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

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


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


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


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


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:



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