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Writers withdraw from PEN gala over Charlie Hebdo honour

Australian author Peter Carey and five other writers will no longer be attending next month’s PEN Literary Gala to protest the awarding of PEN’s annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, reports the New York Times. PEN announced that Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn as table hosts at the 5 May event, citing Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cartoons, including its depiction of Muslims and ‘the disenfranchised generally’, as the reason. Kushner said she was withdrawing out of discomfort with the magazine’s ‘cultural intolerance’ and ‘forced secular view’, while Carey said that the award went beyond PEN’s traditional role to protect freedom of expression from oppressive governments. He added, ‘all this is complicated by PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.’ In an email to the Associated Press, author and former PEN president Salman Rushdie defended the award: ‘the Charlie Hebdo artists were executed in cold blood for drawing satirical cartoons, which is an entirely legitimate activity. It is quite right that PEN should honour their sacrifice and condemn their murder.’


Category: International news