The PEN World series showcases the important work of the more than 140 centers that form PEN International. Each PEN center sets its own priorities, but they are united by their commitment to advocate for imperiled writers, promote literature from all cultures and in all languages, and advance the right of every individual to speak freely. In this series, PEN America interviews the leaders of different PEN centers from the global network to offer a window into the literary accomplishments and free expression challenges of their respective countries.

This month we feature PEN Estonia. We spoke to Mari Peegel, Member of the Board of PEN Estonia

What is a project that you have been working on in recent months?

We have been working on a resolution that has to do with Estonian writer Kaur Kender who has been falsely accused of producing child pornography as he touched the theme in his short story. On the positive side, we have been active in educating school children in the matters of censorship in the world.

What are the key free expression challenges facing your region?

Before the case of Kaur Kender we rarely had any doubts whether our state has freedom of expression. So the outcome of the process is going to be crucial.

Would you share with us a sense of the literary traditions in your region?

The tradition of books in Estonia date back to 16th century when the first Bible in Estonian was printed. We are a relatively new state, and literature in Estonian is new too, from the 1820s – 1840s. Now the literature is at par with the rest of the Western world. 

…and update us on something new in the literary world of your region today?

The women writers are gaining ground. Books by women and girls are popular and writing is popular with women. Sadly, the tradition is still mainly patriarchal.

Who is a writer from your region that we might not know about? Would you introduce us?

We have many wonderful ones but let me introduce two of them. Maarja Kangro – wonderful satirist short story writer, and Katlin Kaldmaa, the President of our PEN Center and also a great prosaic and poet.