What does PEN International mean to you? Rumunský PEN klub slavil 95 let

23.5.2017

 

Pozvání Magdy Cârneci z Národního muzea rumunské literatury, hlavního organizátora 95. výročí Rumunského PEN klubu ve dnech 15. - 17. 5. 2017 a festival od 18. do 21. května 2017, přijala za České centrum Mezinárodního PEN klubu spisovatelka, básnířka a překladatelka Olga Walló. Její vystoupení si můžete přečíst níže nebo na uvedených odkazech, kde najdete také příspěvky předsedkyně Mezinárodního PEN klubu Jennifer Clement a dalších účastníků slavnosti. Text Olgy Walló Bukurešť básníků byl napsán pro časopis Tvar.

 

 

What does PEN mean for me? Answering sincerely a personally   – a good company. Last Thursday , the „General Meeting” of members (not  shareholders)  took place.  A friendly hall  on 3rd floor in   Prague Baroque  Kolowrat Palace  was full of nice people.  Many of them  have been old friends for many years,  some faces are still unknown, some arriving from the country… People have aged. Some of them are newcomers, younger and full of projects and plans. Smiles,  greetings, hand shakings… quiet and informal. Then  the „usual operation” commenced, reports on activities, reports  on economic activities… Light wine of pleasant quality was offered . Few biscuits, purely symbolically, to keep the memory of „club dining tradition”.   I contemplate the taste of the  word on my tongue: Tradition… routine.. liberty …   I am proud to be a member of a company keeping its continuity   – not without trouble , but keeping! –  in  turbulent  turns of history.  People believing in the power of written cultivated word  are considered the means against harmful influences.  Fools, maybe? I am looking forward to meeting friends of pen in Bucharest. I am looking forward to one more opportunity to  argue  that we are not fools.

Olga Walló, Czech PEN Centre

 

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Czech PEN in Flurries of Time

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends  of the written word!

I am very happy to be participating  in this meeting with you. I am from Prague,  and rather  a newcomer to the  P. E. N.  I appreciate and enjoy  the  double  favourable chance  to get acquainted with  the  history   of the esteemed and remarkable society of which we are celebrating its 95th anniversary.   The sole fact we can celebrate it here and now,  with such a great ceremony and  in the  open festive atmosphere is a small wonder. Because of the known blurry of  history hardly any of  the PEN Clubs in Central and Eastern Europe could pride themselves in uninterrupted history of its activity.

Trying to keep the  tradition and of its aiming,  the Czech Pen belongs to  the (relatively)   happier  members of   Eastern PEN family.   Being officially founded  in 1925, our Czech PEN Club  is formally  a younger brother of  your  PEN club.  Although it never lost its legal continuity, the  story of  the Czech Pen  - likewise the history  of  the whole of  our Central and Eastern Europe  - is full of breaks, gusts and painful challenges.

The idea of PEN was born  from the pandemonium of WW 1.  A Man is a predator, isn´t he? Unlike  of animal raptors,  man  conducts himself as a predator even  towards his own self.   In consequence the human history  is  horrifying.  Into the  unceasing flow of painful deaths,  foul  stinking wounds, sophisticated tortures,  treason,  blood and mud, there are sometimes - somewhere  -  air pockets of spirit,  "golden bubbles" coming to existence  - probably  - out of the feeling:  No more such horror, such injustice!  Basta, enough, it was too much!  The inner persuasion of the best  minds of intellectual elite corresponds with the common atmosphere of society or vice versa , there is a draft, zeal and verve:  From now on, we must not allow  anymore  - we have to do something -  we must  manage it -  What?   To act as  sensible  people, on a human level, in accordance with the fundamental law of ethics!

Let me to insert a little  personal  memory : I am a little girl, I just have finished the reading of History of England  by André Maurois and I feel  ill. I cannot asleep,  my mouth is full of - what?  - dread, fright, disgust? -  regret? repentance?   What?  What does it mean?  The esteemed, honoured, admirable England?

 One of those rare moments of human history  was  probably  the  Armistice Day, a memory of the cessation of hostilities on the western front, which took effect at  the "eleventh  hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918.

I imagine the feeling , the taste in mouth  ....

Under strong influence of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson,  The Covenant of the League of Nations entered in force on 10 January 1920. Formulating some  principles of international co-operation to achieve international peace and security was as important step as the  proverbial step of the first man on the Moon.

 Similar philosophy marked the foundation of the original English PEN Club.  Hearing about  Catherine Amy Dawson Scott,   we perceive it  as a charming fairy-tale.  The admirable lady and her salon known as Tomorrows  Club ....  She conceived an idea of founding a "dinner club" - a holding  where wirters could congregate at regular formal dinners.  Galsworthy, whose internationaly renowned five-book Forsyte Saga saw a complete edition that   year, not only epitomized the best realistic traditions of the Victorian literature, but was also a model of a perfect English gentleman, endowed with outstanding education and intellectual aplomb, integrity and rectitude, modesty and tolerance plus valuable international contacts. From 1921 till his death in 1933 he held the function of the President of  the International  PEN club.

The primary requirement of a membership was a profesional mastery of letters. i. e. to wield the pen. The binding charter allowed bestowing honorary membership to foreign authors during their stay in England.  Even prior the establishment of the Czechoslovak PEN club, such honorary guests included - among others  -  the philosopher and statesman, the first president of Czechoslovakia Tomáš Garrigue  Masaryk and  Karel Čapek, the future father of the global word  "Robot", and  the  predestined  first president  of the  PEN Club in Prague. 

   At first,  the programatic democrat Karel Čapek was  a bit sceptical about  the practical effect of such an organization - "A dinning club?  Dinners for highbrows?  For privileged?" -   even he had  not probably  a sufficiently precise imagination of  the company of which became a member. These days the Czech society was  bilingual, PEN  should fulfill the uneasy task to cope with the amalgam of  at least three cultures  (the German, the  Jewish and the Czech).  Czechs were oriented  towards France  - Čapek himself , among others  talents,  was also an outstanding translator of poètes maudits . In Prague,  there was  only a rare, if any, experience  of English or British cultural milieu. Even Čapek needed time to appreciate it and evaluate the idea. Finally, he came , he saw... and he trusted.

  In 1925,  on January 10th, the Czech Pen Club was officially born, a very  alert baby with  nannies of high quality. The  proclamation of "non-political" activity of  "masters of pen" was probably closest to the realization  of the idea  which its English pioneers professed during the first ten years  from 1925 on. Despite of many troubles, dissensions, contentions,  discords,  the social  and intelectual activity of the club had a high standing.  Prague became a well -liked and  frequented destination  for  best-known names of international  " realm of words".  Its existence in  the First Republic,  the PEN Club had  a monopoly of cultural contacts with other countries.  Shielded by authority of  President Masaryk, the PEN was supported  by  the Ministry of Foreign Affair,  the  Ministry of Education just as the Ministry of the Interior.

Nevertheless, this " the happy bubble",  this period of - if I may say - " fruitful illusions" was  short, then the defense of national culture became more urgent.  The supposed position of  "apolitical mind" in relation to growing Nazism  showed to be impossible. The  PEN Club  made  a considerable effort  to be of help to  the wave of fugitives  from Germany , seeking  exile in a still democratic Czechoslovakia.

After 1938, the year of Treaty of Munich,  the time of young  Czechoslovakia  was drawing to a close. In this  consequence, the death of Karel Čapek  was a dark presage of  coming events. Expecting its near prohibition by Gestapo,  the PEN Club in Prague  made its best to save its sinecure . A lot of  its members  now became  exiles  themselves and appreciated  any help provided by  other s still freely  acting PEN Clubs.  The continuity of  activities of the Czech PEN  was  kept by the   Czech Centre in London exile.

After  WW II, the first  plenary session was held in November 1945. Its President -  Anna Marie Tilschová, a  brave sophisticated  lady of heart,  read a long list of  members who found their deaths  as victims of those years. 

After a short attempt to continue in its pre-war tradition, the Czech PEN Club entered into a "dormant phase" after  the  communist coup d´ état in February 1948, seeking  activities as "innocent" as could be.  Its aim was a survival, but its effort  to remain an island of cultural individuality despite the totalitarian pressures deserve our respect.

1956 shook the monolith of Stalinism to its foundation , the period of  "thaw"  commenced.  The stand taken by Czech writers open new vistas for the Czech PEN Club,  its members could appear once more on the world stage. There was another "happy bubble",  a time of hopes  and  hopeful steps on the way  to  - if only!  - liberty of thinking and creating.

After  1969 when the "Prague Spring"  was crushed by the invasion of the Soviet  troops, the  period  officially called "normalization"  followed.  It sounded very tongue-in- cheek - the "normalization",  but  the  communist  leaders of the time elected the notion without any contemplating  of its irony. Anyway,  what  did  and what does "normal" actually mean?

The Czech culture, already substantially  deprived by the loss of a natural contact with German language  (Jews having been  eliminated ,  Germans  expelled out of the country) and brain-washed by communism was broken in three parts:  The "officially" published writers,  the prohibited writers,  publishing through  "samizdat", and  once again, writers in exile. For almost two decades the Czechoslovak PEN Club  in Prague hibernated  as a  so called " dormant centre", once again the torch of activities was handed on to Czech writers  in exile, this time primarily in West Gemany. 

1989, the first attempts to revive the Czechoslovak PEN was shown already before the November Velvet Revolution, which  led to the collapse of totalitarian regime.

The general meeting of the  Czech Pen Club on January 4, 1990 marked a new phase in its history.  The  Honorary Prezsdent  of  the  revived PEN  was Václav Havel. The  simple word "normal" gained back its normal sense. 

Since that day, the  Czech PEN Centre of PEN International is an integral part of the PEN world-wide London-based network.

The Czech PEN is governed by a twelve-member board headed by its President - presently  Jiří Dědeček - and has several commitees, the most important of which is the Writer in Prison Committee, which seeks and  reports  cases of persecuted and oppresed writers and calls on their home countries to grant them liberty.

Nowadays the activity of the  Czech Pen is linked to a new project  titled PEN&PIN BOOK SERIES under which, in cooperation with Non Profit Organization People in Need , PEN publishes works of authors banned and/or imprisoned by totalitarian regimes. The books are distributed abroad and smuggled into the authors´ home countries. -  For  illustrative, here  are a few books of the series...

To commemorate its founder, the Czech PEN Club established in 1994 the biannual Karel Čapek Prize in recognition of outstanding literary achievements . The independent seven-member jury must take into consideration also whether the author´s work have contributed to the preservation  or defence of  democratic humanistic values. The first Karel Čapek prize was awarded to Günter Grass and Philip Roth, two world -renowned foreign writers.

2015, the Prize was awarded to Josef Vinklát -  a no-name man for this audience - a modest  enthusiast,  a cultivated publisher, publishing  systematically and regardless of profit the charming edition of Czech  contemporary poets.

Last week, the festive re- opening of  Writers Home took place in charming countryside of  Budislav. It is a nice place you can  relax,  meet others,  write - and a building with a strong flair of history, too. The idea of the house originated  with Karel Čapek. 1938, the dark clouds of war  were  on the horizon . The founds of PEN  were threatened, the decision to invest them in the project was prudent and far-reaching.  Very far!  After  79 years of many  historical  breaks, one hot and one cold war, the  the idyllic  retro-atmosphere of  the twenties of 20th century is breathing out again on the spot...

Does it mean we Czechs  are living now in another  "happy bubble"?  On a lucky island of peace and freedom and  prosperity?  I am not sure.  In comparison with a death and passion and  troubles of all sort  in the world around -  I am forced to answer:  yes.  I hope  we  find  enough  strength  to  use it in a sensible way - i. e.  not to shut our eyes  before  the problems of world. 

 Speaking  about  his comprehending  of history, the great Czech philosopher  Jan Patočka, the first Speaker of Charter 77,  used the notion of   "zlom" - it means "break/ reversal/ turn". What he understand  by this  notion?  ZLOM is  the time of questions. The period  itself offers us its questions to be answered.

What is our place in the world, the unique world , in the dangerous, dreadfull place?  In a  speedy changing  consumerism and /or a growing  fanaticism  of any art, has a literature, has a written word any weigh?  Is it not changing  the major way of perception?  Are we not living the basic shift /movement  from  printed word to visual art? To non-verbal communication  perhaps?

Anyway,  we are lucky enough we could cover the arch from  Galsworthy and Čapek to contemporary authors,  from Masaryk and Havel to our present modest - very modest effort. Remembering its own past , the Czech PEN promotes mutual understanding of writers, nations, states and cultures.  PEN stands against all forms of intolerance, nationalism and xenophobia, hatred , violence and suppression of liberty.  For  so many year of  its existence  - plus  the very pleasant fact  we may meet  there, discuss the questions  - prove that literature has retained his cultural and moral weight. So far. 

And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity to meet you - and  to be able to hope.

Olga Walló,

Czech Center  of  P.E.N

Ref.: Vladimír Křivánek:  Svědomí slova, Český PEN Klub v proměnách doby ( Conscience  of the Word, Czech PEN Club in Changes of Time), publ. by Czech Centre of International PEN, Prague 2016  

 

BUKUREŠŤ BÁSNÍKŮ

rhapsody in green seen by a gringo/ rapsodie v zeleném očima zelenáče

V hutném vzduchu města brutálních protikladů křičí černý bez, jasmín, akát.  Je 15. května,  propuká velkoryse pojatý Mezinárodní festival básníků.  Pod patronací Národního muzea rumunské literatury jich shromáždili na tři sta;  erbovní  barvou plakátů, visaček i výpravné antologie, vydané u této příležitosti, je něžná zeleň nesečené trávy. I nedocenitelná a všudypřítomná Magda Carneci obléká  kalhotový kostýmu téhož odstínu. Je prezidentkou rumunského PEN Klubu, které na oslavu 95. výročí  své (byť přetržité) existence pořádá dva kulaté stoly na téma Národní historie jednotlivých PEN Klubů a Vyhnanství v globalizovaném světě. Zastupuji český PEN poprvé, mnoho se tedy učím. Brilantně znějí trpké formulace Bogdana Ghiu, žáka Derridy. Význam, přikládaný tomuto setkání lidí od pera, kteří nepokládají svobodu slova za samozřejmou a demokracii za formalitu, dokládá i pozvání do paláce Cotroceni, kde nás přijímá  rumunský prezident Klaus Iohannis. Karty jsou zde zřejmě rozdané jinak….

Verše však mají svou vlastní logiku a celý týden znějí ze všech stran, naslouchám aspoň rytmu, kde slovům nerozumím. Záhy však chápu, že jsem se ocitla v říši polyglotů, kde vedle sebe žijí lidé mnoha národností, odjíždějí a vracejí se, vyzbrojeni dalšími jazyky, ovlivněni další kulturou. Prezident sekce překladatelů, etnický Němec Peter Szragher realizuje rumunsky a anglicky společný poetický projekt s dánským poetou-poutníkem Klausem Ankersenem. Starý srbský básník, který publikuje ve čtyřech jazycích, recituje velmi ohnivě. A taky je tu výstava poezie na plátno vyšívané… Titulkována a anglickým překladem opatřena jsou jen vystoupení na dvou slavnostních večerech v zdobném secesním sále  Ústřední universitní knihovny „Carol I“.  Poznávací znamení: Výrazně vztyčený ocas koně na pomníku před vchodem. Král Carol I.  z něj hledí na své bývalé sídlo, kde je dnes Národní galerie.  Myslím na domov, na schůzky pod ocasem u svatého Václava.

Scházejí se účastníci. Vždy střízlivě soustředěná Kätlin Kaldmaa,  prezidentka estonského PEN a sekretářka PEN International, přichází na podium bosky a zpívá dlouhou lidovou píseň. Proslulá rumunská básnířka Ana Blandiana má jemný,  poutavý, bohatě modulovaný hlas a umí s ním pracovat. Poeta-performer, vida!  V auditoriu se to u těch příležitostí jen hemží velvyslanci, přišli zástupci snad ze všech ambasád. My z Česka jsme tu sice sami, ale držíme si palce. Simona Racková se své one-woman show zhostila stejně decentně jako znamenitě a měla úspěch. Přiměla i mne – tak zaplavenou dojmy, útržky informací a tokem aluzí  – vnímat své verše jako samonosný svět. Mircea Dan Duta,  rumunský vzdělanec, který se rozhodl stát českým básníkem, je třetí, ale možná nejpodstatnější z naší malé party. Jeho překlady jsou znělé, rytmicky znamenité –  jeho organizační úsilí a oduševněné nasazení balancuje  mezi obětavostí a masochismem. I v atmosféře poezií tak přesycené stihl uspořádat dvě čtení v Galerii vizuální poezie – jeden večer srbsko-polský a jeden český – navíc!

V sobotu, kdy festival vrcholí, nás Magda Carneci,  dřív než odstartuje nekonečný Marathon poezie a jazzu, odváží  prozřetelně do třešňového sadu, kde žil, chtěl zemřít a nakonec byl pohřben rumunský básník Tudor Arghezi.  Dnes na něj shlížejí novostavby, ale  první třešně už dozrávají… přiznávám, trhám plnými hrstmi. Povídáme si, už bez oficialit. Kontakty, zárodky příštích projektů, resumé hektického týdne. Jak za tu dobu zestárlo jaro! Černý bez opadává, růže jsou unavené, ale na bulvárech už explodují lípy. Hodně po půlnoci je město  plné  lidí, trpělivě postávají v nekonečných frontách. V Bukurešti je Noc muzeí! Dívám se do mladých tváří...

Zítra, 21. května, už bude jen rozlúčkový večírek pro domácí,  putující poety čeká odvoz na letiště. Já se ještě chviličku zdržím, je neděle. Vystoupím na jediný  kopeček v celém městě, je nad řekou Dambovicí, stojí tam zdejší nejstarší kostelík, založil ho Vlad Rozparovač. Naproti je honosný klášter Radu Voda a metropolitní chrám pravoslavné církve. Dlouho do odpoledne tam postupuje stejně trpělivé procesí a líbá svaté ikony. Ženy mají šály na hlavách a v taškách PET láhve, protože zdejší voda je dobrá a zázračná. Jednu láhev mi taky daly.  A odpoledne tam patří svatbám. A tak jsem tam taky byl, maso jed a víno pil…

 A do těch lidovek, co tam hráli,  samé „čim čim čim“ nad hlavou, protože v Bukurešti ještě žijí vrabci, čimčarará, čim čim čim, co jsem proved, to já vím!  Když jazyk a čas, ten mrcha pes, má tak rychlý krok, čimčarání, to už bude asi hodně retro výraz?

Olga Walló

 

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At PEN International it is always a joy to celebrate the anniversary of a centre and it’s incredibly special to honour Romania PEN’s 95th anniversary!  Along with celebrations, however, it is impossible not to reflect on our important work when we watch the rise of propaganda, xenophobia and religious and ethnic intolerance across all continents. At the heart of PEN’s mission lies the transformative power of literature and the written word to promote peaceful debate and dialogue. PEN’s members have been reclaiming truth from propaganda since 1921. On PEN Romania’s 95th anniversary, PEN’s work is more vital than ever.

Jennifer Clement, președintă PEN International, PEN Mexic

 

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I imagine it has been true of every writer who has been elected President of PEN International. You begin with the sense that there is a job to be done for freedom of expression and literature. Quickly you realize that the vastness and complexity of the membership is well beyond any individual. But also, the wrongs being done to writers today, as throughout history, are overwhelming in their repetitiveness and predictability. The one thing I knew I had to do during my 6 years was to visit as many PEN centers as possible, particularly those trying to survive difficult situations. 

The very arrival of a delegation led by the International President is a message to governments that the world is watching and a gesture of solidarity with the writing community in that country. Over the six years, I led three groups to Turkey and three to Mexico, both places in which we used seemingly endless meetings with government ministers to press the issue of free expression. What always struck me was how surprised they were to discover just how independent we were. That we could not be threatened or funded into silence. Each time you go to a country with such a situation you cannot help but be moved by the courage of the writers who live with these threats every day. I remember thinking that every minute I was in Honduras or sitting with a group of West African writers gathered together in Bamako, or with young writers in Moscow trying to maintain their independence through a new kind of writing. 

Of course, our belief in the work of PEN doesn’t end with the end of a mandate. In January this year two dozen of us were in Turkey, led by Jennifer Clement, our current President, as well as Per Wastberg and myself.  We all went out to make a show of solidarity at the fence of Silivri prison where so many of our writer friends are held. And as the police waving machine guns and shouting surrounded us, I could not help but think that while the fight for freedom of expression is indeed repetitive, it is also deeply emotional and inescapably exciting.  Best of luck to Romanian PEN in all of your work. 95 is a very good age. And I know that you will continue to carry the burden and the privilege of writers and PEN members. 

John Ralston Saul, fost președinte PEN International (2009-2015), PEN Canada

 

Další projevy a příspěvky členů národních center PEN klubu najdete na:

 

http://www.observatorcultural.ro/articol/ce-inseamna-pen-international-pentru-dumneavoastra/

 

http://www.penromania.ro/evenimente-events/aniversarea-pen-romania-95/#more-2279

 

 

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