The Slovenia Times

Writers looking for ways to overcome conflicts

Culture
Books. Photo: An┼że Malovrh/STA

Slovenia is hosting the 56th PEN International Writers' Meeting in what is an opportunity to foster dialogue between different opinions and discuss armed conflicts raging worldwide, including the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, and the impact of natural disasters on human rights. Most of the events will take place in Ljubljana and Bled.

This year's main guest is Pakistani author and human rights activist Tahira Abdullah, who will be joined by many others, including Ukrainian author Kateryna Kalytko and Kenyan author and activist Maximilia Muninzwa.

A strong supporter of women's rights, Abdullah will discuss the human rights and environmental situation in Pakistan and the wider region in Ljubljana's Town Hall on 18 April.

Held at the Trubar House of Literature in Ljubljana, the opening event on 15 April will feature Chilean poet German Rojas, chair of PEN International's Writers for Peace Committee, while the opening ceremony will take place in lakeside resort Bled a day later.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the start of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorial reign. Having been imprisoned, tortured and forced into exile, Rojas was one of the many victims of this regime, noted Tanja Tuma, head of PEN Slovenia and board member of PEN International.

Since Rojas took over as the committee's chair in 2022, the focus has shifted to include the Global South, she told the Slovenian Press Agency, adding that previously the committee had been quite Eurocentric, having been chaired mostly by Europeans.

General Assembly to draft resolution on Gaza

Around 60 participants are expected to attend the annual meeting in person, and an additional 20 will take part online. One of the reasons for virtual appearances may be the need to protect participants who are in hiding or in any other way indisposed to attend in person. A guarantee for extra protection for those at risk of persecution is the fact that the committee's General Assembly is held behind closed doors.

Taking place on 16 April, this year's General Assembly will meet to draft a resolution on Gaza for the 90th PEN International Congress, which is to be held in Oxford in autumn. The debate will also revolve around the war in Ukraine.

Noting the persecution or killings of many authors in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, Tuma said the aim of PEN was not only to safeguard freedom of speech and promote literature but also to protect authors themselves. Moreover, by promoting literature it also promotes empathy and hence anti-war efforts.

PEN Slovenia recently called on the government to recognise Palestine, and the response has been good, according to Tuma.

Organised by PEN Slovenia in cooperation with PEN International, the annual meeting will also feature two roundtable discussions that will be held in Bled on 17 April to spotlight the impact of natural disasters on peacebuilding efforts and multiculturalism and dialogue in Balkan literature. The discussion about the situation in the Balkans will highlight issues such as hate speech and persecution of authors in the region.

As has been tradition in the past decade, the annual meeting will be accompanied by the Faces of Peace festival, whose 2024 iteration will be run by PEN Youth, a newly-founded committee of PEN Slovenia promoting equal inclusion of young authors in the Slovenian literary scene.

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