On October 21st, the International PEN Assembly of Delegates elected as International President, John Ralston Saul, to succeed Jirí Grušá who has held the post for six years. Jirí Grušá was one of the most important dissident Czech writers. Earlier presidents have included Alberto Moravia, Heinrich Böll, Arthur Miller, Pierre Emmanuel, Mario Vargas Llosa and György Konrád. Ralston Saul is a member of the ICORN Council of Writers and Experts.
John Ralston Saul is a celebrated Canadian novelist and essayist and former President of Canadian PEN. He has been awarded, among others, Chile's Pablo Neruda medal, Italy's Premio Letterario Internazionale and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres de France.
'International PEN is the world's most important and oldest freedom of speech and literary organisation. Almost 1000 writers in prison or in danger around the world look to us for help. We have to invent new ways of turning back the rise of authoritarian controls. Threats to freedom of speech are expanding in new directions, especially with the rise of populism in the post 9/11 world. In addition, hundreds of minority and indigenous languages and cultures are in danger of extinction. This is the ultimate denial of freedom of speech.' says Saul.
Photo: Ned Pratt