The second and crucial step for the establishment of PEN Center in Greece was successfully carried out as 42 authors, literary critics, translators and people of the book became the Founding Members of the Greek branch.
”PEN International is one of the largest international organizations in the field of literature, books and, in general, the protection of freedom of expression, communication and information,” said author Christos Oikonomou, speaking on behalf of the founding group. “It is an organization – a network and an organization – an umbrella that has been operating for almost a century. It is one of the most recognized and recognizable brand names internationally. It operates in more than 100 countries with more than 140 national centers. Thousands of creators and professionals of the field, participate in it, but also citizens who are interested in reading, books, literature, the right to free circulation of ideas and free expression “.
The 2nd meeting for the creation of PEN Center in Greece took place on 29.10 2019 with the support of the Public bookstore.
The temporary administration of the Greek branch consists of the members of the founding team: Panina Karydi, Erifili Maronitis, Tessi Baila, Christos Oikonomou, Lina Pantaleon, Dina Sarakinou, Alexis Stamatis, Dimitris Sotakis.
The first meeting for the creation of the PEN Center was hosted in Serafio, the modern center of culture and innovation of the Municipality of Athens, on Monday 16 September 2019, with the keynote speaker Mrs. Kätlin Kaldmaa, International Secretary of PEN International, who presented to executives the values of the international historical union.
PEN values include – among others – the following:
- Without literature, there can be no real freedom of expression. Without freedom of expression, there can be no meaningful literature.
- Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals.
- In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.
- Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations and people; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel all hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace and equality in one world.
Next steps for the creation of a PEN Center is the drafting of articles of association, which after the founding members co-sign, will be sent for approval to the headquarters of PEN International in London.With the approval of the articles of association, the way is opened for the accession of new members as well as for the nominations that will be promoted by the presidency and the members of the Board of the Greek branch.
PEN International by the word “writer” embraces novelists, poets, journalists, academics, publishers, bloggers, biographers, translators, in short, refers to those involved in written or oral speech and this biodiversity can be achieved through this global union.
Christos Economou’s Speech
A few months ago we begun an initiative to establish the Greek PEN. The rationale and objectives of this initiative can be formulated simply in the form of five questions / answers.
Why do we want a PEN center in Greece?
PEN International is one of the largest international organizations in the field of literature, books and, more generally, the protection of freedom of expression, communication and information.
-It’s a network organism and an umbrella organization that has been in operation for almost a century.
-It is one of the most recognized and recognizable brand names internationally.
– It operates in more than a 100 countries with more than 140 national centers.
-There are thousands of creators and professionals in this organization as well as citizens interested in reading, books, literature, the right to freely circulate ideas and freedom of expression.
Among its members are (or have been occasionally found) great names in literature and intellect — by James Baldwin, Margaret Atwood, Tony Morrison, Philip Roth, John Steinbeck, Thomas Maine, and Thomas Mann. to Joseph Conrad, Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Susan Sodag and Don Delilo.
– Greece is one of the very few European countries where PEN is not operational.
– Mario Vargas Liosa, who has served as president of PEN International, has said that, in times like ours, where the dividing lines between states and nations are dominated, PEN is one of the few organizations that can keep open the bridges of communication between different peoples and cultures.
So we want to bring PEN to Greece because we believe that Greek literature (and the Greek book in general) will have multiple benefits if it falls under the umbrella of PEN and becomes part of this international network.
We believe that the establishment of the Greek PEN will help Greek literature gain more channels of communication with the rest of the world.
We also believe that the establishment of the Greek PEN will help to further raise and mobilize the book community in Greece – and, in general, the Greek public – on all issues related to freedom of expression and speech, freedom of communication, and the free flow of views and ideas without the fear of ‘outside’ intervention and censorship.
What are the objectives of the Greek PEN?
The goals of Greek PEN are generally in line with those of PEN International:
– Promoting literature
– Defending freedom of expression
-Providing free access to writing and reading (Freedom to write / Freedom to read)
In particular, the Greek PEN aims to:
-To enhance the extroversion of Greek literature and promote Greek literature (and the Greek book in general) at regional, European and international level
– In spreading joy of reading at national level
-Initiating and supporting initiatives promoting the right to freedom of expression and the free movement of ideas both in Greece and internationally
The specific objectives of the Greek PEN are within the framework set by PEN International regarding the operation of national PENs. In particular, PEN International points out that the national centers must follow the principles contained in its statutes, but states that each national center sets its own priorities and objectives in addition.
Pen Interanationak cites examples of freedom of expression initiatives, support for educational programs, promotion of national literature, as well as promotion of works from different languages and cultures. In addition, national centers can publish books, organize events, establish literary prizes, take action locally, advise government agencies and government agencies on the dissemination of literature, and create region al networks in cooperation with other national centers.
How do we think these objectives will be achieved?
We believe that these goals will be achieved through national initiatives, in cooperation with private and public organizations, but also through the networking of the Greek PEN with the overseas PENs and the utilization of various actions / programs that have elaborated some of them.
– Our aim is not to operate the Greek PEN as an informal EKEBI, (Greek Center Books) nor, of course, to act as an “agency” promoting specific authors and / or specific books.
– We believe that the Greek PEN can be a bridge, a functional node, a platform that facilitates the access of Greek literature abroad, enhancing the two-way relationship between Greek and Greek artists with their peers around the world, and will contribute to the further dissemination of the idea that freedom of expression and literature are interrelated concepts.
Why someone should become a member of PEN?
Greek PEN is addressing everyone and is open to everyone: writers, poets, playwrights, children’s and teenage literary writers, literary theorists and critics, screenwriters, essay writers, historiographers, journalists, translators, editors, editors, editors, editors, editors creators of comics and graphic novels, publishers, and other contributors to print or online magazines — and, more generally, to anyone who has a professional or organic connection to the book and writing space communication.
-At the same time, it is aimed at every literate and artistic person, every person who is interested in spreading literature, books, ideas, art, science and culture.
It is aimed at anyone interested in protecting the right to freedom of expression and the free movement of ideas, who opposes any attempt to restrict or abolish this right, as well as any attempt to exclude persons or groups from access to the valuable good of knowledge.
-PEN members are involved in a diverse international community of creators, professionals and, in general, people who work one way or another in the fields of literature, intellect, science, and the arts and culture as a whole.
-PEN members have the opportunity to be informed in a structured way about actions (translation programs, participation in collective works, literary festivals, residencies, awards, etc.) in which they can participate to promote the their work.
-PEN members have the opportunity to reach out to people and institutions from around the world who are active in promoting literature, written communication, literacy, freedom of movement of texts and ideas, and to participate or support variously these activities.
Why do I need to pay to become a PEN member?
The financial contribution is a contractual obligation for all PEN members internationally, given that part of this financial membership is paid to PEN International.
-The Greek PEN will seek, at the same time, funding from private and public entities in order to ensure its operation as efficiently as possible.
– Our goal is not to set up a stiff organization, but to create an active organization that, in cooperation with PEN International and the national PEN Centers, will always strive to deliver on its stated goals in a clear, specific and tangible way.
In conclusion, it should be noted that this is the first organized, serious and concerted effort to create the Greek PEN.
The reservations are partly justified, but in any case, taking and promoting such international initiatives in a country like Greece requires a little bit of good faith.
If some of the above sounds a bit vague and not particularly impressive, it is not because we are moving around with the “seeing and doing” logic, but because we want to proceed with methodical, careful and realistic steps, rather than formulating extravagant goals for impression.