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PEN International

International P.E.N. is the foremost international organization of writers. It was launched in London in 1921 as a private peace-through-literature initiative, in a way anticipating UNESCO's universal vocation. A British novelist, Mrs. C.A. Dawson Scott, founded the first P.E.N Club in London. John Galsworthy became International P.E.N's first President.

The acronym P.E.N. refers to poets, essayists and novelists, but the organization embraces non-fiction authors, historians, lawyers, editors, translators and others engaged in the dissemination of all kinds of literature. The acronym also stands for that writing instrument, potentially more powerful than the sword (Cervantes/Richelieu).

At the end of the First World War, intellectuals and writers were convinced that the “war to end all wars” had been a colossal calamity, and a thoroughly avoidable conflagration. Henceforth it should be a high priority of writers to endeavor to build bridges among nations and peoples, in order to help prevent future wars through better understanding of our common values and interests, through open dialogue over our differences and through sincere efforts to settle potential sources of conflict. Indeed, if we know each other’s literature, we would be less afraid of our neighbors, because we would recognize our very own yearnings and feelings in their novels and poetry. Thus, we should make words -- instead of war.

Remember the commonalities between the German Erich Maria Remarque in his touching novel “All quiet in the Western Front” and the poetic forebodings of the British soldier Wilfred Owen in his
Anthem for Doomed Youth (1917)

What passing bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in the eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

The First World War, in which some 9 million Europeans lost their lives, would yet be followed by the Second World War, even more frightful than the first, claiming some 50 million lives. How many artists lost their lives in those wars, how many were silenced by the traumata?

The objectives of P.E.N. are: a) To promote intellectual co-operation and understanding among writers; b) To create a world community of writers that would emphasize the central role of literature in the development of world culture; and, c) To defend literature against the many threats to its survival which the modern world poses.

As of January 2009, P.E.N. encompasses 148 Centres in 104 countries on six continents - with a total membership of more than 10,000. International PEN has many sub-committees, including a Writers for Peace Committee (Chair: Edvard Kovac), a Women Writers Committee (Chair: Judith Buckrich) and a Writers in Prison Committee (Chair: Karin Clark). It holds yearly Congresses in cities throughout the world. In November 2003 the 69th Congress took place in Mexico City, under the Presidency of Homero Aridjis (Mexico). In September 2004 the 70th Congress took place in Tromsö, Norway, under the newly elected International PEN President Dr. Jiri Grusa (Czech Republic), the 71st Congress took place in Bled, Slovenia, in June 2005, the 72nd Congress in Berlin, Germany, in May 2006. The 73rd Congress was held 4-11 July 2007 in Dakar, Senegal, where the World Education Forum took place in 2000. The 74th Congress was held in Bogota Colombia in September 2008. The 75th Congress was held in Linz, Austria, in October 2009. The Canadian John Ralston Saul was elected president for the coming 3 years.

At the Berlin Congress from 22 to 28 May, Gunther Grass, the Nobel laureate for literature, delivered a most thought-provoking opening speech, making the link between writers and peace, from Aristophanes during the Peloponnesian war to Andreas Gryphius during the Thirty Years War, to Harold Pinter during the Iraq and other on-going armed conflicts of today.

At the Dakar Congress Eugene Schoulgin was elected new Secretary-General of
PEN International. Eric Lax was elected Treasurer. The four new members of the executive committee are Kristin T, Schnider of the Deutschweizer Zentrum, Haroon Siddiqui of PEN Canada, Mike Butscher of PEN Sierra Leone, and Hori Takeaki of PEN Japan.

There are three P.E.N. Centres in Switzerland, one for the German-speaking, one for the French-speaking, and one for the Italian-speaking writers. P.E.N. Suisse romande entertains close relations with the other two Swiss Centres, the Deutschschweizer P.E.N. Zentrum and the Centro P.E.N. della Svizzera italiana e retoromancia. In 2005 the three P.E.N. Centres in Switzerland signed an agreement so as to coordinate nationwide activities, such as participation in the Geneva book fair and in conferences on behalf of writers in prison. The Presidency of the new coordinating committee rotates. First president was Kristin Schnider of the Swiss-German PEN, current president is Alfred de Zayas/Mousse Boulanger of the Suisse romand Centre. Next president will be Franca Tiberto of the Swiss-Italian Centre.

P.E.N. Centre Suisse romande was founded in 1949 by an essayist and critic from Neuchâtel, Jacques-Edouard Chable,

Neuchâtelois d'origine, Jacques-Edouard Chable naît le 7 mai 1903. Longtemps journaliste à La Suisse libérale, il devient également directeur du Service de presse suisse.
Jacques-Edouard Chable aborde l'écriture dans des genres comme le roman policier ou des récits de voyages. Il vit tout d'abord à Pully puis décède à Aigle en 1965.
SOURCES: A. Nicollier et H.-C. Dahlem, Dictionnaire des écrivains suisses d'expression française, vol. 1 p. 167-169. [bs/2004/04/26]
At the Lundi des Mots on 29 March 2010 in Neuchatel, our Vice-President Jacques Herman presented a fine lecture on the history of PEN Centre Suisse romand.

The Club welcomes all French-speaking writers residing in Switzerland, most members coming from Geneva, Nyon, Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux, Aigle, Leysin, Martigny, Sion, Sierre, Fribourg, Morat, Neuchâtel, La Chaux de Fonds, Delemont, Yverdon, but, of course, some reside in the frontier regions of Gex, Ferney-Voltaire and even Thonon-les-Bains. On 11 March 2006, the General Assembly of our Centre elected me as its new President for a term of three years, thus following in the distinguished footsteps of the admirable Geneva poet Vahe Godel, the novelist and philosopher Fawzia Assaad, the poet and editor Alexis Koutchoumow, the television commentator Jean-Pierre Moulin and the great Denis de Rougemont.


Our Centre entertains synergies with many other organizations which promote the right to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of research, access to information including internet. We are active in the Club de la Presse in Geneva, the Geneva Writers Group, the Societé des Ecrivains de Genève and the Société Vaudoise des Ecrivains. We have organized panels at the United Nations together with the Union Internationale des Editeurs. Our Rapporteur for human rights is our former President, Fawzia Assaad, a well known face at the Palais des Nations, who for years spoke on behalf of P.E.N. at the Commission on Human Rights and now represents us at the Human Rights Council. Our Centre regularly conducts poetry readings and other literary events together with the United Nations Society of Writers and its literary journal “Ex Tempore”. In September 2007 our Centre published the first issue of a new literary journal "Les Pages Littéraires". A second volume appeared in March 2009.

P.E.N. Charter as amended at the 69th Congress in Mexico City, November 2003

La Charte de Lugano P.E.N. INTERNATIONAL, Lugano, Suisse, mai 1987

Lugano Conference, October 2002

Il Caos Creativo : In Letteratura, destra e sinistra sono categorie?
Address to PEN Centro della Svizzera Italiana et retoromancia, Lugano, 18-19 October 2002, published in CENOBIO Rivista trimestrale di cultura della Svizzera Italiana, Anno LIII. Aprile-Giugno 2004, pp. 119-125)

Officers of Centre Suisse Romande

March 2013-

President: Alfred de Zayas
Executive Committee:
Secretary-General: Zeki Ergas
Vice-Presidents: Hoang Nguyen , Glorice Weinstein
Treasurer: Jacques Herman
Maria Zaki, Clara Francheschetti

Rapporteur for Human Rights Fawzia Assaad

At the 2009 General Assembly held on 4 April 2009 in Geneva elections were held. After three happy years as President, during which we launched the new "Pages littéraires" and created the literary award Prix Denis de Rougemont, I decided not to extend my mandate; however, I was retained in the executive committe as treasurer -- no one ever wants this function. Mousse Boulanger, a great author and poet, was elected President. At the 2010 General Assembly held on 28 April in Lausanne, a new President was elected, Claude Krul Attinger. At the 2013 General Assembly held on 16 March in Lausanne, I was again elected President to succeed Claude Krul.

I have the great satisfaction of having followed as president the outstanding Swiss poet Vahe Godel, the excellent novelist Fawzia Assaad,the inspired author and editor Alexis Koutchoumow and the brilliant translator Claude Krul.

28 April 2010 -- opening of the 24th Salon du Livre in Geneva. We have two P.E.N. stands -- one for P.E.N. international and one for our Swiss-French Centre. I exhibited the new issue of Esoteric, the literary journal of the University of British Columbia, which published my poem Skiing in honour of the Whistler Olympics.

A bunch of happy authors at the Geneva bookfair: from left to right: Glorice Weinsein,
Mme Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo, Zeki Ergas, Claude Krul, AdeZ, Jacques Herman, Fanny Mouchet.


Résolution sur le conflit en Irak/mars 2003
(Adopted 31 March 2003)



Le samedi 11 juin 2005 l'organisation Millennium Solidarité -- associée avec l'action mondiale contre la pauvreté a tenu une manifestation dans le cadre du premier "white band day". Etudiants de l'Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, Université de Genève, Geneva School of Diplomacy, ainsi que plusieurs membres du PEN International Centre Suisse romande ont fait le parcours depuis le jardin anglais, Quai Wilson jusqu'à la Place des Nations, entre autres Alexis Koutchoumow, Zeki Ergas, Roger Chanez -- Sur la photo publiée dans les journaux de Geneve moi même accompagné de Fawzia Assaad, devant le Palais des Nations, siège des Nations Unies à Genève. White Band Day "make poverty history" was celebrated worldwide on Saturday 2 July 2005. 200.000 marched in Edinburgh during the G-8 meeting. Geneva was first! White Band events are being held worldwide in support of the Millenium Goals in preparation of the millenium plus 5 summit at the United Nations in September 2005.
PEN entertains synergies with the Société génévoise des Ecrivains, with the United Nations Society of Writers, with the Geneva Writers Group, etc.


7 October 2010


Mario Vargas Llosa was named as this year’s Nobel literature laureate at a ceremony today in Sweden.  Vargas Llosa has been an active member of PEN for many years and served as the organisation’s International President from 1976-79.  

‘Mario Vargas Llosa has consistently demonstrated his commitment to literature and the cause of free expression, both through his writing and his political work,’ comments incumbent PEN International President John Ralston Saul. ‘He has been one of the determining leaders of PEN and I am delighted, as current PEN President and a friend, that he has been honoured with this award.’

Vargas Llosa has previously said that ‘In times of division between countries, PEN is one of the rare institutions to keep a bridge constantly open.’

Born in 1936 in Peru, Vargas Llosa is the author of nearly 30 works of fiction, non-fiction and drama, and several of his novels have been adapted into films.  He is the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel Literature Prize since Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982. 

The board, members and staff of PEN International congratulate Mario Vargas Llosa on this fitting acknowledgement of his lifetime contribution to literature.

PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, its global community of writers now spans more than 100 countries. PEN programmes, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers wherever they are in the world.

Hoang Nguyen's letter of 18 November 2010 in the Tribune de Genève:

Cinquante Ans pour la Liberté d’Expression

En 2010, le Comité des écrivains en prison du PEN International célèbre ses 50 ans d’activités pour défendre la liberté d'expression avec la campagne ‘’Parce que les écrivains disent ce qu'ils pensent’’. Ses membres organisent des manifestations, expositions et campagnes pour marquer cet événement. Et le 15 novembre 2010, la traditionnelle Journée mondiale pour l’Ecrivain en prison se déroulera sous le signe de solidarité envers tous les écrivains et journalistes persécutés. Ils ont été agressés, torturés, emprisonnés, déportés ou même assassinés ou contraints à l’exil à cause de leurs écrits ou leurs opinions. Le Comité a recensé plusieurs centaines de cas d’attaques sur les écrivains et journalistes pendant les 12 derniers mois. Plus de 200 d’entre eux croupissent dans les geôles. Quarante et un écrivains et journalistes ont été tués, assassinés ou portés disparus. Cette année, PEN International porte son regard sur 5 situations  représentatives de la répression sans frontières: Hossein Derakhshan en Iran, Robert Mintya en Cameroun, José Bladimir Antuna García en Mexique (assassiné en November 2009); Tal Al-Mallouhi en Syrie et Dilmurod Saidov en Ouzbékistan.

En septembre dernier, le Congrès du PEN International à Tokyo, au Japon, avait condamné la répression et les menaces à l’encontre des écrivains, journalistes et défenseurs des droits humains en Chine, au Tibet, en Xinjiang, en Mongolie intérieure, au Cuba, en Iran, au Mexique, en Russie, en Tunisie, au Sri Lanka, au Népal, en Turquie, au Venezuela, en Erythrée, en Honduras, en Afrique du Sud et au Viet Nam. Ce dernier Etat est, en fait, le plus répressif de tous les membres indignes de la Francophonie envers la liberté d’expression et de la presse. Au Viet Nam, plusieurs écrivains, journalistes, blogueurs, avocats et défenseurs des droits humains ont été condamnés à de lourdes peines de prison (2 à 16 ans). La plupart de ces prisonniers sont en très mauvaise santé.

Nguyên Hoàng Bao Viêt, Membre du Comité des écrivains en prison du Centre PEN Suisse Romand et du Centre des écrivains vietnamiens en exil (CEVEX).


See article in DIVA International, October 2006.

Photo gallery from Pen Club events (for more photos click here):


Pinar Senek, Mousse Boulanger, Susanne Scholl, Alfred de Zayas at our Writers in Prison conference held at the Club de la Presse on 13 November 2009.

PEN Meeting at Barcelona Forum (May 2004)

Alfred de Zayas, Secretary general of the Pen Suisse Romande with Ambassador Dr. phil. Jiri Grusa, President of the International Pen Club

Café littéraire Geneva (30 April 2004)

Former President of the PEN Suisse romande, Jean Pierre Moulin and PEN membre Etienne Barillier during the Cafe litteraire of 30 April 2004 discussing Moulin's new book on "La Chanson"

Writers in Prison Day 2010. With M. Deo Namujimbo, a Congolese journalist for Reporters sans frontiers, the agence de presse Syfia Grands Lacs and InfoSud Suisse

PEN General Assembly

The late Sir Peter Ustinov addressing the General Assembly of PEN Centre Suisse Romande, Geneva, 31 March 2003

PEN meeting

Left to right: Vahe Godel, Roger Prevel, Alexis Koutchoumow, Roger Chanez and Hoang Nguyen at a poetry afternoon at Alfred's (December 2002)

PEN General Assembly

Prof. Harro von Senger giving the keynote address to the General Assembly of the PEN Centre Suisse Romande, March 2004

PEN Stand at the Salon du Livre, Geneva 2002

Left to right: Hoang Nguyen, Fawzia Assaad, Alexis Koutchoumow, Alfred de Zayas at the Stand (April 2002)

Ex Tempore Evening

Martin Andrysek reads Czech poetry at an Ex Tempore evening (February 2003)

PEN Stand at the Salon du Livre, Geneva 2004

Left to right: PEN Centre President Vahe Godel, former Secretary-General Juliette Monin Hornung, editor, former President Jean Pierre Moulin. (30 April 2004)

Pen Stand Salon 2004, Geneva 2004
Fawzia Assaad chats with visitors about her new novel Ahlam et les Ebouers du Caire

Stand of the Société génévoise des Ecrivains at the Geneva Book Fair, May 2008

Fanny Mouchet, Secrétaire-Générale of the Société genevoise des Ecrivains and member of the Committee of P.E:N. Swiss romande at the bookfair on 2 May.


Darwish memorial lecture on 5 October 2008

Abdel Wahad Hani recites in Arabic
poems by Mahmoud Darwish


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