What is PEN Ukraine? 10 FAQ

1. What does “PEN” mean?

“PEN” is an abbreviation from “poets”, “playwrights”, “essayists” and “novelists”.

2. What is the primary goal of PEN?

International PEN Club was founded in 1921 in London at the initiative of writers John Galsworthy and Catherine Amy Dawson Scott. Mr. Galsworthy became the organization’s first President; other members were Herbert Wells, Bernard Shaw and Joseph Conrad.

PEN has become one of the first international human rights organizations and the first international writers’ association. The key values of PEN are listed in the Charter ratified in 1948. PEN opposes any form of discrimination and suppression of freedom of speech, promotes understanding between nations and protects cultural heritage of humanity.

In ХХІ century PEN centres stopped using the word “club”, which denotes the closed nature of the organization. Thus, today it is correct to say PEN International and PEN Ukraine.

3. What is the structure of PEN in the world?

Today, there are 146 national PEN centres worldwide. The headquarters of PEN International coordinating and consulting other centres is located in London. The world’s largest PEN centre is American, which unites 7200 members.

National PEN centres prioritize their activity according to cultural and political situations in their countries.

Every autumn, PEN International organizes PEN Congress in one of the network countries, where directors and members of other national PEN centres come together to reelect international governance and adopt PEN human rights resolutions. In 2017, International PEN Congress was for the first time held in Ukraine (Lviv); India (Pune) organized the Congress in 2018. This year, PEN Congress participants will be hosted in the Philippines.

4. How long PEN exists in Ukraine?

PEN Ukraine was established in 1989 and admitted to PEN International in the spring of 1990. The first President of PEN Ukraine was Mykola Vinhranovskyi (1989–1993); then Ukrainian PEN was chaired by Yevhen Sverstiuk (1993–2010). In 2010, following the election of a human rights defender and publicist Myroslav Marynovych, PEN Ukraine started carrying out systematic literary and human rights activity in Ukraine and abroad. In 2014, Mykola Riabchuk was elected; since December 2018, Andrii Kurkov has been PEN Ukraine’s President.

5. Who can be a member of PEN Ukraine?

Since its establishment when PEN was only for writers, the range of potential members has expanded. Main criteria to join PEN are:

– to share the organization’s values listed in its Charter;

– to have a will to promote development of literature and protect the freedom of speech in Ukraine and the world.

Thus, today PEN Ukraine unites not only writers, but human rights defenders, translators, journalists, humanities scholars, publishers and cultural messengers – 93 members total.

6. How to join PEN Ukraine?

According to the Statute of PEN Ukraine, a decision on accession of new members is endowed upon the Executive Board, which offers potential members to join the organization. Following this invitation, each new member must submit two recommendation letters from full members of PEN Ukraine.
You can submit an intention to join PEN to ukraine.pen@gmail.com, attaching your bio- and bibliography.

7. What does PEN Ukraine do?

First of all, PEN Ukraine is focused on protection of freedom of speech and authors’ rights, promotion of literature development and international cultural cooperation. PEN Ukraine organizes human rights campaigns, initiates writing of open letters and statements pertaining to authors’ rights and freedoms violations. Besides, PEN Ukraine has established its own awards: Yurii Sheveliov Prize for the best book of essayistic and Vasyl Stus Prize for a notable contribution to Ukrainian culture and endurance of public stance. Moreover, PEN has launched the Kharkiv Literary Residency, Discussion PEN Club, and organizes an annual regional conference of Central and Eastern European PEN centres.

8. Does PEN Ukraine publish and translate books?

No, PEN Ukraine does not publish or translate books. However, PEN supports translation activity and organizes translation projects. In particular, in 2018 PEN Ukraine Translation Fund Grants Program jointly with the International Renaissance Foundation announced mini grants to support translation of Oleg Sentsov’s book of stories into English, German and Polish. Although PEN Ukraine does not publish books independently, it provides an inscription Library of PEN Ukraine to editions published with its organizational and / or curatorial support.

9. Who finances PEN Ukraine?

PEN Ukraine is a non-profit organization, which operates at the expense of donations from its members and support of individual donors and grant-makers.

10. How is PEN Ukraine different from other professional literary associations?

The most important factor in joining PEN is a statement where a potential member pledges to keep to the principles of the PEN Charter – not an amount of published books or even recommendations from colleagues. Being a member of PEN imposes an obligation to do everything for literature development, oppose all forms of discrimination against freedom of speech and expression in Ukraine and the world. The key question at PEN is “What can I do for others?” not “What PEN can do for me?” Therefore, unlike the rest of professional organizations, the foundation of PEN is in shared values, above all.

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