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PEN Oral History Collection

The PEN Oral History Collection records precious testimonies of people associated with the history of PEN.

The collection of interviews was conducted in 2018 by Ginevra Avalle with new and old PEN members who kindly agreed to share their memories as well as their biography and personal perspective on PEN. Their recollections and views have greatly enriched the multifaceted history of PEN.

1 “The challenge is to transform this club idea into a 21st century NGO, while remaining a literary club”
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2 “Writers in prison are obviously symptoms of disease, which is the failure of democracy and tolerance”
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3 “We need to break the silence; it is the only way we have to fight for justice”
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4 “My whole family is being sent to concentration camps because I left in exile”
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5 “As a PEN Centre, we are stronger now than we ever were”
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6 “We are moving into a more troubled world and PEN needs to be stronger”
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7 “I said to God I needed 10 years where I would work day and night, and then I would be able to die”
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8 “We would like to transmit how rich our literature is”
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9 “Imagination has an enormous power if you have nothing else but that”
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10 “Tibetan people trust the truth. We want peaceful talking, not guns”
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11 “When people understand that they are responsible, they can make a difference”
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12 “During the Spanish Civil War, English PEN helped Catalan writers by sending us paper, so we could keep publishing books and journals”
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13 “They tried to kill a lawyer, but they couldn’t stop the birth of a novelist”
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14 “You cannot have a free world without free intellectual exchange”
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15 “Our will and words are free, nobody can get to it”
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16 ‘I have always known how lucky I’ve been compared to other people’
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17 Marjorie-Ann Watts’ memories of PEN
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18 “We are making an impact on local communities”
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19 “We insist on our idea of people’s rights to think in their own language, to express themselves, to have an identity”
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20 “We give all we can to let the world know that fellow writers are in peril only because they are writing a story”
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