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2018 Pune: Experiments with Truth

PEN Congress Pune, India

The 84th PEN International Congress in Pune in figures and facts:

  • 200 participants
  • 79 PEN centres
  • 62 countries
  • 51 % women
  • 49 % men
  • 28 resolutions were adopted
  • 180 trees were planted by the delegates from around the world
  • A team of 7 people organised the Congress
  • 41 people volunteered during the week of the Congress
  • About 6000 people attended ‘Bhasha Wari’, a procession in which the words ‘Truth, Freedom, Diversity’ were presented in 6,000 languages
  • About 20 cultural and educational institutions were visited

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Experiments with Truth: Freedom, Truth, Diversity

The 84th PEN International Congress closed on 29 September 2018 in Pune, India with a focus on the critical situation for freedom of expression in India, the representation and voices of women in literature and the life and legacy of Mohandas Gandhi and his wife Kasturba. More than 400 writers from over 80 countries gathered in Pune for the annual PEN Congress, for a week of debates, literary events and workshops.

Congress programme 

PEN delegates participated in various activities arranged in tribute to Mohandas Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi, and in celebration of languages across the globe. PEN International President Jennifer Clement and Executive Director Carles Torner joined local celebrations of Ganesh at the Balgandharva Rangmandir Art Gallery with a visit to an exhibition on Indian scripts and crafts, and dozens of delegates visited the Aga Khan Palace in Pune to take part in flower laying and a silent prayer. The PEN VIDA Count was announced as a new collaboration between PEN International and VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. The project aims to monitor disparities in literature through PEN Centres across the globe. The VIDA count highlights imbalances in publishing by collecting data across genre book reviews.

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Delegates planted 180 trees at Savitribai Phule Pune University as part of the Global Language Park, celebrating the thousands of languages spoken around the world. The finished exhibition will be called Bhasha Van, meaning 'walkway of trees'. In celebration of global languages, delegates joined local students on a public wari travelling three kilometres over three hours. PEN International board members Ma Thida and Burhan Sonmez gave speeches on their experiences in prison at Pune's Balgandharva Rangmandir, and PEN International Vice President Eugene Schoulgin described his many visits to imprisoned writers. A screening was held of The Trial: The State of Russia vs. Oleg Sentsov, documenting the irregularities in the unjust trial of imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov.

Three new Vice Presidents were chosen for literary merit; Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, nominated by Catalan PEN, PEN Uganda and PEN Mali; Perumal Murugan, nominated by Catalan PEN, PEN South India and PEN Delhi; Nayantara Sahgal, nominated by PEN South India, PEN Delhi and San Miguel PEN Centre. Five new PEN Centres were announced: PEN Iraq, PEN Perth, PEN Moscow, PEN Cape Verde and PEN Guinea-Bisseau.

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Click here to access the PEN International Post Congress Report.