‘Literature knows no frontiers’ PEN Charter


Books have the power to challenge, to comfort, to confront and to make us more human. What better way to share our humanity than by sharing our many stories? In today’s complex and unequal world, it is more important than ever that voices from other languages are heard in English, the global language of power. And yet only 4% of literature published in the UK is translated.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Metamorphosis, The Master and Margarita, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, My Name Is Red, Norwegian Wood, Bonjour Tristesse, The Summer Book… these great works of literature, written in Spanish, German, Russian, Dutch, Turkish, Japanese, French and Swedish, are as familiar to readers of English as if they had been written in English. They, along with dozens of other novels, histories, plays and poems, form the world’s literary heritage of the twentieth century. What will our heritage of the twenty-first century look like, and how will we share it?

English PEN’s Writers in Translation programme, established in 2005 with Bloomberg and supported by Arts Council England, champions the best literature from around the world. At the heart of the programme is a major translation grant, PEN Translates, which helps publishers to meet the costs of translating new works into English – whilst ensuring translators are acknowledged and paid properly for their work (two seasons of awards per year). All of our award-winning titles, writers and translators are featured on the World Bookshelf, an online collection of the very best contemporary literature in translation.

In order to help UK publishers to find new books and writers to publish in translation, we launched PEN Presents in 2015, a new initiative to encourage the acquisition of books from other countries, while supporting translators in their role as advocates for international literature (one season of grants per year).

The Writers in Translation programme’s founding grant, PEN Promotes, supported the promotion of writers in translation through public events. The latest round of support titles was announced in March 2016, and the grant is currently being redeveloped in consultation with publishers, venues and retailers. Promotion support from English PEN will return in a new form in 2017. Find out more

In addition to grants, we run campaigns and events to support the translation of literature into English. Our blog PEN Atlas showcases international writers and thinkers every Thursday, and its associated event series takes great writers and ideas to venues around the UK. We are a key partner at the London Book Fair’s Literary Translation Centre, as well as for the annual International Translation Day conference. In 2011 we published our Global Translation Initiative report in association with Free Word and Dalkey Archive Press.

English PEN is the founding centre for the worldwide PEN movement, which in 2015 adopted the Quebec Declaration on Literary Translation and Translators, a vital set of principles which all PEN centres have committed to uphold in our work.

To receive monthly Writers in Translation bulletins please subscribe to English PEN’s mailing list, remembering to tick ‘translation’ as an interest. To be kept up to date on grant application deadlines and other key information, please also tick ‘Writers in Translation announcement list’ in ‘Special lists’. If you are already subscribed to English PEN’s mailing list you can amend your subscription preferences here.

‘There are not words enough in my countless dictionaries to express my admiration for PEN’s Writers in Translation programme. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have several projects supported by the programme and know the vital role WiT plays supporting publishers, facilitating visits and organising events by foreign authors and tirelessly promoting the visibility of translators and world literature.’

Frank Wynne, award-winning literary translator

The Writers in Translation Committee is made up of writers, translators, publishers, literary journalists, scouts and agents. The current members are:

Chair: Lulu Norman (translator)

Co-chair: Sarah Ardizzone (translator)

Raficq Abdulla (writer), Alev Adil (writer), Arifa Akbar (editor and festival director), Pete Ayrton (publisher), Rebecca Carter (literary agent), Rose Cole (bookseller), Miranda France (writer, translator), Lynn Gaspard (publisher), Emma House (Publishers Association), Toby Lichtig (literary editor), Laura Macaulay (publisher), Zain Mahmood (bookseller), Jonathan Ruppin (digital publisher), Ros Schwartz (translator, Translators Association), Rebecca Servadio (literary scout), Rachel Van Riel (reader development)