PEN Atlas Q&A: Jenny Erpenbeck

Last night, Jenny Erpenbeck was named the winner of the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for her double PEN award-winning novel The End of Days. Erpenbeck is only the second woman writer to win the Prize since its founding in 1990. She is also the third PEN-supported writer to win the Prize; the other winners are The Armies by Evelio Rosero, translated by Anne Mclean (2009) and The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim, translated by Jonathan Wright (2014).

In this special PEN Atlas Q&A, the author and director shares her thoughts on the influence of history in her work, experimental narrative form and her special relationship with her translator Susan Bernofsky.

México20: New Voices, Old Traditions |Friday 29 May| 7:00 pm—8:00 pm

The México20 anthology brings together the work of twenty young Mexican writers under the age of forty to an international readership.

Join three of the featured writers, Laia Jufresa, Brenda Lozano and Daniel Saldaña París, as they discuss with journalist Maya Jaggi their work, the anthology, the vast literary tradition of Mexico and how brave new styles are capturing an era of shifting boundaries.

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All Must have Prizes: IFFP shortlist event| Tuesday 26 May| 7:00 pm—8:00 pm

On the eve of the announcement of the winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015, join three of its shortlisted authors, Jenny Erpenbeck, Daniel Kehlmann and Erwin Mortier, for a celebratory event at the London Review Bookshop. Kehlmann, Erpenbeck and Mortier will be reading from their work, and will be in conversation with Catherine Taylor, Deputy Director of English PEN.

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International writers call for justice for bloggers murdered in Bangladesh

More than 150 writers from around the world, including Margaret Atwood, Amitav Ghosh, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Yann Martel, Salman Rushdie and Colm Tóibín have condemned the murders of Ananta Bijoy Das (or Dash), Washiqur Rahman Babu and Avijit Roy, three secular bloggers who have been brutally killed in Bangladesh this year.

The group includes writers, publishers and lawyers who have joined PEN International and English PEN in calling on Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina Wajed and her government to do all in their power to ensure that the tragic events of the last three months are not repeated and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The letter, signed by PEN members across the globe, states:

We were shocked and horrified by last week’s murder of 32-year-old blogger and editor Ananta Bijoy Das, who was hacked to death on his way to work by a masked gang wielding machetes in the city of Sylhet on 12 May. Prior to his death, Ananta Bijoy Das had reportedly received a number of death threats from Islamist militants, and his name had appeared in two assassination lists published in the Bangladeshi media, alongside those of other secular bloggers described as anti-Islamic and blasphemous.

Less than two months earlier, on 26 February, fellow blogger and close friend of Ananta Bijoy Das, Avijit Roy was similarly brutally killed. Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya, were viciously attacked by unknown assailants close to the Dhaka University campus. Roy died soon afterwards whilst Rafida Ahmed Bonya was severely injured. A militant Islamist group has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

A month later, on 29 March, blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu was murdered just 500 yards from his home in Begunbari, Dhaka. Police have claimed that the attackers targeted the 27-year-old blogger because they believed he had defamed Islam through his writings on websites, forums and social media. Two students from a madrassa (an Islamic school) have since been arrested in connection with Rahman’s killing.

At least three other writers have been attacked or murdered in Bangladesh since 2013 and, although there have been several arrests, no one has been held to account for any of these attacks. We are gravely concerned by this escalating pattern of violence against writers and journalists who are peacefully expressing their views. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right under Bangladesh’s constitution as well as one of the rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The authors have called on the Bangladeshi authorities to investigate Ananta Bijoy Das’s death swiftly and impartially as well as the murders of Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman Babu, and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards. They also demand that the authorities do all in their power to provide protection and support to bloggers and other writers at risk in Bangladesh, in accordance with Bangladesh’s obligations under national and international law.

The full text of the letter is available here. If you would like to add your name you can do so here.

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said:

‘This is a campaign of violence against bloggers and writers who are courageous enough to speak out in a hostile culture for free speech. The government of Bangladesh must urgently address the climate of impunity and be seen to safeguard freedom of expression. These shocking events have united writers throughout the world in an important show of solidarity.’

John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, said:

‘Since my time in Dhaka late last year, I have seen the situation slip steadily downhill. The government, and the Prime Minister in particular, have the responsibility and the ethical obligation to stop this violence and to ensure that Bangladesh meets acceptable standards of both democracy and the rule of law, which are needed to protect the citizens’ right to free expression.’

Open letter to Prime Minister Hasina Wajed

Dear Prime Minister Hasina Wajed

We, the undersigned writers, come together to condemn the horrific deaths of our colleagues Ananta Bijoy Das (or Dash), Washiqur Rahman Babu and Avijit Roy, three secular bloggers who have been brutally murdered on the streets of Bangladesh in the last three months.  We urge you and your government to do all in your power to ensure that the tragic events of the last three months are not repeated, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

We were shocked and horrified by last week’s murder of 32-year-old blogger and editor Ananta Bijoy Das, who was hacked to death on his way to work by a masked gang wielding machetes in the city of Sylhet on 12 May. Prior to his death, Ananta Bijoy Das had reportedly received a number of death threats from Islamist militants, and his name had appeared in two assassination lists published in the Bangladeshi media, alongside those of other secular bloggers described as anti-Islamic and blasphemous.

Less than two months earlier, on 26 February, fellow blogger and close friend of Ananta Bijoy Das, Avijit Roy was similarly brutally killed. Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya were viciously attacked by unknown assailants close to the Dhaka University campus. Roy died soon afterwards whilst Rafida Ahmed Bonya, was severely injured. A militant Islamist group has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

A month later, on 29 March, blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu was murdered just 500 yards from his home in Begunbari, Dhaka. Police have claimed that the attackers targeted the 27-year-old blogger because they believed he had defamed Islam through his writings on websites, forums and social media. Two students from a madrassa (an Islamic school) have since been arrested in connection with Rahman’s killing.

At least three other writers have been attacked or murdered in Bangladesh since 2013 and, although there have been several arrests, no-one has been held to account for any of these attacks. We are gravely concerned by this escalating pattern of violence against writers and journalists who are peacefully expressing their views. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right under Bangladesh’s constitution as well as one of the rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We call on the Bangladeshi authorities to swiftly and impartially investigate Ananta Bijoy Das’s death as well as the murders of Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman Babu, and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards. We also demand that the authorities do all in their power to provide protection and support to bloggers and other writers at risk in Bangladesh, in accordance with Bangladesh’s obligations under national and international law.

Elisabeth Abendroth
Jim Aitken
Truijens Aleid
Frank Mackay Anim-Appiah
Frankie Asare-Donkoh, President, Ghana PEN Centre
Margaret Atwood
Michael Augustin
Dr.Hanan Awwad, President, Palestine PEN
Cecilia Balc​ázar
Elke Bannach
María Cecilia Barbetta
Niels Barfoed
Shrabani Basu
Nazmi Bayrı
Ronald Bos
Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International
Suzanne Brøgger
Dr. Barbara Bronnen
Ricky Brown
Urvashi Butalia
Joyce Caplan
Metin Cengiz
Sudeep Chakravarty
Anne Clarke
Jennifer Clement
Jo Clifford
Anne Connolly
Daniela Dahn
Swapan Dasgupta
Rachna Davidar
Aline Davidoff, President, PEN Mexico
Alexis de Roode
Siddharta Deb
Job Degenaar
Antonio Della Rocca, President, PEN Trieste
Renan Demirkan
Meghnad Desai
Faisal Devji
Dr Mathias Schreiber
Dr Burkhart Veigel
Suzanne Egerton
John Elliott
Peter Englund
Haydar Ergülen
Roberto Fabris
Moris Farhi
Fahimeh Farsaie
Charles Foran
Öyvind Foss
Maureen Freely, President, English PEN
Uwe Friesel
Jostein Gaarder
Meenakshi Ganguly
Nina George
Amitav Ghosh
Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN
Brigitte C. Gotthold
Professor Lutz Götze
Fiona Graham
Gloria Guardia
Michael Guggenheimer
Apar Gupta
Daniel Hahn
Kaiser Haq
Josef Haslinger, President, German PEN
Gert Heidenreich
Christoph Hein
Hallgrímur Helgason
Werner  Holzer
Jules Horne
Iman Humaydan
Khademul Islam, Member, Bangladesh PEN
Anjali Joseph
Wim Jurg
Sirpa Kähkönen, President, Finnish PEN
Raghu Karnad
Lucina Kathmann
Jan Kemp
Andrej Khadanovich, President, Belarusian PEN
Charlie King
Tanja Kinkel
Karl Ove Knausgaard
Sibylle Knauss
Christoph König
Anja Kovacs
Hari Kunzru
Ola Larsmo, President, Swedish PEN
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Professor Christoph Lindenmeyer
Joan Lingard
Chiara Macconi
Kona Macphee
Rishi Majumder
Emile Martel, President, Quebec PEN
Yann Martel
Christine McKenzie, President, PEN Melbourne
Kyle Mewburn, President, PEN NZ
Alison Miller
Sam Miller
Denise Mina
Rohinton Mistry
Petra Morsbach
Lina Morselli
Neel Mukherjee
Ayten Mutlu
Maureen Myant
Vayoo Naidu
Hege Newth Nouri
William Nygaar, President, Norwegian PEN
Harry Oberländer
Hans-Christian Oeser
Vida Ognjenovic
Per Øhrgaard, President, Danish PEN
Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir
Zeynep Oral, President, PEN Turkey
Margie Orford, President, PEN South Africa
Mete Özel
Kaiser ÖzHun
Ra Page
Peter Parker
Per Petterson
Professor Gabriele Pommerin-Götze
Tom Pow
Jean Rafferty
Anita Raghawan
John Ralston Saul, President, PEN International
Ashis Ray
Monika Rinck
Judith Rodriguez
Thomas Rothschild
Nilanjana Roy
Anuradha Roy
Elisabeth Ruge
Salman Rushdie
Gita Sahgal
Minoli Salgado
Alejandro Sánchez-Aizcorbe
Ulrike Sandig
Professor Philippe Sands QC
Ashwin  Sanghi
Rajdeep Sardesai
Ayse Sarisayan
Carole Satyamurthy
Samantha Schnee
Christa Schuenke
Andrew Sclater
Sjon, President, Icelandic PEN
Morelle Smith
Claire Squires
Elizabeth Starcevic
Leslie Stevenson
Liam Stewart
Klaus Theweleit
Annika Thor
Elsa Tió
Pragya Tiwari
Colm Tóibín
Carles Torner, Director, PEN International
Hannah Trevarthen
Salil Tripathi
Cynthia Troup
Aleid Truijens
Tina Uebel
Linn Ullmann
Manon Uphoff, President, PEN Netherlands
Amir Valle Ojeda
Karthika VK
Martin A. Völker
Gabriele von Arnim
Catherine Vuylsteke
Per Wästberg
Harry Watson
Herbert Wiesner
Les Wilson
Yazici Yasemin
Halim Yazıcı
Çetin Yiğenoğlu
Arnold Zable
Atiya Zaidi