Each December in ALCS News, we highlight a Christmas good cause with particular resonance for writers. This year, may we suggest supporting the vital work of English PEN?

“PEN isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity”

Margaret Atwood

Every year, hundreds of writers and other literary professionals around the world are imprisoned, prosecuted, persecuted, attacked, threatened, forced into exile or even murdered as a result of their work.

English PEN is the founding centre of PEN International, a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in more than 100 countries. It campaigns to defend writers and readers in the UK and around the world whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk.

Within the UK, English PEN campaigns for freedom of speech and the promotion of literature, seeking to address issues arising in relation to border regulations, libel law, and press regulation.

Through its International Campaigns, English PEN seeks to defend and support such writers and their families, to pressurise governments where the right to freedom of expression is under attack, and to help bring about the necessary changes to make the freedom to write a reality around the world.

Visit the latest campaigns page for more information about individual writers currently at risk around the world, and find out how to get involved by sending seasonal greetings and messages of support to such writers and their families.

Here are just a couple of the initiatives you will be supporting if you choose to join English PEN.

  • PEN Translates facilitates and promotes the translation into English of published work in foreign languages of outstanding literary merit, thus introducing UK audiences to new and acclaimed authors. The award helps UK publishers to meet the costs of translating new works into English – whilst ensuring translators are acknowledged and paid properly for their work.
  • ALCS Members interested in reading more work in translation are warmly invited to subscribe to PEN Transmissions, English PEN’s online zine which features new work by emerging and established writers and translators.
  • English PEN’s residency programme supports international writers in their work by providing them with the time, space and funds to work on their own projects. Its current writers in residence are Kurdish writers, Zehra Doğan and Nurcan Baysal from the south-western province of Diyarbakir in Turkey, both of whom have been subject to persecution and censorship as a result of their work.
  • In addition to these initiatives, English PEN also holds author events throughout the year, and presents three awards to outstanding writers – the PEN Pinter Prize, the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize, and the PEN Ackerley Prize. Previous winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sir Salman Rushdie, Raif Badawi, Margaret Atwood, Roberto Saviano, Jenny Diski, Diana Athill, Alan Bennett and Sonali Deraniyagala. You can read more here.

If you’d like to support English PEN, membership costs £50 a year or £4.50 a month. You can find more information on how to join here.