Dear Editors,

Edward Helmore’s article in The Guardian/The Observer stating that PEN America has accused PEN International of backing cultural appropriation is flat-out false, as Helmore knows. The piece is fundamentally inaccurate and should be corrected immediately.

During an interview Friday, when asked if there was daylight within PEN on a Democracy of the Imagination Manifesto passed at the PEN International Congress in October 2019, I told Helmore: “No, honestly.” I explained that PEN America regards the declaration as an important statement of principle. Helmore cites no document, statement, or expression by PEN America to support his contention that the organization takes issue with the declaration. The claim that PEN America accused PEN International of cultural appropriation is neither sourced nor substantiated and is false. He cites one critic of the manifesto, professor Chiara Bottici (whose name he misspells), who has never been involved in PEN America on this topic and holds no position within the organization.

The lack of a formal endorsement by PEN America of the manifesto in no way implies disagreement with its contents. Rather, as explained in detail to Helmore, it is a simple reflection of practice within PEN: Once resolutions are adopted at Congress, they are operative. There is no further ratification process among country-level PEN organizations. At a time of rampant disinformation, it is troubling to see a reputable publication like The Guardian/The Observer publish a story that its writer knows to be untrue.

Suzanne Nossel
CEO, PEN America