A dinner at the Ritz hotel in Barcelona with the poet Josep Maria López-Picó, the poet and translator Josep Maria Millàs-Raurell, the philosopher Joan Crexells, the writer and historian Josep Maria Batista i Roca, and it seems that the English writer John Langdon -Davies There, barely half a year after the original PEN Club in London, they founded PEN Català. They were the third, after England and France.
In the beginning, it was already an association of writers and publishers (PEN, in addition to the word that designates the writing pen, is the acronym for poets, publishers and essayists and novelists) who defended freedom of expression, the free circulation of ideas and a literature without borders.
Since yesterday, an exhibition at the Palau Robert in Barcelona documents the history of this institution until now. Manifestos, photographs, letters, the posters for the international day of the persecuted writer (Tàpies, Miró, Valldosera, Plensa... until this year's, by Albert Serra).
The integration of PEN Català in the international structure was immediate, because the organization is structured by cultures and not by states. This fact helped her stay during the Franco dictatorship, with the board in exile, from where she continued denouncing the repression. In fact, a group of these exiles fled in January 1939 from Palau Robert itself, where the Ministry of Culture was then, in a bookmobile. They were, among others, Francesc Trabal, Joan Oliver, Mercè Rodoreda, Armand Obiols and Cèsar August Jordana, and along the way they picked up Pompeu Fabra.
Today, chaired since June by Laura Huerga and with some four hundred members, the challenges are partly the same, but two issues have been added to which the new board wants to highlight: the climate emergency ("without material conditions one cannot defend freedom of expression”, says Huerga) and the threat of new forms of cultural consumption against linguistic rights. Huerga adds that they want to attract younger members because they are issues that challenge them. The president herself assures that although sometimes it seems that the past was harder, she is very concerned about the rise of the extreme right, and she even assures that in some aspects "we are much worse than two decades ago." "But I'm optimistic, and I think we'll make it."
Catalan version, here