For more information contact:
Michael Roberts, (212) 334-1660 ext. 104

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) today announced PEN American Center as the recipient of its prestigious Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award. With past winners including Studs Terkel, Richard Howard, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Alfred Kazin, and Elizabeth Hardwick, the prize honors long-standing and outstanding dedication to book culture.

In announcing the Award, the NBCC particularly saluted PEN’s heightened emphasis in recent years on promoting international literary fellowship through the establishment of PEN World Voices, the encouragement of translation through PEN awards and grants, and PEN’s perennial support for the freedom of expression of writers around the world.

PEN President Francine Prose thanked the Award jury and the NBCC. “PEN’s new and sharper focus on its international roots over the last five years was the outgrowth of the feeling of so many in the literary community that in the wake of September 11, the country was moving in exactly the wrong direction. Instead of self-censorship in the national discourse, unilateralism in foreign policy, and the ‘English-only’ emphasis of so much U.S. publishing, we needed to listen more to what other countries and cultures were saying. PEN has always stood for the proposition that the shared human concerns that are central to literature must take precedence over issues of ideology and nationality. It is heartening that growing numbers in the literary world and beyond have reached a similar conclusion. PEN pledges to continue its efforts to help sustain a vigorous global exchange of art and ideas through programs like World Voices, the PEN Translation Awards, and our flagship Freedom to Write Program.”

PEN Executive Director Michael Roberts noted that the achievements recognized by the Sandrof Award had only been possible through a collective effort of many individuals and organizations. “Our national membership of 3,400 writers, translators and editors in 50 states have joined with PEN’s Board of Trustees and wonderful professional staff, dozens of local partner organizations and sponsors, and hundreds of volunteers to make possible these very labor-intensive new initiatives.” He particularly noted the contributions of Festival Chair and former PEN President Salman Rushdie; Translation Fund Chair, Festival Co-Founder and 2005-6 Co-Director, and former PEN Board member Esther Allen; 2007-9 Festival Director Caro Llewellyn; and Freedom to Write and International Programs Director Larry Siems.

Roberts offered special thanks to “PEN’s greatest individual benefactor, the anonymous donor of the $730,000 PEN Translation Fund Endowment. With the continuing assistance of members of PEN’s Translation Committee, this remarkable gift makes possible up to a dozen grants annually to translators to help bring untranslated or poorly translated work from abroad to the attention of English-language audiences. The seeds planted by that extraordinary generosity will be harvested for generations.”

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