cover image PEN: An Illustrated History

PEN: An Illustrated History

Edited by Carles Torner and Jan Martens. Interlink, $59.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62371-902-9

Poet Torner (Babel’s Arch) and publisher Martens curate a comprehensive and lavishly illustrated history of the literary organization PEN International to mark its 100th anniversary. Contributors trace the association’s evolution from its founding in London in 1921 by poet Catharine Amy Dawson Scott as a “dinner-club” where “well-known writers of both sexes can meet socially” to the “major shift in [its] thinking” that occurred in 1933, when president H.G. Wells invited exiled German writer Ernst Toller to “speak about the realities of Nazi rule” and PEN’s German chapter was expelled for “excluding members on political grounds.” In 1937, PEN launched its “first successful campaign on behalf of a writer in prison,” helping to free Arthur Koestler from a Spanish jail. In recent years, PEN has worked to repeal overly broad defamation laws in Africa, protested the kidnapping and imprisonment of Hong Kong publisher Gui Minhai by Chinese authorities, and campaigned on behalf of Iraqi translators who have worked with the U.S. military and aid groups. Enriched by a wealth of archival material, including the dinner menu from the first meeting, texts of important speeches, and artwork from PEN conferences and publications, this is a fitting tribute to a crucial defender of the freedom of expression. Illus. (Oct.)