Istoricul PEN Romania din 1990 pina in 2004

English

Ana Blandiana

Ana Blandiana

   În mai 1990 începeam, la Viena, unul din capitolele vietii mele care avea sa-mi absoarba multa pasiune, multa energie si foarte mult timp. Daca as fi stiut ca aceasta aventura intelectuala va dura patrusprezece ani, poate ca as fi ezitat sa accept rolul pe care colegii de la PEN International, în cadrul unei reuniuni din capitala austriaca, mi-l propuneau: acela de a reorganiza în România un Centru PEN care sa continue traditia interbelica, ilustrata prin numele unor mari scriitori, dintre care foarte putini supravietuisera perioadei comuniste. Situatia era oarecum asemanatoare în toate tarile est-europene, eliberate în 1989 din dictaturile ce paralizasera gândirea libera si obligasera pe scriitori fie la obedienta, fie la o lupta riscanta cu monopolul ideologic al partidului unic. Centrele PEN (sau „PEN Cluburile”) din aceste tari fusesera interzise la începuturile ocupatiei sovietice, iar în perioada liberalizarii post-staliniste au fost transformate, în cel mai bun caz, în institutii ornamentale, folosite în ocazii speciale doar pentru a da o aparenta democratica unor regimuri represive. Acum era timpul reactivarii acestor nuclee de gândire si constiinta libera, iar mie si colegilor mei ne revenea misiunea de a ne organiza si de a ne reintegra în organizatia mondiala, cu sediul la Londra.


Dupa o vara de consultari, dupa parcurgerea formalitatilor necesare, inclusiv înscrierea, nu lipsita de obstacole, în registrul organizatiilor neguvernamentale din România, la 11 septembrie 1990 Centrul PEN Român renastea, într-o sedinta la care participau cei mai reprezentativi scriitori români, înscrisi pe baza unei declaratii în care se declarau de acord cu Carta PEN, asa cum fusese ea formulata în 1921 de catre parintii fondatori ai organizatiei. Initiat în 1921 de un grup de scriitori englezi si francezi, International PEN (acronimul PEN semnifica „Poets – Essayists – Novelists”) a fost prima si este pâna azi singura organizatie mondiala a scriitorilor. Carta PEN, pe baza careia functioneaza, a fost alcatuita ca un act de reconciliere intelectuala între scriitorii de dincolo de toate frontierele, dupa experienta devastatoare a primului razboi mondial, care a fost o trauma pentru constiintele europene. În curând s-au înfiintat centre PEN în multe alte tari, care aderau atât organizatoric, cât si individual, prin numele prestigioase ale marilor autori ai epocii: John Galsworthy, H.G. Wells, Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, Arthur Schnitzler, Gerhardt Hauptmann, Maurice Maetherlink, Knut Hamsun, Romain Rolland, Anatole France, Benedetto Croce, Dîmitri Merejkovsky, Selma Lagerlöf, Thomas Mann, Vicente Blasco Ibanez, Rabindranath Tagore, Robert Frost… Cuprinzând treptat tot mai multe tari si toate continentele, organizatia a devenit un veritabil parlament scriitoricesc, care se preocupa de drepturile profesionale, de libertatea cuvântului si, nu în ultimul rând, de libertatea autorilor, cel mai activ dintre departamentele sale fiind comitetul „Scriitori în închisori”, preocupat de monitorizarea cazurilor de represiune din regimurile dictatoriale. În fiecare an, International PEN se întruneste într-un congres, în care sunt adoptate rezolutii, motiuni, proteste si sunt alese sau completate functiile de conducere. Dar, ca printr-o compensatie, în fiecare an au loc si fascinante festivaluri de poezie, spectacole, dezbateri teoretice. În timp ce „activistii” se preocupa de supravietuirea organizatiei, scriitorii invitati se preocupa de supravietuirea literaturii, amenintata în esenta ei de televiziune, de vulgaritatea subculturii.


PEN Clubul Român a fost creat în 1923 si a avut printre initiatori pe Liviu Rebreanu. A avut o activitate remarcabila, dupa cum se poate deduce din câteva caiete salvate de familia Cioculescu la arestarea lui Radu Cioculescu, remarcabilul traducator al lui Proust, si care detinuse multi ani functia de secretar al Centrului. Cioculescu a murit la scurt timp în închisoare, iar cei mai importanti membri ai Centrului au fost si ei arestati sau interzisi. [» Proces Verbal]
Odata cu reînfiintarea, am încercat sa facem legatura cu aceasta traditie, întrerupta în urma cu 46 ani. Unul dintre membri, dl. Barbu Cioculescu, ne-a pus la dispozitie parte din arhiva unchiului sau. Am invitat în ocazii solemne pe dl. Barbu Brezianu, remarcabilul scriitor si istoric de arta, ca si pe poetul Pan Vizirescu, fosti membri ai PEN Clubului anilor ’30. Am lansat în premiera un volum de Stefan Nenitescu, un alt membru al PEN Clubului interbelic, care a suferit si el represiunea comunista.  În martie 1994, la moartea lui Eugen Ionescu am pregatit o seara comemorativa, la care au vorbit rude, colegi de generatie si exegeti ai marelui dramaturg. In luna mai 1995 am organizat, in colaborare cu Academia Civica si Uniunea Scriitorilor o suita de manifestari aniversare, cu ocazia centenarului nasterii lui Lucian Blaga., o sesiune jubiliara la Universitatea din Cluj, un pelerinaj la cimitirul din Lancram si o seara de muzica si poezie la Conservatorul din Bucuresti. Ca un omagiu adus marii literaturi promovata de compatrioti ai nostri, am propus succesiv pentru premiul Nobel pe dramaturgul Eugen Ionesco (în 1993 si 1994), pe eseistul Emil Cioran (în 1995) si pe poetul Gellu Naum (în anul 2000). [» Propuneri Nobel]

    Anul 1990, când s-a reînfiintat la noi Centrul PEN, a fost dominat, într-o masura infinit mai mare decât cei urmatori, de o lupta intoleranta a structurilor vechi, care aparent fusesera abolite în Decembrie, cu toti cei ce întelegeau sa ia în serios libertatea platita cu vietile a peste 1100 de tineri. De aceea, înca de la început, Centrul nostru aparea ca un aparator al drepturilor si libertatilor proclamate de Charta. În momentul reînfiintarii, când oficialii practicau lupta de clasa (vezi mineriadele), iar forte oculte stimulau ura între nationalitati (vezi evenimentele de la Târgu-Mures), Centrul PEN era forta toleranta care cerea, pe deasupra pasiunilor politice, respectarea libertatii de constiinta si de opinie, opunându-se cenzurii, protestând împotriva împiedicarii circulatiei ideilor si netemându-se sa critice deschis guvernul, administratia si institutiile pentru abuzurile practicate. [»Proteste si motiuni]

    În scurt timp au aparut noi centre PEN în imediata noastra apropiere: cel de limba maghiara din România si, imediat dupa proclamarea independentei, cel din Republica Moldova. Am avut însa relatii privilegiate si cu alte centre din tarile ex-comuniste (polonez, maghiar, sloven, slovac, ceh, bulgar, macedonean, lituanian), pentru ca scriitorii care au cunoscut oprelistile represiunii s-au regasit în organizatia mondiala cu un atasament sporit în comparatie cu cei din lumea normala, de dincolo de fosta Cortina de Fier. Problemele pe care le-am discutat în cadrul celor cinci conferinte zonale organizate direct de noi, în România, precum si maniera în care i-am cointeresat pe colegii din alte zone geografice, au demonstrat o maturitate direct proportionala cu solidaritatea de destin care ne unea. Aceste conferinte zonale au fost în:


Septembrie 1995 – „Scriitorul si Puterea”, la Neptun
Iunie 1998 –  „Scriitori în închisori: între libertatea fizica si cea spirituala”, la Memorialul Sighet
Aprilie 2000 –  „Mai multe limbi, o literatura, mai multe literaturi, o limba”, la Iasi
Iulie 2001 –  „PEN cluburile europene, argumente ale viitoarei Europe unite”, la Sinaia
Iunie 2002 –  „Literatura în situatii conflictuale”, la Bucuresti
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Dintre congresele mondiale desfasurate din 1990 încoace, Centrul PEN Român a participat dupa conferintele refondatoare de la Viena si Paris (1990, 1991), la congresele de la Barcelona (1992), Dubrovnic (1993), Praga (1994), Santiago de Compostela (1995), Guadalajara Mexic (1996), Edinburg (1997), Varsovia (1999), Moscova (2000), Londra (2001), Ohrid (2002). Marea problema a fost de fiecare data aceea a gasirii sponsorilor pentru suportarea biletelor de avion. Astfel se explica faptul ca nu am putut participa la congresele foarte îndepartate din Brazilia si Australia. Am fost în schimb prezenti la conferintele regionale organizate cu regularitate în Slovenia, Macedonia si Ungaria.
Congresele desfasurate în tarile din Europa Centrala si de Est (Praga 1994, Varsovia 1999, Moscova 2000, Ohrid 2002), au fost dominate de probleme esentiale ale creatiei, sesizate de scriitori care si-au vazut recâstigat dreptul la libertate si au înteles sa lupte pentru colegii lor oprimati din alte sfere geografice, prin motiuni de protest, adresari la foruri internationale, campanii de sprijin. Un congres mondial nu este un eveniment deosebit de atractiv, delegatii fiind legati zile în sir de ordinea de zi, de dispute si votari. Dar aceste probleme tinând de coeziunea constiintei noastre profesionale ne-au facut sa ne simtim uniti si în egala masura pasionati.
Am participat la lucrarile mai tuturor comisiilor organizatiei mondiale, dar când au fost probleme speciale am fost consultati de comisia cea mai activa, „Writers in prisons”, pentru ca aceasta comisie a activat si în vremurile când România era sub dictatura si se simtea chemata sa intervina împotriva arestarilor abuzive (cum a fost cazul ziaristilor de la „România libera”, în 1989).


Când, acum câtiva ani, am facut o calatorie profesionala în Vietnam, fiind inclusa într-o delegatie a Uniunii Scriitorilor din România, m-am simtit obligata sa intervin în favoarea a 15 colegi vietnamezi aflati în închisori si care fusesera semnalati opiniei publice mondiale de o rezolutie a International PEN. Mi-am amintit atunci, vazând surpriza si nemultumirea de pe fetele activistilor culturali, care se simteau la adapost de opinia publica, o întâmplare veche de aproape o jumatate de secol si pe care o citisem într-un studiu despre relatiile româno-franceze datorat unui universitar bucurestean. Atunci, în ianuarie 1956, secretarul PEN Clubului francez, dramaturgul Jean de Beer, fusese invitat la Bucuresti pentru a conferentia la Institutul de Relatii cu Strainatatea. Abia admisa în ONU, Republica Populara se bucura de orice oaspete occidental care îi trecea frontiera. Lui Jean de Beer autoritatile îi gasisera imediat un omolog în persoana lui Victor Eftimiu, care pâna în urma cu 15 ani ocupase o functie în PEN Clubul Român. Observând ca în conferinta sa se limiteaza la generalitati, vorbind de libertatea creatiei si nu de zecile de scriitori aflati în închisori, cele mai mari somitati politice (Petru Groza, Chivu Stoica, Miron Constantinescu) l-au chemat în audienta solemna, facând din vizita sa un prilej de afisare politica. Iar Ministerul de Externe român si-a felicitat ambasadorul de la Paris pentru succesul reputat, însemnând si alte misiuni diplomatice sa-i urmeze exemplul. Singura satisfactie, de asta data a dramaturgului Jean de Beer, a fost ca, în raportul dat la rândul sau în Franta, a reprodus ca un stenograf discutiile avute cu politrucii de la Bucuresti, nu de putine ori cu ironie.


Acuitatea cu care scriitorii est-europeni privesc libertatea de constiinta a mutat pe umerii lor dezbaterea de idei în cadrul International PEN. Centrul PEN Român a fost apreciat ca unul din cele mai prestigioase în cadrul organizatiei mondiale. Asa se explica si faptul ca, în vara lui 1996, am fost propusa, printr-o rezolutie a Centrelor PEN francez si britanic sa candidez la presedintia mondiala a PEN-ului. Sprijinita evident si de colegii români, am luat parte la Congresul de la Guadalajara (Mexic), urmând ca votarea mea sa fie o simpla formalitate, caci nu aveam contracandidat si, dupa difuzarea declaratiei de intentii, conform procedurii majoritatea celor peste o suta de centre din toata lumea si-au exprimat în scris sprijinul în perioada premergatoare congresului. Dar miscarile de culise pe care le-am descoperit, legate nu de candidatura mea ci de însasi definitia organizatiei, m-au facut sa iau o hotarâre surprinzatoare. În organizatia mondiala, care initial continuse câteva tari europene (Anglia si Franta în primul rând) s-a produs o diluare considerabila, fiind acceptate între timp centre regionale si chiar reprezentând un singur oras. Câteva delegatii (în primul rând cea japoneza si cea americana) au încercat sa mute centrul de greutate din Europa, sa schimbe Carta PEN si sa obtina finalmente transformarea organizatiei de scriitori într-una de activisti culturali. În acest sens, japonezii au încercat sa mute administratia la Tokyo ceea ce a dus la demisia functionarilor londonezi. În noaptea de dinaintea votului (12 noiembrie) am hotarât sa-mi retrag în semn de protest candidatura, iar în acest fel functia ramasa a fost reocupata, la propunerea mea, pentru înca un an de fostul presedinte, dramaturgul englez Ronald Harwood. Am vrut sa arat în acest fel ca o functie nu trebuie ocupata doar pentru satisfacerea propriului orgoliu si am dat un semnal despre criza de identitate si marele pericol care pândea organizatia prin înstrainarea de scopurile sale initiale. Si, într-adevar, pucistii au pierdut pe moment partida, iar în anii urmatori n-au reusit sa-si impuna programul care ar fi dus, practic, la lichidarea International PEN, influenta lor fiind din ce în ce mai slaba. În anexa pot fi citite stenogramele câtorva interventii, începând cu a mea, din reuniunea plenara a delegatilor de la Guadalajara. [» International PEN]

   În încheierea mandatului meu, care a durat din mai 1990 pâna în mai 2004, vreau sa sper ca retragerea mea din functia de presedinte al Centrului PEN Român nu va permite nici o sincopa în activitatea acestuia si ca, prin efortul colegilor, acesta se va mentine printre cele mai active si valoroase, ca si pâna acum. Si mai sper ca acest web-site se va completa cu numeroase alte actiuni declansate de Gabriela Adamesteanu si Ioana Ieronim, pe care le-am ales azi, 12 mai 2004, prin votul majoritatii membrilor, ca presedinte si secretar al Centrului Român. Le urez succes si le promit ca voi continua sa fiu alaturi de ele si de ceilalti colegi cu care am lucrat.
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Nefiind remunerate si implicând mari cheltuieli de timp, functiile de conducere ale Centrelor PEN presupun un sacrificiu consimtit de timp si energie. Singurul venit al unui centru, care – daca vrea sa-si respecte statutul neguvernamental – nu poate apela la fonduri statale, este teoretic cotizatia membrilor, care, însa, chiar ea, nu poate acoperi cotizatia internationala, de 15 dolari/membru. Am obtinut ajutor, pentru achitarea cotizatiilor fata de trezoreria de la Londra, de la Uniunea Scriitorilor. De asemenea, pentru organizarea reuniunilor zonale am primit sponsorizari de la fundatiile germane „Hanns Seidel” (Sighet), „Konrad Adenauer” (Iasi) si „Friedrich Ebert” (Sinaia), carora le multumesc pe aceasta cale. Fundatia pentru Cultura si Drepturile Omului a fost sponsorul principal al întâlnirii despre „Literatura în situatii conflictuale” de la Bucuresti.


12 mai 2004

Ana Blandiana

 

Ana Blandiana

History of Romanian PEN Club from 1990 until 2004

In May 1990 in Wien a new chapter of my life was just about to start, and I would invest a lot of energy, passion and a great amount of time in it. If I had known that this intellectual affair would last fourteen years, maybe I would have hesitated to accept the role which my colleagues from PEN International proposed to me on the occasion of a meeting in the Austrian capital: reorganising a PEN Center in Romania to continue the interwar tradition, which was represented by the names of great writers, from which very few had survived the communist era. This situation was somewhat similar in all the East European countries, which have been freed in 1989 from the dictatorships that had paralysed the freedom of thought and had forced the writers either into obedience, either into a risky fight against the ideological monopoly of the unique party. The PEN Centers (or PEN Clubs) in those countries had been prohibited at the beginning of the Soviet occupation, and within the post-stalinist liberalisation, in the best case scenario they became decorative institutions, and they were used on special occasions only for the purpose of giving a democratic appearance to repressive regimes. It was time to reactivate those centers of freedom of thought and conscience, and the mission that my colleagues and I were assigned to fulfil was that of organising and reintegrating into the international organisation that had its headquarters in London.

After spending a whole summer consulting and fulfilling the necessary formalities, including the affiliation to the register of non-governmental organisations in Romania, a process which didn’t lack difficulties, on the 11th September 1990 the Romanian PEN Center was reborn in a meeting attended by the most representative Romanian writers that had been enlisted through a declaration in which they agreed with the PEN Charter as it had been stated by the founders of the organisation in 1921. Initiated by a group of English and French writers in 1921, PEN International (the acronym PEN stands for Poets – Essayists – Novelists) was the first and up to this day the only international writers’ organisation. It is based upon the PEN Charter, which has been conceived as an act of intellectual reconciliation between writers beyond any borders, after the devastating experience of the First World War which was traumatic for all the European consciences. Soon after that, a lot of PEN Centers were founded in many other countries, which adhered both organizationally and individually, through the well-known names of the great authors from that era: John Galsworthy, H.G. Wells, Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, Arthur Schnitzler, Gerhardt Hauptmann, Maurice Maetherlink, Knut Hamsun, Romain Rolland, Anatole France, Benedetto Croce, Dîmitri Merejkovsky, Selma Lagerlöf, Thomas Mann, Vicente Blasco Ibanez, Rabindranath Tagore, Robert Frost… While gradually adding in more and more countries from all over the world, not only European ones, the organisation became a genuine writers’ parliament, which was concerned with the professional rights, the freedom of speech, and, last but not least, the freedom of the authors. The most active department was the Writers in Prison Committee, which kept record of the cases of repression within the dictatorial regimes. Every year, PEN International members gather for a conference in which decisions, resolutions and protests are being brought about, and the board of directors is either chosen or adjusted. But, as if to compensate for this bureaucracy, annual fascinating poetry festivals, shows, and theoretical debates take place as well. While the ‘activists’ take care of the organisation’s survival, the invited writers take care of the survival of literature, which is fundamentally threatened by television and by the vulgarity of subcultures.

The Romanian PEN Club was created in 1923 and one of its founders was Liviu Rebreanu. His activity was remarkable, as can be deduced from a few notebooks which were saved by the Cioculescu Family when Radu Cioculescu, the remarcable translator of Proust and secretary of the Center for many years, was arrested. Cioculescu died shortly after that in prison, and the most important members of the Center were also arrested or forbidden. [›› Minutes ]

No sooner the organisation was restored, we tried to reconnect with this tradition that had been interrupted 46 years before. One of the members, Mr. Barbu Cioculescu, made available for us a part of his uncle’s archives. On solemn occasions, we invited Mr. Barbu Brezianu, the remarkable writer and art historian, as well as the poet Pan Vizirescu, as both of them were former members of the PEN Club in the ’30s. We launched for the first time a volume by Ștefan Nenițescu, another member of the interwar PEN Club, who also suffered from the communist repression. In March 1994, when Eugen Ionescu died, we prepared a commemorative night where the family, fellow artists and exegetes of the great playwright held speeches. In May 1995 we organised a series of celebratory manifestations on the occasion of the 100th anniversary since the birth of Lucian Blaga in collaboration with The Civic Academy and The Writers’ Union. It consisted in a jubilee session at the University of Cluj, a pilgrimage to the tomb in Lancrăm, and a musical and poetry night  at the Conservatory of Bucharest. As an omen to the great literature promoted by our compatriots, we nominated the playwright Eugen Ionesco for the Nobel prize two times in a row (in 1993 and 1994), as well as the essayist Emil Cioran (in 1995) and the poet Gellu Naum (in 2000). [›› Nobel Nominees]

The year 1990, when the PEN Center was re-established, was dominated in a much higher degree that the next ones by an intolerant battle between the old structures, which had apparently been abolished in December, and everyone who intended to take seriously the freedom which had been payed for with the deaths of over 1100 young people. That was the reason why our Center was a defender of the rights and liberties proclaimed in the Charter from the very beginning. At the moment of its refoundation, when the officials were practising the class warfare (see the mineriads), and hidden forces were nourishing the hate between nationalities (see the events from Târgu-Mureș), the PEN Center was the one tolerant force that demanded, that the freedom of conscience and opinion should be respected beyond any political passions, and it also stood against censorship and protested against the impediments in the circulation of ideas. The PEN Center was not afraid to openly criticise the government, the administration and the public institutions for their abuses. [››Protests and resolutions]

Shortly after that, more PEN Centers appeared in our close vicinity: the Center for Hungarian-speakers in Romania, and, right after the proclamation of its independence, the Center in the Moldavian Republic. We also developed privileged connections with other centers from former-communist countries (Poland, Hungaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, The Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Lithuania), because the writers who had suffered in the times of repression found each other within the worldwide organisation and their attachement to one another was stronger compared to that of the normal world beyond the Iron Curtain. The issues that we discussed during the five local conferences, which
were organised directly by ourselves in Romania, as well as the way in which we shared our interests with our colleagues from other areas, were a proof that our maturity was as great as the solidarity for the destiny which we had shared. These local conferences took place as it follows:

September 1995 – The Writer and the Authorities in Neptun

June 1998 – Writers in Prison: Between the Physical and the Spiritual Freedom at the Sziget Memorial

April 2000 – Many Languages, One Literature, Many Literatures, One Language in Iași

July 2001 – The European PEN Clubs, Reasons for a Future United Europe in Sinaia

June 2002 – Literature in Situations of Conflict in Bucharest

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After the restoring conferences in Wien and Paris (in 1990 and 1991), from all the worldwide meetings that took place since 1990, the Romanian PEN Center attended the meetings in Barcelona (1992), Dubrovnic (1993), Prague (1994), Santiago de Compostela (1995), Guadalajara Mexico (1996), Edinburgh (1997), Warsaw (1999), Moscow (2000), London (2001), and Ohrid (2002). On every occasion, the great issue was finding sponsors to pay for our plane tickets. That is the reason why we could not participate at the meetings in far away countries, such as, Brazil and Australia. Instead, we were always present at the local conferences that took place regularly in Slovenia, Macedonia, and Hungaria.

The congresses in Central and East European countries (Prague in 1994, Warsaw in 1999, Moscow in 2000, Ohrid in 2002) were dominated by the essential issues of creation as they had been brought to attention by writers who had regained their right to freedon and who figured they should fight for their oppressed colleagues from other geographic areas through protest resolutions, through addressings to international authorities, and through support campaigns. A worldwide congress is not a particularly appealing event, as the delegates spend many days being concerned with the day’s schedule, discussions and votings. But these issues have to do with the cohesion of our professional conscience, so they make us feel united and equally committed.

We participated at the works of almost every commission of the worldwide organisation, but, when special problems occurred, we were assisted by our most active commission, Writers in Prisons, as it was active in the days when Romania was under a dictatorship as well, and it always intervened when abusive arrests were made (such as the case of the journalists at the România Liberă newspaper, in 1989).

 

Several years ago, when I took a business travel to Vietnam as a delegate of the Writers’ Union of Romania, I felt obliged to intervene in favour of fifteen Vietnamese colleagues which were imprisoned and had been brought into the public attention through a resolution of PEN International. As I saw the surprise and discontentment written all over the faces of the cultural activists, who felt at ease from the public opinion, I remembered something that had happened almost half a century before, and about which I had found out from a study by a university teacher in Bucharest. It regarded the relations between the Romanians and the French. Back then, in January 1956, the secretary of the French PEN Club, the playwright Jean de Beer, had been invited to Bucharest to hold a conference at the Institute of International Relations. As it had just been admitted into the UN, the Popular Republic enjoyed the presence of every western guest that crossed its borders. The authorities had immediately found a correspondent for Jean de Beer in the person of Victor Eftimiu, who had occupied a position in the Romanian PEN Club 15 years before. He noticed that during the conference the playwright only discussed general aspects about the freedom of creation, and not a single word about the dozens of writers who were in prison was uttered; after that the greatest political authorities (Petru Groza, Chivu Stoica, Miron Constantinescu) summoned him for a solemn audience, and his visit became an occasion for political display. Then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs congratulated the ambassador in Paris for the reputable success, while also encouraging other diplomatical missions to follow his example. Jean de Beer’s only satisfaction this time was that in the report he gave in France he reproduced as precise as a stenographer what he had talked about with the communist leaders in Bucharest, on many occasions ironically.

 

The accurateness of Eastern European writers’ vision of the freedom of consciousness has placed the weight of the debate of ideas within the International PEN on their shoulders. The Romanian PEN Center was appreciated as one of the most prestigious in the whole worldwide organisation. This also explains the fact that in the summer of 1996 the French and British PEN made a resolution to nominate me as a president of PEN International. Obviously, my Romanian colleagues supported me as well. I attended the Guadalajara Congress (in Mexico), and after that my voting was only a formality, as I was the only candidate. After the statement of my intention was broadcasted, according to the procedure, the majority of the over a hundred centers worldwide confirmed their support in writing shortly before the congress took place. But the intrigues that I discovered – not related to my candidature, but regarding the definition of the organisation itself – made me take a surprising decision. The worldwide organisation, which had initially contained a few European countries (England and France in the first place), suffered from a considerable dilution, as in the meantime local centers and even centers that represented a single town were also admitted.

 

Some delegations (the Japanese and American ones in particular) tried to move the point of interest out of Europe, to change the PEN Charter, and, eventually to change the nature of the writers’ organisation into one of cultural activists. For that purpose, the Japanese tried to transfer the headquarters to Tokyo, which led to the resignation of the London clerks. The night that preceded the vote (12 November) I decided to withdraw my candidature as a sign of protest, and as a result, the function was reoccupied for another year by the former president, the English playwright Ronald Harwood on my proposal. I wanted to point out in this way the fact that a position shouldn’t be occupied only to satisfy one’s vanity, and I also wanted to signalise the identity crisis as well as the great danger that the organisation would have been in if it had been deviated from its original purposes. The plotters didn’t meet their goals at that moment, and neither did they manage to impose the programme they had thought of, which would have led to the end of the International PEN within the following years, but instead their influence became weaker every day. In the appendix you can find the stenograms of some interventions, starting with mine, which I presented on the occasion of the plenary session of the delegates in Guadalajara. [››PEN International]

At the end of my presidential mandate, which lasted from May 1990 to May 2004, I hope that my withdrawal from this position will not allow any interruptions in the activity of the Romanian PEN Center, and also that through the effort of my colleagues it will remain among the most active and valuable Centers, as it was until now. And I also hope that this website will develop through many other actions initiated by Gabriela Adameșteanu and Ioana Ieronim, whom I’ve chosen today, 12th May 2004 after having received the majority’s vote for the position of president and secretary of the Romanian PEN Center, respectively. I wish them good luck and I promise I will continue to support them and that my other colleagues that I worked with will support them too.

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The leadership functions of PEN Centers imply a great sacrifice in terms of time and energy, as they are not gainful and they require spending a lot of time. The only income of a center – if it has the purpose of  maintaining a non-governmental status and, as a consequence, it is not able to use state funds – is in theory the subscription of the members, which is not enough to pay for the international fee, which is fifteen dollars/member. I managed to get some help in order to pay the fees to the treasury in London at the Writers’ Union. I also managed to organise the local meetings with the help of German foundations through sponsorships. Among these foundations are Hanns Seidel in Sziget, Konrad Adenauer in Iași, and Friedrich Ebert in Sinaia, which on this occasion I’d like to thank for their help. The Fundation for Culture and Human Right was the main sponsor of the meeting on the theme of  Literature in situations of conflict which was held in Bucharest.

 

12th May 2004

 

Translated by Ioana Săbău