01/06/04: Swedish PEN gives Tucholsky Prize to Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera

Swedish PEN has decided to grant the Tucholsky award of 2004

to the Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera presently living in Canada 

Yvonne Vera (born 1964) grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and never wanted to leave her country. Nonetheless she has lived for many years in Toronto, Canada. It was while living there that she wrote her doctoral thesis on African writers like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Soyinka, Ruth First and Breytenbach. She recently decided to leave Zimbabwe again. She broke up from her home. She left behind much more, the way one does when leaving one’s dearest friends and family. 

Yvonne Vera is  Zimbabwe’s greatest writer, and until recently she headed the National Gallery of Art of Bulawayo,  undoubtedly Zimbabwe’s finest art museum, with its wrought iron verandas and cool galleries.

History and culture are without meaning if they are based on shame that oppresses women and abuses children. Yvonne Vera’s novels brings up what is difficult to depict in everyday life: incest, abortion, to kill a new-born infant. “Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals”, “Nehanda”, “Without a Name”, “Under the Tongue”and “Butterfly Burning” are some of her books.  “Under the Tongue” is about horror that cannot be put into words: a father’s abuse of his daughter. Yvonne Vera sees it as her duty to tell about what is there under the tongue, to break the silence.

With this award members of Swedish PEN want to honour the free word and support and help their collegues throughout the world.

The Tucholsky award (150.000 SEK or ca 15.000 Euro) is every year given by Swedish PEN to a writer or a publisher who is being persecuted, threatened or in exile from his or her country. This award has been named after the German writer Kurt Tucholsky, who came to Sweden in the beginning of the thirties as a refugee from the Nazi regime in Hitler’s Germany. Still awaiting to have his application for political refuge granted he committed suicide in 1935 and was buried in Mariefred, Sweden.
The Tucholsky award was established in 1984 and has been awarded writers like Adam Zagajevski, Nuruddin Farah, Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin, Shirali Nurmaradov, Mirko Kovac, Svetlana Alexievich, Faraj Sakoohi, Vincent Magombe, Salim Barakat, Asiye Güzel Zeybek, Rajko Djuric, Jun Feng and others.

Common to them all is that they during a period of their life have been oppressed, persecuted and threatened to their lives for one reason and one reason only, that those in power wanted to silence them as writers.

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/international/newsfromotherpencentres/010604tucholskyprizeforyvonn/

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