Six writers protest PEN's Amercian Center Gala award for Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo cover after the attacks on the newspaper, issue No. 1178, published 14 January 2015.

Six writers decided to withdraw as literary hosts from PEN's American Center Gala, after the group announced its decision to give its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the New York Times reports. The protesting group of writers include novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi.

In an email to PEN’s leadership, Rachel Kushner explained she was backing out, due to discomfort with the French magazine’s promotion of ‘a kind of forced secular view’. Peter Carey went on to criticise ‘the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognise its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population’. The withdrawals reflect a larger controversy that erupted after the attacks on the magazine, questioning the publication’s status as a martyr for free speech.

PEN president Andrew Solomon, said that the six writers were the only ones to withdraw from the dinner’s several dozen literary hosts who had reconsidered their participation in the gala, which occurs during the group’s annual World Voices Festival in New York on 5 May.

28 April 2015.