May 09, 2009

PEN mightier than the Foreign Office?

Apparently not but we don't know which Foreign Office. See this just in from Michael Rosen:
On May 22 I was due to do a reading for P.E.N., the organisation that supports writers who have been silenced or censored. It was going to be an evening of Palestinian poetry. However, I've just had a call telling me that it's been cancelled because none of the Palestinian poets who were due to come over could get travel documents.

I don't understand exactly how Palestinians get or don't get documents that enable them to visit the UK, but some of the writers tried doing it through Egypt, others another way. Either way, they couldn't get the documents in time. This seems to be because the British consulates or embassies (sorry to be not more specific) wouldn't give them the documents.

The do is now cancelled. In other words the very organisation that exists to give voice to silenced writers is itself being silenced as it does its job. For the time being, I see that P.E.N. isn't making a fuss about this. I'm not sure why not.

That's all I know for the moment.
Ok, I want this posted in a hurry so I'll publish it now while I go away and see what I can find on the PEN website.

UPDATE: Ok, it's now half past midnight, Sunday morning, 10th May 2009 and I still don't know what P.E.N stands for in any sense. Whilst looking Michael Rosen has updated us on precisely what has been cancelled but we still don't exactly know why:
Here are the details of the event that has been cancelled.

The following event (see below) has been cancelled due, apparently, the organiser told me, because the Palestinian poets couldn't get the necessary travel documents. It's not clear at present whether this is because of Israeli or British interference or both.

Refuge in Words
Friday 22 May, 7pm
Venue: The Brunei Gallery, SOAS, Thornhaugh St, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG
The Palestine Film Foundation, English PEN and the Poetry Translation Centre invite you to join us for an evening of poetry and short fiction from Palestine celebrating the publication of new work in translation from Gaza commissioned by the English PEN World Atlas. Faten al-Gharra will share her erotic, meditative, vivid poems and Khaled Abedallah will read his bold new poetry; their translations will be read by Sarah Maguire. Atef Abu Seif and Khaled Juma'a will present their work via video from Gaza, while Michael Rosen, our MC, will read his translations of Juma'a's resonant lyrics, including new work from 2009. Also via video, John Berger reads Ghassan Kanafani's classic Letter from Gaza. And there will be a chance to talk to the writers about their work and life in Gaza.
Except there won't be now.

Ok, apparently P.E.N stands for Poets, Essayists and Novelists and it campaigns against censorship, particularly in peace time (wassat?). I'll keep you posted on how they respond to this form of censorship.

UPDATE II: Cock-up not conspiracy, shock! Just in from one of the organisers of the event:
nothing actually that exciting Mark, Michael - no conspiracy or FCO intrigue (which is not to say they're exactly helpful either). The event is cancelled due to delay, confusion and disorganisation on our part - not obstruction from the FCO; no one was prevented from getting a visa. Sorry this was not made clear to you by PEN Michael.
Nick, PFF, London (a co-(non)-organiser of the misfiring event).
Ok, apologies to PEN. I'm not apologising to the FCO.


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