A decade after a group of writers in Paris formed the International Parliament of Writers to help exiled authors through its Cities of Asylum program, a similar nonprofit organization has been established in the U.S. The North American Network of Cities of Asylum was founded earlier this year at the International Institute of Modern Letters at the University of Nevada. Russell Banks, who is president of IPW, heads the NANCA board, which includes both previous IPW presidents, Wole Soyinka and Salman Rushdie.
Banks told PW, "NANCA's task is to try to soften the blow of exile and to help a writer find for herself or himself what they need—translators, publishers. It can't become a sinecure; there is a line of writers waiting." To participate, a city needs to provide housing and a living stipend, which can range from $50,000 to $75,000 a year. Often, foundations and local universities partner so that writers who would like to teach have an opportunity to do so. In the next few years, Banks anticipates many more writers will seek assistance. He explained, "Writers aren't being persecuted by government so much as by religious fundamentalist groups, warlords and ethnic groups."
Although Pittsburgh, Pa., which will host Chinese dissident poet Huang Xiang starting next month, is the first U.S. city to join NANCA, several other cities stepped forward earlier. In fall 2000, Las Vegas took in Sierra Leonean poet and novelist Syl Cheney-Coker; it is currently sponsoring Chinese writer and painter Er Tai Gao.
In addition to writers, U.S. publishers have gotten involved. Seven Stories Press publishes the English translation of IPW's twice-yearly journal of exile, Autodafe; Copper Canyon and Curbstone are among several presses known for their works in translation that will be assisting NANCA. And Consortium plans to include information about NANCA in its fall advertising campaign. NANCA is setting up a Web site, but information on the program is currently available at www.autodafe.org.