with PEN INTERNATIONAL
‘Literature knows no frontiers’
International President, PEN International
Jennifer Clement is a writer and the president of PEN International, the world-wide association of poets, essayists, and novelists. She was born in Greenwich, Connecticut and from age 1 until high school she lived with her family in Mexico City, Mexico. She participated in a dialogue in Fall 2016 that focused on her novels Widow Basquiat, Prayers for the Stolen, which addresses the theme of trafficking in girls in Mexico, and Gun Love, which explores gun culture in the United States. She is also the author of several books of poetry.
PEN International is a worldwide association of writers founded in 1921. It operates in over 100 countries promoting and defending freedom of expression and the safety and security of writers defending human rights around the world.
The board of PEN International, comprised of award-winning, internationally-renowned writers from Norway, Spain, Germany, Lebanon, Estonia, South Africa and Myanmar will meet in Florence and have agreed to have a public discussion about their work and the work of PEN.
Ebony Riddell Bamber
Ebony joined PEN International from the Equality & Diversity Forum, a UK network of human rights and equality charities where she was Director of Research & Impact. She has a strong and varied track record in international advocacy, public engagement and campaigns, working for organizations such as Health Poverty Action, Save the Children and Amnesty International.
Romana joined PEN International in March 2014 as Director of International Programs. She manages the organisation´s work in delivering access to education, and human rights education, literary and civil society programs across the world. Romana has twenty years of experience working in human rights, including on access to quality education, and income generation activities for communities affected by slavery. Most recently she worked with Anti-Slavery International, where she led their Programs and Advocacy team in advocating for reform in law and policy and seeking redress through national courts for those affected by slavery.
Iman Humaydan is a novelist, activist and founder of Arrawi, a non-profit center for marginalized youth in Lebanon. Her novels B Mithl Beit, Mithl Beirut (B as in Beirut), Toot Barri (Wild Mulberries), Hayawat Okhra (Other Lives) and Khamsoun ghraman mena aljannah (Weight of Paradise) have been published in Arabic, French, German, English, Italian and Dutch. Her short stories, essays, and articles have appeared in German, Swiss, French, and Arab newspapers and magazines. Humaydan co-wrote the screenplay for Chatti ya Deni (Here Comes The Rain), which won the first prize at the 2010 Dubai Film Festival, and the documentary film Asmahan, Une Diva Orientale, and edited the creative writing textbook Kitabat alkitabah (2010). She also edited Beirut Noir. The writer served as the co-founder of PEN Lebanon in 2012, and PEN Lebanon president since 2015. At present, Humaydan teaches creative writing in Paris 8 University in France.
Mohammed Sheriff was born and bred in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He writes children’s stories, short stories, novellas and drama for radio, television and the stage. He produces and directs documentary videos, short films, radio, television and stage plays for both entertainment and development projects. He has won several international awards and the Ecowas Prize for Excellence in Literature for Secret Fear, a novella for teenagers, published by Macmillan Publishers. He travels a lot but lives with his family in Freetown.
Burhan Sönmez is a prize-winning novelist. He is the author of three novels: North (2009), Sins and Innocents (2011) and İstanbul İstanbul (2015). His novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. Sönmez was born in Turkey. He grew up speaking Turkish and Kurdish, then later moved to Istanbul where he worked for a time as a lawyer. He was member of Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD), Human Rights Society (IHD) and a founder of TAKSAV (Foundation for Social Research, Culture and Art). He lived in Cambridge (UK) in exile for political reasons for about ten years. Sönmez lectured in Literary Theory and the Novel at the Middle East Technical University (METU). He served as jury member for the Cevdet Kudret Literature Prize. He translated the poetry book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake from English into Turkish. He contributes to various newspapers and magazines like The Guardian, La Repubblica, L’Unita, Die Zeit, BirGün, Guernica, and Electric Literature.
A surgeon, writer and political commentator, MaThida spent 5½ years in prison in the 1990s for her activism. Ever since her release she has monitored and written on events in Burma, and, with the lifting of the military regime, is now the president of PEN Myanmar. In 2016, Ma Thida was awarded the first annual “Disturbing the Peace” award by the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation in New York on September 28.