New York, October 28, 2009—The International PEN Assembly of Delegates last week elected John Ralston Saul as International President. He will succeed Jirí Grušá, one of the most important Czech writers, who has held the post for six years. Earlier presidents have included Alberto Moravia, Heinrich Böll, Arthur Miller, Pierre Emmanuel, Mario Vargas Llosa and György Konrád.
John Ralston Saul is a celebrated Canadian novelist and essayist and former President of Canadian PEN. He has been awarded with Chile’s Pablo Neruda medal, Italy’s Premio Letterario Internazionale and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres de France, among others.

“International PEN is the world’s most important and oldest freedom of speech and literary organization,” Saul said. “Almost 1000 writers in prison or in danger around the world look to us for help. We have to invent new ways of turning back the rise of authoritarian controls.”

“Threats to freedom of speech are expanding in new directions, especially with the rise of populism in the post 9/11 world. In addition, hundreds of minority and indigenous languages and cultures are in danger of extinction. This is the ultimate denial of freedom of speech,” Saul concluded.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105