For the last five years, in spite of the difficulties as a result of the economic crisis, PEN Català has not 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, in particular 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 PEN Centre’s representatives have participated actively and effectively in all of these international meetings.
During this time the Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee has corroborated its presidency, led by Josep M. Terricabras and followed by Simona Skrabec in 2014. This presidency 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 shown 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 PEN Català Veu Lliure Prize, giving recognition to a writer who has been a victim of persecution and fought to defend his or her own voice. The initiative started in the Balearic Islands and has been awarded annually to 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 countries they represent, 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 vital role which translators play 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 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), and in the majority of cases the event has been accompanied by the production of an album or publication. Furthermore, exchanges, especially amongst poets, have been promoted and encouraged with an exchange between Ukrainian and Catalan poets in 2010, as well as between Occitans and Catalans in 2014 and Croats and Catalans in 2016. In all of these cases, the exchange has been accompanied by the presence of Catalan poets in the corresponding exchange countries.
The Writers In Refuge 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 arduusly 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 a variety 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 expanded upon its mission to promote and set up platforms in order to work more effectively. This is the case with Som Escola or Asil.cat. This has allowed us to work with similar organisations to PEN or with organisations with whom we share objectives. Agreements have been signed with public institutions such as 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 an organisation that has always been present at events that raise awareness and promote social debate and we have had a consistent involvement in World Refugee Day and World Press Freedom Day.
During this intense time we have also made a great effort to increase our social media presence by developing a new website and by being active on all platforms which help us to reach a new and more varied audience. Receiving the following awards, 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 the 45th edition of Valencia’s October Entity Prize.
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. This is the very reason our centre, which commemorates its 95th anniversary this year, was created in 1922.