For the last five years, in spite of the difficulties as a result of the economic crisis, PEN Català hasn’t stopped fighting to grow and extend its presence and influence in both the Catalan-speaking territories and around the world.
We have been present at all international gatherings, especially at the international congresses: Gyeongju (South Korea, 2012), Reykjavik (Iceland, 2013), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan 2014), Quebec (Canada, 2015) and Ourense (Galicia, 2016). We have also been present at the international conference in Lisbon (2014), at the annual Peace Committee meetings in Bled, Slovenia and at ICORN’s annual gatherings in Stockholm, Krakow, Ljubljana, Amsterdam and Paris. The Catalan Centre’s representatives have had an active and effective participation in all of these international meetings.
During this time, the Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee has revalidated its presidency, led by Josep M. Terricabras and followed by Simona Skrabec in 2014. Since the Committee’s foundation it has been particularly productive, with the approval of essential documents, such as the Girona Manifesto on Linguistic Rights (2011) and the Quebec Declaration on Literary Translation (2015). The organisation of the annual international meeting in Catalonia, over the last few years, has allowed for numerous debates on issues that are relevant to the Committee, with the presence of international delegations and experts on the different subjects at hand.
Debates on important current affairs have increased, such as the debate on human rights in the Mediterranean, the Alta Veu debate and the Deletrix exhibition on censorship, promoted by PEN Català and the photographer Joan Fontcuberta. The exhibition was exhibited in Barcelona, Valencia, at the Zentsura Festival in Bilbao and in several other European cities.
This five-year period has also been a period of creation and consolidation of awards. The first being the The PEN Català Veu Lliure Prize, giving recognition to a writer that has been a victim of prosecution and that has fought to defend his or her own voice. The initiative started in the Balearic Islands and has been awarded annually the following people: Normando Hernández (Cuba, 2010), Salem Zenia (Kabylie, 2011), Koulsy Lamko (Chad, 2012), Easterine Kire (Nagaland, 2013), Dessale Berekhet (Eritrea, 2014) and the Teachers from the Balearic Islands (2014), Ahmed Jalali Farahani (Iran, 2015) and Zeynep Oral (Turkey, 2016). For some of the prize-winners this recognition has improved the international recognition of the represented countries, especially in the case of Eritrea. In 2016, the PEN Català Literary Translation Award was also established in order to give more visibility to the indispensable task translators have in building bridges between cultures.
In order to fulfil the objective of preserving literary heritage, tributes and memorial events have also continued. We have paid tribute, and in the majority of cases the event itself has been accompanied by an album or publication, to the following people: Rosa Leveroni (2011), M. Aurèlia Capmany and Montserrat Roig (2012), Quima Jaume, Quim Soler and the centenary of Joana Raspall (2013), Francesc Candel (2014), 30 years of the novel Pedra de Tartera (2015) and Joan Oliver (2016). Furthermore, exchanges, especially amongst poets, have also been promoted and encouraged. For example, exchanges between Ukrainian and Catalan poets were promoted in 2010, as well as exchanges between Occitans and Catalans in 2014 and Croats and Catalans in 2016, with the presence of Catalan poets in the corresponding exchange countries.
The Refugee Writer Programme, led by the general secretary Raffaella Salierno, was already in operation when the world humanitarian crisis began with the arrival of refugees in Europe. This has led PEN Català to extend the network of cities of refuge in the Catalan-speaking territories. The cities of Palma and Girona have been incorporated, in addition to Barcelona, which was a pioneer in the programme. Knowing that the programme benefits both the host and the refugee authors, PEN Català has worked intensively to increase the number of cities of refuge. In recent years we have hosted the Tunisian journalist Sihem Bensdrine, Amir Alí from Egypt, Bàssem an-Nabrís from Palestine, Ugar from Syria and Irakli Kakbadze from Georgia. All of whom have had a significant presence at all kinds of cultural and literary events, such as: Catalan Book Week, the Poetry Festivals of Oliva and of the Mediterranean, the Mot Festival, Kosmòpolis, The Forbidden Book Festival of Llagostera, The Forbidden Culture Week, The International Frankfurt Book Fair and the Göteburg Fair, amongst others.
Furthermore, PEN Català has increased its task of promoting and setting up platforms in order to work more effectively. This is the case of Som Escola or Asil.cat. This has allowed us to work with similar organisations to PEN, or with organisations that have shared objectives with us. Agreements have been signed with public institutions such as the universities (Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Universitat de València, Universitat Jaume I), or with private institutions, like the College of Journalists. Events have also been co-organised with cultural centres like the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) or Arts Santa Mònica. PEN Català is one of the organisations that has always been present at events that raise awareness and that promote social debate. Our involvement in the World Refugee Day and the World Press Freedom Day has been constant.
During this intense time we have also made a great effort to have a wider social network presence by developing a new website and by being active on all platforms that help reach a new and more varied public.
Being awarded with the following recognitions, amongst others, bears testimony to PEN Català’s continued work: The United Nations Association of Spain’s XXXIV Peace Prize, the Ramon Trias Fargas Prize and Valencia’s October Entity Prize, the same year of its forty-fifth edition.
The current board, with Carme Arenas as President and Rafaella Salierno as General Secretary, is making the upmost effort to situate PEN Català amongst the most active centres in the world in order to continue the task of cultural diplomacy – the very reason our centre was created in 1922, and which commemorates its 95th anniversary this year.