Writers Under Siege: Voices of Freedom from Around the World

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The freedom to write is under threat today throughout the world, with more than 1,000 writers, journalists, and publishers known to be imprisoned or persecuted in more than 100 countries. Writers Under Siege bears witness to the power and danger of the pen, and to the powerful longing for the right to use it without fear. Collected here are fifty contributions by writers who have paid dearly for the privilege of writing. Some have been tortured; some have been killed. All understand the cost of speaking up and speaking out.

This book was prepared by PEN, which is both the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. It commemorates PEN’s eighty-fifth anniversary and celebrates PEN’s work by giving voice to persecuted writers from around the globe. The contributors come from more than twenty countries, from Belarus to Zimbabwe. Many are well-known in the English-speaking world, including Orhan Pamuk, from Turkey, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature; Harold Pinter, from England, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature; Aung San Suu Kyi, from Burma, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize; and Anna Politkovskaya, from Russia, the noted journalist and author who was murdered in 2006, shortly after writing the piece that appears in this collection. Other contributors are less famous, perhaps, but their contributions are no less compelling. In prose and poetry, in fiction and non-fiction, they reveal the personal consequences of war, conflict, terrorism, and authoritarianism.

While the pieces collected here differ in their settings and their subjects, all are riveting. Grouped into four sections — Prison, Death, Asylum, and The Freedom to Write — they call our attention to the fundamental humanity we share and highlight the inhumanity we can so easily condone.

Contributors include: Chris Abani, Angel Cuadra Landrove, Asiye Guzel, Augusto Ernesto Llosa Giraldo, Mamadali Makhmudov, Orhan Pamuk, Harold Pinter, Anna Politkovskaya, Aung San Suu Kyi, Thich Tue Sy, Gai Tho, and Ken Saro-Wiwa.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

The human rights/literary organization PEN has a history of working on the behalf of writers who have suffered government persecution. This book commemorating the organization's 85th anniversary represents the work of 50 writers from more than 20 countries, most of whom have been persecuted, prosecuted, imprisoned, tortured, or killed as a result of their writing. Contributors include those well known in the English-speaking world-e.g., Nobel Prize winners Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) and Harold Pinter (England); Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma)-as well as less famous figures. Their poetry, stories, letters, book excerpts, and other short pieces, which vary in style, form, and content, are gathered into four sections: "Prison," "Death," "Exile," and "The Freedom To Write." The selections make clear that many countries not ordinarily thought of as authoritarian are nevertheless not really safe for free expression. A compelling and worthwhile purchase; recommended for all libraries.
—Denise J. Johnson

From the Publisher

“A sobering look at what happens when freedom of speech completely disintegrates.”
-Feminist Review


“Some of the prose is sparse, testifying to the economy of writers hurried by the threat of discovery; other pieces are rich with the care of dazzling minds left with no company but words.”
-Utne Reader


“The selections make clear that many countries not ordinarily thought of as authoritarian are nevertheless not really safe for free expression. A compelling and worthwhile purchase; recommended for all libraries.”
-Library Journal


“PEN acts as the voice and conscience of everyone who cares about literature. In telling their stories, the incredible writers in this collection uncover some of the world's darker corners. This extraordinary book shows us once again why literature matters.”
-Antonia Fraser,author of Marie Antoinette: The Journey

“A compendium of documents attesting to the brutal reality of state censorship around hte world and hte valiant efforts of many journalists, novelists, poets and playwrights to combat it.”
-Jonathan Brent,Springer Science and Business Media

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814767436
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2007
  • Series: Pen Anthology Ser.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 275
  • Product dimensions: 6.62 (w) x 7.74 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Lucy Popescu has worked with PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee for more than fifteen years. She writes a regular column for Literary Review.

Carole Seymour-Jones is Chair of PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee. She is the author of Painted Shadow: The Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T.S. Eliot.

Tom Stoppard is a playwright. Among his many plays are Arcadia and The Real Thing.

Tom Stoppard is a playwright. Among his many plays are Arcadia and The Real Thing.

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