The weekend of April 24, 2015, six respected PEN members withdrew from the PEN Literary Gala as table hosts in protest of PEN’s decision to award the 2015 PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. No one expected or could have predicted the massive, national and international, rational (and sometimes not so rational) public discourse that ensued. PEN issued a statement on Sunday, April 26, soon after being contacted by several media outlets about the award, the decision to honor Charlie Hebdo, and the writers who withdrew from the annual gala. In the ensuing days and weeks, nearly 200 stories were written and published in all manner of publications, from the mainstream press to the literary blogosphere. We’ve included links to several of those publications below to represent the larger themes and key moments of the public discussion. Our takeaway from the ongoing discourse is that PEN—as an organization of writers, editors, translators, and publishing professionals committed to defending freedom of expression—and the free and open exchange of ideas are alive and well. Writers and artists play a vital role in shaping global conversations about creative freedom, civil and human rights, race, and ethics. We encourage you to keep talking, keep writing, and keep these important social conversations alive. We’ll continue to listen.
Six PEN members decline gala after award for Charlie Hebdo
By Jennifer Schuessler
The New York Times, 4/26/15
Charlie Hebdo Deserves Praise, But Not At All Costs
The Globe and Mail, 4/27/15
Charlie Hebdo: As ‘PEN Award 6′ Withdraw, Post-attack Legacy Is Still Being Drawn
The Washington Post, 4/27/15
I Admire Charlie Hebdo’s Courage. But It Does Not Deserve a PEN Award
The Guardian, 4/28/15
Why I Won’t Be Attending the PEN Galapalooza
Vanity Fair, 4/28/15
How and Why 35 Writers Denounced PEN Over Charlie Hebdo
PEN Has Every Right to Honor Charlie Hebdo
The New Yorker, 4/30/15
Why We’re Honoring Charlie Hebdo
Suzanne Nossel and Andrew Solomon (opinion)
The New York Times, 5/1/15
Gaiman, Bechdel Among New Table Hosts at PEN Gala
Associated Press, 05/03/15
Charlie Hebdo Editors Get Standing Ovation at PEN Gala
The Guardian, 05/06/15
Read transcripts and see video from the presentation of the award here.
In keeping with the true spirit of PEN’s mission to defend and promote the free and open exchange of ideas, we created this page as an open forum where PEN members and supporters can freely express their opinions regarding the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award given this year to Charlie Hebdo.
We are grateful for the level of interest shown in this discussion, and we are reading every word. We appreciate the reasoned, respectful tenor of the conversation, and invite everyone to participate.
PEN will not remove or alter any user-posted comments on this page, except those that directly threaten or aim to incite violence or are otherwise not protected by U.S. law. The statements on this page belong to the individuals who post them and do not represent the position of PEN American Center, its members, or its affiliate.