PEN pays tribute to Josephine Pullein-Thompson

English PEN was saddened to learn of the death of the remarkable Josephine Pullein-Thompson, our former president, in June 2014. Here we share the memories of some of the many PEN members who had the good fortune to get to know Josephine during her many years at PEN

I find it difficult to believe that Josephine is no longer with us. I feel bereft. I always imagined that she was indestructible and would go on forever. I loved Josephine and always believed that she was the most wonderful and humane person I have been privileged to know. Indeed, for me she has always been the epitome of the indefatigable and dauntless humanitarian of whom there are so few in the world. In my WiPC days, I would often fantasize that if we ever did get a chance to beard in their dens any of the tyrants who persecute, imprison, torture and kill with impunity – presidents, military dictators, false messiahs – I would have Josephine by my side confident that she would not only slay, a la St George, the demons in the souls of those tyrants, but also transform them into true liberals and zealous peaceniks. She has been my role model and will remain so. And she will live in my heart for as long as I live – Moris Farhi

I have such deep feelings of gratitude to Josephine for her support when I was President. She made everything possible. I shall never forget her – for her wonderful sense of humour apart from anything else – Antonia Fraser

When I was more actively involved in attending PEN meetings, I very much regarded Josephine as a friend. Although I wasn’t an ‘important’ member, we used to chat with each other and I found her wonderfully honest. She had a cool, relaxed attitude toward life and death, but clearly preferred living. I’m sorry she’s gone now but very glad her life was the long and productive one she wanted. – Leah Fritz 

Josephine was a force in PEN and a friend. I feel privileged to have known her. I will miss her, but I can still hear her voice in my head, forceful and sure – Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Josephine Pullein-Thompson. She is in our family records as the lady who fought hard within English PEN framework to get me released from prison in Malawi. It was her who sent me my honorary membership of Pen which I received in prison. It gave me huge cheer and moral and spiritual support. May the good Lord keep her soul for us! – Jack Mapanje

No condolence can be expressed in words or tears. But still I, Ershad Mazumder, a poet from Bangladesh Center of PEN send this message of condolence to share the pains and sorrows of my fellow colleagues of English PEN and world – Ershad Mazumder

On behalf of PEN Kenya Centre, I wish to convey our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family of Josephine Pullein-Thompson. I have come to appreciate that Josephine was a dedicated and committed writer who carried along with her the institutional memory of PEN as a nascent idea and subsequently as a prestigious world association of writers. We are lucky that as a writer, Josephine wrote extensively, and we will always find solace in the truth that although she is physically gone, she is with us in spirit and will continue to inspire us to greater heights. A careful reading of her ‘What PEN means to Me’ reveals to us the principal ideals of PEN International and the reward to human civilisation. May her soul rest in eternal peace – Khainga O’Okwemba, President, PEN Kenya Centre

I am sad to learn about the death of Josephine Pullein- Thompson. I knew her well and we greeted each other at many PEN meetings. She was supportive and communicative to all PEN members. She had a genuine smile and heart of gold.
At one occasion, during a PEN meeting with AGM, she had an attack of “Transient Ischemic Attack (mini-stroke)” and I was able to help her, as a fellow PEN member and a GP in London, attending the meeting. Now, I feel very sad, as I lost a dear friend. May God rest her soul in peace in heaven. – Dr Bashir Qureshi 

A fine warm-hearted person, one of the first to make us feel welcome when we joined International PEN in the 80s. Full of compassion, despite her own illness she sent me messages of support when I was seriously ill. I will remember her with fondness and so will many of the founding members of PEN Nepal – Greta Rana

When Josephine became English PEN’s President in 1994, I took over from her as our last elected General Secretary. She was truly remarkable and her clarity and commonsense carried PEN through towards our first appointed Executive Director and the security it now enjoys. Her legacy to PEN is enormous. She was honest, forthright and very clever. She was also very funny and I shall remember her with respect and huge affection – Gilly Vincent

**Please send your tributes to cat@englishpen.org** 

Josephine’s funeral will take place at 1.20pm on Thursday 10 July at Mortlake Crematorium and will be followed by refreshments at The Ship Pub, 10 Thames Bank, London SW14 7QR. Josephine’s family has requested that, rather than send flowers, friends make donations to English PEN’s Writers at Risk programme. For further information, please contact Cat Lucas on cat@englishpen.org. 

 

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

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13 Comments on “PEN pays tribute to Josephine Pullein-Thompson”

  1. When Josephine became English PEN’s President in 1994, I took over from her as our last elected General Secretary. She was truly remarkable and her clarity and commonsense carried PEN through towards our first appointed Executive Director and the security it now enjoys. Her legacy to English PEN is enormous. She was honest, forthright and very clever. She was also very funny and I shall remember her with respect and huge affection.

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