Termite” (Knopf)

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Hillary Rodham Clinton Signs Visa Waiver Order for European Scholar

4509_ramadan_75x72.jpgLast Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed a visa waiver allowing Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan (pictured, via) to enter the United States–effectively ending a court battle over Patriot Act exclusions.

In 2006, PEN, the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, and the American Academy of Religions sued when the Department of Homeland security cited a “a Patriot Act provision barring those who ‘endorse or espouse terrorism’” as the basis for revoking Ramadan’s visa. Despite the fact he had condemned terrorism, the visa problem prevented him taking a tenured position at the University of Notre Dame.

Ramadan had this statement: “I am very pleased with the decision to end my exclusion from the United States after almost six years … I want to thank all the institutions and individuals who have supported me and worked to end unconstitutional ideological exclusion over the years. I am very happy and hopeful that I will be able to visit the United States very soon and to once again engage in an open, critical and constructive dialogue with American scholars and intellectuals.”

PEN president Kwame Anthony Appiah applauded the action in a statement: “[It] sends an important signal about our country’s commitment to preserving a free and open exchange of information and ideas with the rest of the world…At a time when a number of countries seem intent on limiting the access of their own citizens to the international conversation, it is especially crucial for the United States of America to take a strong and clear stand against censorship at the border.”

Don DeLillo and A.M. Homes Protest Imprisonment of Chinese Author Liu Xiaobo

On this snowy New Year’s Eve morning, a team of famous PEN America members gathered on the steps of the New York Public Library to protest the 11-year sentence of Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo for the crime of subversion.

As you can see by this exclusive GalleyCat video, the list of speakers at this dramatic event included: E.L. Doctorow, Don DeLillo, A.M. Homes, and Edward Albee.

Here’s more from the release: “There are currently almost 1,000 writers on PEN’s list of writers and journalists in danger because of their work. Leading the list is Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s most prominent writers and a past president and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, which is doing on-the-ground PEN advocacy in China. Liu was convicted of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ for co-authoring ‘Charter 08,’ a petition calling for political and human rights reforms in China, and for seven sentences in five articles he published on the internet that are critical of Chinese authorities.”