Sixty-five writers and artists have joined with the advocacy organization PEN America to send an open letter to President Trump, criticizing his executive order banning citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States and urging against further measures that would impair “freedom of movement and the global exchange of arts and ideas.”

“Vibrant, open intercultural dialogue is indispensable in the fight against terror and oppression,” the letter reads. “Its restriction is inconsistent with the values of the United States and the freedoms for which it stands.”

“Preventing international artists from contributing to American cultural life will not make America safer, and will damage its international prestige and influence,” it adds.

The signatories are an international who’s who of the writing world, including Chimamanda Adichie, Martin Amis, J.M. Coetzee, Jonathan Franzen, Siri Hustvedt, Jhumpa Lahiri, Azar Nafisi, Orhan Pamuk, Philip Roth, Alice Sebold, Zadie Smith, Colm Toibin and Anne Tyler. Also attaching their names to the letter are the artist Anish Kapoor, the composer Stephen Sondheim, the musician Rosanne Cash and the photographer Sally Mann.

“At a moment like this it’s important for the public that’s weighing out these different cases and policies to recognize the breadth of concern,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of PEN America, which wrote the letter and plans to spread it on social media.

The letter noted how the original visa ban last month had disrupted cultural life. The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film “The Salesman” is up for a foreign-language Academy Award, said he would not attend this weekend’s Oscars ceremony. It said the Syrian singer Omar Souleyman might not be able to perform in New York in May, and it was unclear whether the Paris-based Syrian poet Adonis, who is 87, would be able to attend PEN’s World Voices Festival in New York in May. That literary festival was founded by Salman Rushdie to foster literary conversation across borders and promote free expression.

George Packer, the author and staff writer for The New Yorker, said he was under no illusions about the efficacy of signing his name to a letter like this. “I don’t expect it to change any minds at the top of the Trump administration, but perhaps it will give heart to officials lower down, and to foreigners who wonder if America is losing what makes it great,” he said.

“I’ve had enough refugees from banned countries staying in my own house to know that they’re exactly the kind of people we should welcome,” Mr. Packer added. “America’s openness to foreigners has earned us affection and respect around the world even in dark times. Why throw it away?”

The novelist Rick Moody said he hoped the letter would help in “keeping the resistance alive.” “Or, ideally,” he added, “budging the needle on policy a bit.” And the writer Susan Orlean echoed that sentiment: “I think this is the time to be noisy — to be loud about disagreeing when it comes to matters of essential unfairness.”

The cartoonist Jules Feiffer said he had signed the letter because at 88, “I’m too old to march.” He said he was keeping his spirits up. “Doctors say that enlisting in a fight over the life or death of this American nation affects the spirit like a miracle drug. I have never been more hopeful.”

And though the novelist Jeffrey Eugenides said he was quite sure that sending this letter was akin to “shouting into a void,” something he’s used to as a fiction writer, he was still hopeful. “I’ve also been surprised, in the past, at how often the void shouts back,” he said.

Here’s the letter:

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:
As writers and artists, we join PEN America in calling on you to rescind your Executive Order of January 27, 2017, and refrain from introducing any alternative measure that similarly impairs freedom of movement and the global exchange of arts and ideas.

In barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days, barring all refugees from entering the country for 120 days, and blocking migration from Syria indefinitely, your January Executive Order caused the chaos and hardship of families divided, lives disrupted, and law-abiding faced with handcuffs, detention, and deportation. In so doing, the Executive Order also hindered the free flow of artists and thinkers — and did so at a time when vibrant, open intercultural dialogue is indispensable in the fight against terror and oppression. Its restriction is inconsistent with the values of the United States and the freedoms for which it stands.

The negative impact of the original Executive Order was felt immediately, creating stress and uncertainty for artists of global renown and disrupting major U.S. cultural events. Oscar-nominated director Asghar Farhadi, who is from Iran, expecting to be unable to travel to the Academy Awards ceremony in late February, announced that he will not attend. Syrian singer Omar Souleyman, who performed at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, may now be prevented from singing at Brooklyn’s World Music Institute in May 2017. The ability of Adonis, an 87-year-old globally celebrated poet who is a French national of Syrian extraction, to attend the May 2017 PEN World Voices Festival in New York remains in question.

Preventing international artists from contributing to American cultural life will not make America safer, and will damage its international prestige and influence. Not only will such a policy prevent great artists from performing, but it will constrict the interchange of important ideas, isolating the U.S. politically and culturally. Reciprocal actions against American citizens, such as those already taken by the governments of Iraq and Iran, will further limit the ability of American artists to move freely.

Arts and culture have the power to enable people to see beyond their differences. Creativity is an antidote to isolationism, paranoia, misunderstanding, and violent intolerance. In the countries most affected by the immigration ban, it is writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers who are often at the vanguard in the fights against oppression and terror. Should it interrupt the ability of artists to travel, perform, and collaborate, such an Executive Order will aid those who would silence essential voices and exacerbate the hatreds that fuel global conflict.

We strongly believe that the immediate and long-term consequences of your original Executive Order are entirely at odds with the national interests of the United States. As you contemplate any potential new measures we respectfully urge you to tailor them narrowly to address only legitimate and substantiated threats and to avoid imposing broad bans that affect millions of people, including the writers, artists and thinkers whose voices and presence help foster international understanding.


Anne Tyler
Lev Grossman
Jhumpa Lahiri
Norman Rush
Chang-rae Lee
Jane Smiley
Janet Malcolm
John Green
Mary Karr
Claire Messud
Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)
Siri Hustvedt
Paul Auster
Francine Prose
Paul Muldoon
David Henry Hwang
Jessica Hagedorn
Martin Amis
Sandra Cisneros
Dave Eggers
Stephen Sondheim
Jonathan Lethem
Philip Roth
Andrew Solomon
Tobias Wolff
Robert Pinsky
Jonathan Franzen
Jay McInerney
Margaret Atwood
Azar Nafisi
Alec Soth
Nicole Krauss
Colm Toibin
Patrick Stewart
Philip Gourevitch
Robert Caro
Rita Dove
J.M. Coetzee
Anish Kapoor
Rosanne Cash
Zadie Smith
George Packer
John Waters
Art Spiegelman
Susan Orlean
Elizabeth Strout
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Teju Cole
Alice Sebold
Esmeralda Santiago
Stacy Schiff
Jeffrey Eugenides
Khaled Hosseini
Rick Moody
Hanya Yanagihara
Chimamanda Adichie
John Lithgow
Simon Schama
Colum McCann
Sally Mann
Jules Feiffer
Luc Tuymans
Michael Chabon
Ayelet Waldman
Orhan Pamuk