Amin Maaloufs tale under avslutningsmiddagen 11. september

When my friend Kjell Olav Jensen, president of the Norwegian PEN, asked me to say a few words during this farewell dinner, I noted it was on Saturday evening, but I did not immediately notice the date…

When I finally realized our gathering would take place on September eleventh, I was, understandably, overwhelmed by memories of that dreadful day. How did I learn the news? At what time precisely? What was my very first reaction? Whom did I call?

Then I remembered what my father used to say about a colleague of his – they were both poets, old friends but slightly rivals in literature:  “This gentleman is so self-centred that if you ask him how did the Second World war begin, he would tell you: ‘I was shaving when my brother rushed in to tell me that Hitler had invaded Poland’ …as if the world war had been launched from his bathroom.”

On that September eleven, I was not in my bathroom. I was already watching the news. I had been writing since early in the morning. Then, noticing it was almost 3 p.m. I had decided to listen to the news. I had heard on the previous day, or maybe on the day before, that there had been an attempt on the life of Ahmad Shah Massoud. There were conflicting reports; some saying he had been only slightly injured, and others saying he was badly hurt, and possibly dead. I switched on the TV, just in time to watch the breaking news signal: an unidentified airplane had just crashed into one of the twin towers.

Since I was a child, I had always listened to the news very closely. My father, apart from being a poet, was also a journalist. He rarely missed a news bulletin. I followed in his steps. Some of the greatest sorrows of my life were linked to international events. Some of my greatest joys as well.

The fall of the Berlin wall, fifteen years ago, was a personal moment of hope. After years and years of confrontation, which translated into many deadly local conflicts, and with the frightening Damocles sword over our heads – that pile-up of nuclear devices ready to destroy and overdestroy every living creature on our earth, now came the sigh of relief. The arms race had come to an end without even a gun being shot. It was almost a miracle. Our human species was such a wise brand of creatures! Now we could hope for the best! Democracy and freedom would now extend to cover the whole world. Humanity would get rid of its old ways, to enter into an era of reconciliation and peaceful competition. Ready, at last, to confront its true enemies, its common enemies: poverty, illiteracy, and disease.

Hopes were very high indeed. Although, in the nineties, came the internal conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, instances of religious strife and ethnic cleansing… Quite disturbing events, but, well, we said, this is the unavoidable adjustment period. We tried to believe that ethnic wars were the last song of the dying ghosts of the past. We could not imagine they were signalling the emergence of new ghosts that were coming to haunt our future.

Then came September eleventh. Not an accident. Not a natural disaster. But a manmade disaster that seemed to be an ominous introduction to the new century.

What went wrong? Why were our hopes so brutally dashed?

Those who pinned hopes, like I did, on the end of the cold war, may have overlooked one or two significant features of the world of yesterday. Namely: that it was divided along ideological and philosophical lines. And that it had been replaced by a world divided along identity lines.

I am not fond of ideologies, especially when they have so often led to appalling practices. But when people define themselves through their chosen ideology, there is room for debate. When people define themselves through their inherited identities, there is no room for debate. Everyone states and overstates his identity, and that’s it, there is nothing more to say. In today’s world, there is no true debate. Only shouting, imprecation, condemnation, mobilization. Hatred and hatred, violence and even more violence.

And when there is no debate, when there is so much mistrust, so much hatred, democracy and freedom cannot expand. In fact, they are receding, and one could expect them to recede even more in the years to come.

Every morning, we get up to learn that another bomb has exploded somewhere, that another massacre has been perpetrated. And there seems to be no end to it. The aftershocks of September eleventh go on and on and on.

This is not the world we dreamt of fifteen years ago! This is definitely not the future we hoped for.

Our world has lost its way, it is heading backwards. The West is fast losing its moral credibility, and nobody else seems to be offering valuable alternatives for mankind. Certainly not the Arab world where I come from!

Let’s face it: this entire world is in total disarray. It desperately needs to be re-imagined, re-invented, in order to be rebuilt on sounder grounds. We need to overcome that sterile conflict of identities. We need to build a human culture which would include significant elements of each culture, so nobody would feel excluded. So nobody would indulge in hatred and self hatred, in destruction and self destruction

Re-invent the world, re-imagine the future: that is not a task that should be left to political or religious activists. It is precisely the task of poets, essayists and novelists. It is up to the writers of the six continents to strike the right notes, to find the right balance between universality and diversity. Universality of fundamental human values, diversity of languages and cultural expressions.

It is ultimately up to us to determine whether our century will go down in history as the century of suicide or the century of imagination, the century of human folly or the century of human wisdom, the century of the bomb or the century of the pen.

At no time in History were writers more indispensable. At no other time in history was the burden of change so heavy on their shoulders.

 

Amin Maalouf

Tromsø – Norway
September 11th 2004

Intern rapport og evaluering

Intern rapport og evaluering

70th World Congress of International PEN

Rica Ishavshotel, Tromsø, Norway, 6th – 12th September 2004

 

1. Bakgrunn
Initiativ til å søke om å arrangere kongressen ble tatt av Norsk PENs styre høsten 2001.  Tilbudet ble lagt fram på International PENs kongress i London i november 2001, der det ble vedtatt at International PENs 70. verdenskongress skulle arrangeres i Tromsø i september 2004.

2. Forberedende arbeid
I februar 2002 ble det opprettet kontakt med en profesjonell kongress-arrangør, PLUS Conventions (senere Berg-Hansen Congress), og en kontrakt ble inngått. Samtidig arrangerte vår prosjektleder for kongressen, Kirsti Blom, et stormøte i Tromsø hvor prosjektet ble lagt frem for et stort antall organisasjoner, institusjoner og administrasjoner av både privat, idealistisk og offentlig art som ble bedt om å hjelpe til med ideer, sideprosjekter og oppsluttende virksomhet. Ordkalotten og Nana-festivalen uttrykte samarbeidsvilje og bestemte å legge sine arrangementer parallelt med PEN-kongressen i 2004. Nå ble også prosjektet for første gang omtalt i mediene.

Parallellt med dette hadde Norsk PEN lykkes i å sikre restmidlene etter nedleggelsen av Norsk Forum for Ytringsfrihet (NFY) og NFYs sponsorer gikk med på å yte årlige beløp til opprettelsen av et sekretariat for Norsk PEN, foreløpig for en prøveperiode på tre år.  Carl Morten Iversen ble ansatt som sekretariatsleder, senere oppjustert til generalsekretær, fra 1. januar 2002.  Fra 1. september 2002 overtok Ole-Gunnar Solheim etter Kirsti Blom som prosjektleder, og et PEN-kontor ble etablert i Tromsø.

Økonomi
Styre og administrasjon begynte så arbeidet med å sikre kongressens økonomi.  Man ble enige om å satse på tre hovedsponsorer: Utenriksdepartementet, Institusjonen Fritt Ord og en privat sponsor, Den norske Bank.  DnB ble valgt pga. vår spesielle kontakt gjennom DnBs styremedlemmer Helge Andresen og Anne Carine Tanum som sitter i Norsk PENs råd.  Søknader ble sendt i juni 2002.  Fritt Ord ga relativt raskt tilsagn om støtte på 1.500.000 og overførte pengene.  UD ga i første omgang tilsagn om kr 400.000 til forprosjektering, men stilte seg positivt til å støtte selve kongressen over budsjettene i 2003 og 2004.  DnB svarte ikke før etter utallige purringer, med negativ respons.

Pga. den generelle usikkerheten rundt økonomien nedsatte styret en aksjonsgruppe bestående av styremedlemmene Håkon Harket, William Nygaard, Knut Ødegård, Thorvald Steen og leder Kjell Olaf Jensen.  Gruppen besluttet våren 2003 å be om et møte med forlagene Aschehoug og Gyldendal og De norske Bokklubbene v/William Nygaard, Geir Mork og Kristenn Einarson for å legge fram et forslag om støtte til kongressen fra en samlet bok- og forlagsbransje på tilsammen 1 million kroner.  På grunnlag av de positive signalene fra møtet, ble det så rettet skriftlige henvendelser til Forleggerforeningen og Bokhandlerforeningen.  Sistnevnte bevilget kr 20.000 til kongressen, og Forleggerforeningen fikk også med de skjønn- og faglitterære skribentorganisasjonene slik at den samlede støtten fra denne sektoren til slutt beløp seg til Kr.895.000. Da var også forlagene Cappelen og Damm kommet med.  Bevilgningen fra UD, 1,4 millioner, kom først formelt i orden tidlig på vinteren 2004.  I tillegg hadde prosjektleder sikret støtte fra Troms fylkeskommune, Nordnorsk Kulturråd og Sametinget, senere også Tromsø kommune, slik at økonomien var på plass innenfor en deltagerramme på totalt 400.

Administrasjon og programarbeid
De tre administrative hovedaktørene i det videre arbeidet var Berg-Hansen Congress v/Frode Bjelland, prosjektleder Ole Gunnar Solheim og generalsekretær Carl Morten Iversen som hadde det overordnede administrative ansvaret.  I tillegg samarbeidet styret og administrasjonen fortløpende med International PEN i London.

På grunnlag av den formelle kongress-agendaen med komitémøter og «assembly of delegates» som Norsk PEN var forpliktet til å forholde seg til, pågikk også arbeidet med å lage et komplett program for kongressen, inklusive delseminarer og opplesninger, samt sightseeing og andre sosiale og kulturelle tiltak.  En stor og viktig del av dette arbeidet, særlig i forhold til lokale sponsorer og samarbeidspartnere, foregikk fra Tromsø, mens styret og administrasjonen i Oslo, i tillegg til å følge prosessen lokalt, startet arbeidet med å finne talere, forelesere, møteledere og paneldeltagere til seminarer og sosiale tilstelninger.

Et foreløpig program var klart til utsending sammen med invitasjoner og andre formelle dokumenter fra London medio mars 2004.  Påmeldingsfrist ble satt til 4. juni 2004.

Påmeldingene fortsatte imidlertid hele sommeren, og det endelige deltagerantallet ble ca. 300 fra drøyt 70 PEN-sentre.  Styret besluttet å bevilge totalt inntil kr 300.000 til International PENs solidaritetsfond til støtte for reise og oppholdsutgifter for sentre med dårlig økonomi.  Pengene ble tatt fra deltageravgiften som ikke var tatt inn i det opprinnelige søknadsbudsjettet da det på det tidspunktet søknadene ble skrevet var uvisst om en deltageravgift ville være nødvendig.

Arbeidet med å invitere gjester og, ikke minst, hjelpe tilreisende fra særlig afrikanske og asiatiske land med visum til Norge, pågikk helt fram til noen få dager før kongressen startet.

Kontoret i Tromsø/lokale samarbeidspartnere og sponsorer
Under det forberedende arbeidet hadde Tromsø-kontoret ansvaret for søknader til følgende lokale organisasjoner og institusjoner:

Troms Fylke v/ Fylkesråd Paul Dahlø mottok en søknad på kr 132.000,- til mottagelsen 6. september, samt kr 40.000 til lønn og administrasjon for prosjektleder. Fylketsrådet innvilget kr 132.000,- til mottagelsen. Fylket har gitt klart uttrykk for at de var fornøyd med samarbeidet og kongressen.

Universitetet i Tromsø ved rektor Jarle Aarbakke ble søkt om kr 60.000 til PEN-dagen mandag 6. september og beløpet ble innvilget. Universitetet var meget fornøyd med arrangementet og vil vurdere å gjøre dette til en årlig foreteelse.

Det ble søkt Tromsø kommune om midler tidlig i prosessen uten at vi mottok noe konkret svar.  15. mars 2004 sendte vi en revidert søknad til kulturkonsulent Erling Kjeldsen i Tromsø kommune der vi ba om støtte til kulturprogram med kr 150.000,-,  samt kr 40.000,- til administrasjon og lønn for Tromsøkontoret. Etter mange runder med kommunen fikk vi et muntlig tilsagn på 190.000.- i god tid før kongressen startet. Denne lovnaden er blitt gjentatt fire ganger fra forskjellige instanser.

Hos Nordnorsk Kulturråd v/ Jens Harald Eilertsen søkte vi om prosjektstøtte på kr. 52.000. Tilsagnet var på 10.000,- som utbetales etter at de har mottatt revidert regnskap.

Sametingets kulturråd v/ Lennart Mikkelsen ble søkt om prosjektstøtte øremerket samiske kulturinnslag kr. 52.000,-. Søknad ble innvilget i sin helhet og kr. 25.000 ble utbetalt.  Det resterende beløpet utbetales når revidert  regnskap er oversendt.

PR og reklame/»Kitchen»
Allerede før sekretariatet ble etablert i 2002, hadde Norsk PEN et samarbeid med reklamebyrået AB Bates/New Deal som skulle hjelpe oss med en gratis kampanje.  Da kreativt ansvarlig Bendik Romstad trakk seg ut og etablerte seg i et nytt byrå, Kitchen, vinteren 2002, startet vårt samarbeid med dette reklamebyrået.  Selv om en generell PEN-kampanje var utgangspunktet for samarbeidet, kom arbeidet med Kitchen raskt til å få Tromsø-kongressen som hovedfokus.  Parallelt med dette ble det tatt kontakt med Dagbladet, der det etter noen møter med avisens markedsavdeling ble lovet gratis plass til tre helsides annonser i tilknytning til kongressen.  I tillegg til de tre annonsene som også fikk gratis plass i Nordlys, produserte Kitchen tre ulike kongressplakater basert på annonsene, samt penner, T-skjorter, og et kongressbanner og en animert kinoannonse til bruk i Tromsø.  Bærenett m/PEN-logo til alle delegater og øvrige deltagere ble produsert via Berg-Hansen Congress.

3. Kongressen

Søndag 5. september
Denne dagen gikk stort sett med til mottagelse av deltagere.  Flyplasstransport var organisert av prosjektleder og all registrering ble foretatt av Berg-Hansen Congress.  Begge deler ble gjennomført uten problemer. International PEN satt i styremøter hele dagen.

Mandag 6. september
I tillegg til mottagelse av deltagere og møter i International PENs styre og International PEN Foundation, var PEN-dagen på Universitetet i Tromsø (UiT) et tilbud til de som allerede var ankommet.  Under tittelen «Should Writers Stay in Prison?» samlet dette arrangementet drøyt 100 tilhørere fra kongressen og universitetet til foredrag av Thorvald Steen (Norge), Easterine Iralu (Nagaland), Jasmina Tesanovic (Serbia og Montenegro), Mircea Martin (Romania), Elisabeth Eide (Norge) og Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe). Programleder var Gerd Bjørhovde.  UiT ved rektor Jarle Aarbakke har allerede uttrykt ønske om å gjenta PEN-dagen i 2005, noe vi arbeider med å følge opp.

En velkomstkonsert i Tromsø domkirke med Tromsø Symfoniorkester og Vokal Nord og et velkomstselskap på Rica med buffet og taler fra Troms Fylkeskommune v/ medlem av Troms fylkesråd, Synnøve Søndergaard, sametingsmedlem Johan Mikkel Sara og leder av Nobelkomiteen, Ole Danbolt Mjøs, samt kunstneriske innslag v/lyrikerne Rauni Magga Lukkari og Margunn Hageberg, fant sted samme kveld.  Samtlige kongressdeltagere samt Norsk PENs gjester og lokale samarbeidspartnere var invitert.  Konserten med Tromsø Symfoniorkester kom i stand takket være en meget fordelaktig avtale med kunstnerisk leder Bjarte Engeseth.

Tirsdag 7. september
Dagen startet med en pressekonferanse arrangert av International PEN, ledet av avtroppende internasjonal sekretær Terry Carlbom og avtroppende leder for Writers in Prison Committee Eugene Schoulgin.

Åpningsseremonien på Rica med taler av Kjell Olaf Jensen, ordfører Hermann Kristoffersen, International PENs president Jiři Gruša og kronprins Haakon, samt kunstnerisk innslag v/poeten Liv Lundberg og cellisten Bernt Simen Lund og sangeren Katia Cardenal, ble gjennomført på drøye tre kvarter under Terry Calboms ledelse og ble av mange deltagere betegnet som en av de beste åpningsseremonier de noengang hadde vært til stede på.  Jensen og Iversen, samt representanter for Tromsø by og International PEN hadde etterpå gleden av å spise lunsj med Kronprinsen.

Kronprinsbesøket ble vellykket tross skifte av adjutant midt i prosessen. Opplegget innbefattet koordinering med fylkesmann Vilgunn Gregussen, ordfører Hermann Kristoffersen, politi, flyplass og hotell. Aslaug Eidsvik fungerte som pressekontakt for dette arrangementet. Etter sigende skal HKH Kronprinsen aldri før ha deltatt på en så lang lunsj omgitt av i utgangspunktet fremmede. Politi, fylkesmann og adjutant/sikkerhetsvakter gratulerte oss med et godt gjennomført opplegg som alle involverte satte stor pris på.

Det planlagte lunsjforedraget med departementsråd i Kulturdepartementet, Helge M. Sønneland, måtte dessverre avlyses pga. sykdom, men Sønnelands manuskript var tilgjengelig for deltagerne og er også lagt ut på våre hjemmesider.

På ettermiddagen ble det arrangert sightseeing og filmfremvisning («Heftig og begeistret» i engelsk versjon).  Forfatternes Fredskomite, Komiteen for kvinnelige forfattere og Nettverket for eksilforfattere hadde sine første møter.  Dagen ble avsluttet med et omfattende kulturprogram på Rica der professor Harald Gaski presenterte multikunstneren Nils Aslak Valkeapää, blant annet gjennom en film fra NRK-Sameradioen, og forfatteren Tété-Michel Kpomassie fortalte fra sin bok «En afrikaner på Grønland», illustrert med lysbilder og BBC-produsert film.

Onsdag 8. september
Komiteen for Fengslede Forfattere og Komiteen for oversettelser og språklige rettigheter hadde sine første møter.

Det første av to seminarer arrangert av Norsk PEN og med tilknytning til et av kongressens to hovedtemaer, «Forfattere i Eksil», ble arrangert.  En film av fribyforfatter i Stavanger, Islam Elsanov, og en videohilsen til kongressen fra Kristiansands fribyforfatter Carlos Sherman åpnet seminaret, som fortsatte med en tale av den iransk-canadiske forfatteren Reza Baraheni.  Et panel bestående av forfatterne Chenjerai Hove, Soudabeh Alishahi, Mansur Rajih og Rais Neza Boneza diskuterte eksilskribenters problemer og utfordringer.  Seminaret ble ledet av Isobel Harry fra PEN Canada og avsluttet med en kort film om tidligere fribyforfatter i Stavanger, lyrikeren Mansur Rajih og en film om fribyordningen, inneholdende intervjuer med American PENs nye leder Salman Rushdie, Norsk PENs leder Kjell Olaf Jensen og Oslos tidligere fribyforfatter Soudabeh Alishahi, laget av den katalanske filmskaperen og journalisten Sandra Camps som også var vår gjest på kongressen.

Dagens lunchtale, «Korrupsjon og Demokrati», var ved Eva Joly og ble meget godt mottatt.

Komiteen for Fengslede Forfattere, Forfatternes Fredskomité og Komiteen for oversettelser og språklige rettigheter fortsatte sine møter.

Ettermiddagens tilbud til de deltagerne som ikke satt i møter var et kulturprogram med den nikaraguanske poeten Ernesto Cardenal og inkluderte en utstilling av hans skulpturer og en utstilling av bøker fra Nicaragua som har mottatt produksjonsstøtte fra Norad, samt musikalsk innslag ved Cardenals niese, sangeren Katia Cardenal.  Ernesto Cardenals besøk i Tromsø var et delprosjekt under kongressen etter initiativ fra to tidligere nestledere, Kirsti Blom og Halfdan W. Freihow, som også hadde ansvaret for gjennomføringen. Prosjektet ble gjennomført takket være en egen øremerket bevilgning fra UD.

Kvelden ble avsluttet på «Skarven» der programleder Sylvi Inez Liljegren styrte opplesninger fra poeter og forfattere som deltok på kongressen og på Ordkalotten.

Torsdag 9. september
Før lunsj hadde Nettverket for eksilskribenter sitt andre møte.  I tillegg ble det gjennomført et sightseeing-program.

Det andre seminaret, «Skribenter som skriver på minoritetsspråk»,  hadde åpningstale av forfatteren Amin Maalouf og et panel bestående av forfatterne Tété-Michel Kpomassie, Harald Gaski, Rais Neza Boneza og Angharad Tomos. Den tyrkiske forleggeren Ragip Zarakolu skulle også delta i panelet, men var blitt nektet utreise av tyrkiske myndigheter, noe som blir tatt opp med myndighetene i Ankara via våre kontakter i EU-kommisjonen. Zarakolus innlegg ble framført av hans landsmann Sanar Yurdatapan.  Carles Torner fra Katalansk PEN var ordstyrer.

Dagens lunsj tale var «Voices of the World» v/UNESCOs goodwillambassadør for språk, Vigdis Finnbógadottir.  Talen fikk positiv mottagelse og er tilgjengelig på våre hjemmesider.

Etter lunsj startet International PENs hovedforsamling, «Assembly of Delegates», sine møter.  Delegater fra Norsk PEN var Elisabet Middelthon og Kjell Olaf Jensen.  Disse møtene er åpne for alle PEN-medlemmer, men er lukket for pressen.  «Assembly» er International PENs ansvar.  Resolusjoner og nye tillitsvalgte ble presentert for pressen søndag morgen.  En omfattende, intern rapport til alle PEN-sentre vil foreligge på et senere tidspunkt

Kvelden ble avsluttet med en meget hyggelig middag på restauranten på Studenthuset «DRIV» og nye opplesninger på Skarven, ledet av Iben Melbye fra Dansk PEN.

Fredag 10. september
«Assembly of Delegates» hadde møter før og etter lunsj.  Dagens lunsjtale var ved Jostein Gaarder og hadde tittelen «Human Rights and Human Obligations».  Talen, og ikke minst taleren, fikk masse positiv oppmerksomhet.  Link til talen på Sofie-stiftelsens hjemmeside finnes på Norsk PENs hjemmeside.

Kvelden ble avsluttet med en konsert i Ishavskatedralen m/Mari Boine og band og litterære opplesninger, denne kvelden på Teaterkaféen.

Lørdag 11. september
Assembly of Delegates hadde sine siste sesjoner og kom i mål godt foran tidsskjema.  Dagens lunsj ble gjennomført uten taler.  En planlagt pressekonferanse ble utsatt til søndag formiddag.

Tidlig på kvelden var det appell og opplesninger på Skarven i forbindelse med markeringen av 11. september.  Hovedappell var v/leder for Forfatternes Fredskomite, Veno Taufer fra Slovensk PEN, og programleder var forfatteren Endre Lund Eriksen.

Avskjedsmiddagen på Rica hadde to korte hovedtaler av forfatterne Amin Maalouf og Eugene Schoulgin. Kjell Olaf Jensen overrakte Schoulgin et reisestipend på kr 40.000 fra Norsk PEN som takk for hans mangeårige innsats som leder for Writers in Prison Committee.  Maaloufs tale er tilgjengelig på våre hjemmesider.  Og etterpå var det dans med levende musikk.

Søndag 12. september
International PENs pressekonferanse og styremøte, samt  avreiser.
4. Økonomi
Som nevnt innledningsvis var Fritt Ord, UD og forlagsbransjen/skribentorganisasjonene kongressens tre hovedsponsorer med tilsammen 3.795.000 kroner.  I tillegg søkte og mottok prosjektleder tilskudd på tilsammen kr 444.000,- fra lokale myndigheter og fond, UiT og Sametinget.  Enkelte av disse tilskuddene var øremerket. Et revidert prosjektregnskap skal være klart før jul.  Dette vil bli sendt alle samarbeidspartnere som støttet kongressen økonomisk.

5. Pressedekning
Oppmerksomheten rundt kongressen var stor, særlig i Tromsø-avisene Nordlys og Tromsø, som hadde store daglige oppslag og faste spalter.  Både Aftenposten, Dagbladet og Morgenbladet hadde journalister til stede under kongressen og NRK Kulturnytt v/NRK-Troms laget flere intervjuer og hadde daglige innslag på radioen.  De fleste TV- og radiokanaler dekket dessuten åpningen tirsdag 7. september.  Anders Heger var kongressens presseansvarlige.

I tillegg fikk kongressen forhåndsomtale i Nordlys og Dagbladet, vi fikk på trykk tre artikler av kongressdeltagere i tidsskriftet «Skarven», og tilsvarende i Nordlys.  Norsk PEN bidro også med artikler til drøyt halvparten av innholdet i et spesialnummer av PEN International Magazine, takket være en bevilgning på kr 75.000 fra Norsk kulturråd.

Observer har registrert tilsammen ca. 100 avisoppslag i form av nyhetsoppslag, intervjuer, kronikker, notiser og lederartikler i perioden 24.08 til 20.09.  Mesteparten av disse sto i lokalpressen med hovedvekt på avisen Nordlys.  Se forøvrig vedlegg for en fullstendig oversikt.

6. Evaluering og sluttkommentarer
 «What a wonderful Congress you and all the members of Norwegian PEN gave us ……… Though the weather didn’t cooperate with sun, even the grey clouds and drizzle had an effect of wrapping us in a kind of cozy home, where the food was good, the companionship spirited and friendly and the conversation substantive.  It is a Congress I personally will always remember as I take on this new role as International Secretary. I hope to take forward the spirit from the Tromso Congress.»

Nyvalgt internasjonal sekretær,
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman,
i en hilsen til Kjell Olaf Jensen

” It was wonderful – intelligent, stimulating, organized, literary and run by lovely people.”

Jane Spender, Administrative Director, International PEN

Generelt om gjennomføringen
Raskt oppsummert gikk alt bra.  Det betyr ikke at det ikke oppsto problemer underveis, det betyr at de ble løst.  En kombinasjon av gode forberedelser og godt samarbeid mellom de ulike aktørene gjorde kongressen til en suksess.  Og hilsnene ovenfor er bare to av mange fra PEN-medlemmer over hele verden som takker for en fantastisk kongress der alt, med mulig unntak av været, fungerte glimrende.

Administrasjon
Fordeling av oppgaver mellom de «administrative hovedaktørene» – Solheim, Bjelland og Iversen – var i utgangspunktet lagt: Solheim hadde ansvar for en rekke lokale tiltak, blant annet transport, og hadde vært hovedkontakt mellom Norsk PEN og ulike aktører og myndigheter i Tromsø, i samarbeid med styreleder Jensen og generalsekretær  Iversen. Bjelland hadde ansvaret for det tekniske med registrering og hotell, mens Iversen hadde et overordnet ansvar og ledet de daglige morgenmøtene der også Norsk PENs øvrige ledelse og administrasjon og International PEN var til stede slik at dagsplanene kunne justeres og eventuelle problemer løses før de oppsto.  Dette var et system som fungerte bra.

I tillegg foregikk veldig mange av aktivitetene på Rica, og registreringsbordet i resepsjonen og vårt lille kontor i 2. etg. fungerte som kontaktpunkter på dagtid.  I tillegg var hotellets ledelse og stab meget samarbeidsvillige og sto klare til å løse eventuelle problemer som oppsto.

Prosjektleder hadde en rekke ansvarsområder, og disse ble utvidet etter at generalsekretær gikk ut i sykemelding i midten av juli.  Etter tilbakemeldingene å bedømme er konklusjonen på kongressen i sin helhet at alt gikk på skinner, hvilket det også var administrasjonens hovedoppgave å sørge for. Det nære samarbeidet mellom Iversen, Bjelland, Jensen og Solheim fungerte forbilledlig, og problemer som oppsto underveis ble effektivt og rasjonelt løst på stedet uten større omkostninger. Honnør også til delegatene som overrasket oss med sin punktlighet og spontane begeistring.

Sosialt
Det er ingen tvil om at det sosiale har svært stor betydning for at en så omfattende kongress skal bli vellykket, og PENs ledelse og administrasjon bidro hele tiden til at det sosiale aspektet ble ivaretatt.  Det gjaldt både under lunsjer og middager, både de som var planlagte og offisielle og de som ble tatt på sparket.  Vi var generøse med mat og drikke, i noe større grad enn vi faktisk var forpliktet til.  Det er rimelig å anta at dette ga en positiv effekt som preget stemningen på hele kongressen og vil bety mye for det videre arbeidet i International PEN.

Norsk PEN arrangerte en velkomstbuffet som var sponset av Troms Fylkeskommune i tillegg til avskjedsmiddagen på Rica og en middag på Studenthuset DRIV.  I tillegg var frokost og lunsj dekket hver dag fra mandag til og med søndag morgen.

Av kunstneriske tilbud ut over innslagene på selve åpningen var velkomstkonserten i Domkirken og Mari Boine-konserten suksesser som folk stadig snakket om.  Filmen «Heftig og Begeistret» med engelske undertekster ble vist gratis for kongressdeltagerne, og på Rica var det et langt og godt besøkt kulturprogram med film og lysbilder tirsdag kveld. I tillegg fant det sted et omfattende kulturprogram om og med Ernesto Cardenal onsdag ettermiddag.

Opplesningene på Skarven og Teaterkafeen var også meget vellykkede.  Opplesningene på Skarven utgjorde den viktigste delen i avtalen med Ordkalotten. Intensjonen var å skape en uformell og sosial arena for de involverte, en litterær møteplass. Arrangementene fikk mye oppmerksomhet og var fullsatte. Konferansierene tok virkelig oppgaven på alvor, og det eneste negative var at Vertshuset Skarven til stadighet gikk tomt for rødvinsglass.

Møter og seminarer
Møtene under kongressen delte seg i tre hovedkategorier: «Assembly of Delegates» (hovedforsamlingen), komitemøtene og Norsk PENs seminarer

Assembly of delegates er International PENs ansvar.  Så vidt vi har kunnet registrere var ledelsen der godt fornøyd med både møterom, teknisk utstyr/tolking og gjennomføringen av møtene som, oppsiktsvekkende nok for en så stor kongress, ble avrundet tidligere enn planlagt.

Komitemøtene fant sted i møterommene innenfor baren i 2. etg. og ble stort sett gjennomført etter planen.  Enkelte av møterommene var i trangeste laget for noen av komiteene og det foregikk i perioder en omfattende transport av stoler for å få tilstrekkelig med sitteplasser.  Området rundt møterommene er relativt trangt, og det var liten plass til å myldre og samtale i pausene.  Det gjaldt også kaffepausene under assembly i første etasje.

Norsk PENs to seminarer, «Writers in Exile» og «Writers in Minority Languages», ble arrangert i den store salen i første etasje og samlet hver et sted mellom 100 og 150 mennesker.  På det andre seminaret var en skoleklasse fra en videregående skole til stede.  Gjennomføringen av seminarene var prikkfri.

Spesielt om samarbeidspartnere i Tromsø
Ordkalotten, Nanafestivalen og Universitetet i Tromsø var våre hovedsamarbeidspartnere under kongressen.  Til Ordkalottens program bidro vi med Jukka Mallinen, Carles Torner, Amin Maalouf, Chenjerai Hove, Kjell Olaf Jensen, Mansur Rajih og Alexander Tkachenko.

Ordkalotten bidro til vårt program med Angharad Tomos som holdt innlegg og satt i panelet som diskuterete ”Forfattere på minoritetsspråk”. Vigdis Finnbogadottir var også primært Ordkalottens æresgjest.

Nana v/ Hans Ragnar Mathisen brakte med seg Easterine Iralu som ble vår æresgjest. Hun bidro med to artikler og et foredrag til PEN-dagen. Nana lagde også et Tromsøkart for denne hektiske uken, et samarbeid mellom PEN, Ordkalotten og Nana. Nana besørget salg av restbilletter til Boinekonserten, hvor vi beholder halvparten av overskuddet.

De frivillige
Et energisk korps av frivillige, til sammen 15 personer, ble primært rekruttert fra Senter for fredsstudier. Deres kompetanse, språkmektighet og innsats utgjorde et  vesentlig bidrag til kongressen.

Intern evaluering, kort oppsummert:
Positivt:
God økonomi – vi hadde råd til å være generøse overfor PEN-sentere fra fattige land
Godt grunnarbeid og mange støttespillere og samarbeidspartnere i Tromsø
Alle involverte var med på å dra lasset – generelt veldig god stemning
Tidsskjema ble fulgt – folk var stort sett flinke til å komme presis, god møteledelse.

Negativt:
Trange møterom for komiteene og liten plass til å «myldre» i kaffepausene.
Rapportering fra våre to seminarer var ikke forberedt og er noe mangelfull.
Skryt og hilsner – en liste med sitater fra alle våre hyggelige venner som har sendt hilsener etter kongressen:

«………… en vidunderlig kongres, inspirerende, konstruktiv, varm»

Jens Lohmann – Dansk PEN
«Tack så väldigt mycket för en strålande, generös kongress med mycket fin, avslappnad och positiv stämning i det natursköna Tromsö. Alla jag talade med under och efter kongressen tyckte den var härlig. Och det gjorde inget att det regnade…»

Elisabeth Nordgren – Finsk PEN

I am writing to thank you and all your colleagues and helpers (….) for such a wonderful 70th World Congress of International PEN in Tromso. It was an exceptionally constructive and harmonious meeting, with many notable achievements…………… the Tromso Congress was memorable l and highly enjoyable. Congratulations to you all!»

Nicholas Jose – Sydney PEN Centre

 

«…….thank you and your great team for the best congress I have ever attended…. The atmosphere of relaxed professionality, warm friendship and caring at Tromsö was heart-warming and energizing, your programs are still echoing in everone’s mind, I am sure. Thank you so much, all of you.»

Karin Clark – Chair, Internaitonal PENs Writers in Prison Committee

 

«…………..takk for en særs vellykket kongress i Tromsø! Du og dine skal ha all ære av arrangementet!»

Per Christian Opsahl – Den Norske Forleggerforening

 

«Varmt tack! Det var verkligen en fin kongress som ni har anledning att vara stolta över, och vi att vara tacksamma för.»

Kjell Holm – Internasjonal sekretær, Svensk PEN
«Nous garderons, Andrée et moi, le meilleur souvenir de ce congrès si réussi à Tromsø. L’accueil, la qualité des participants, la teneur des discussions, tout était à la fois stimulant et réconfortant… sauf peut-être la pluie.»

Amin Maalouf

Takk til våre sponsorer

International PENs kongress i Tromsø 2004

Fra 6. til 12.  september 2004 arrangerte Norsk PEN International PENs årlige verdenskongress i Tromsø.  Sikring og videreutvikling av litteratur skrevet på minoritetspråk og forfattere i eksil var hovedtemaene på kongressen.

En internasjonal kongress med flere hundre deltagere fra hele verden er et stort løft for en liten organisasjon.  Norsk PEN hadde inngått en rekke sponsoravtaler, knyttet til seg viktige samarbeidspartnere og mottatt økonomisk støtte til kongressen både fra offentlige og private institusjoner.

Norsk PEN vil gjerne takke alle sponsorer og samarbeidspartnere for økonomisk støtte og godt samarbeid:

Våre sponsorer:

Institusjonen Fritt Ord
Utenriksdepartementet
Den norske bok- og forlagsbransjen:
Den Norske Forleggerforening
Forlagene Aschehoug, Cappelen, Gyldendal og Damm
De Norske Bokklubbene
Norsk Forfatter- og Oversetterfond
Norsk Faglitterær Forfatter- og Oversetterforening
LINOs utenlandsfond
Den norske Bokhandlerforening
Norsk kulturråd
Dagbladet
Reklamebyrået KITCHEN

Lokale sponsorer og samarbeidspartnere i Tromsø:
Sametinget
Troms Fylkeskommune
Tromsø kommune
Ordkalotten – Tromsø internasjonale litteraturfestival
Rica Ishavshotell
Tromsø Symfoniorkester
og avisen Nordlys

Human rights and human obligations

Human rights and human obligations

Lecture at the International PEN Congress in Tromsø, Norway, Friday 10 September 2004

By Jostein Gaarder

This year sees the bicentenary of the death of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.  Towards the end of his life he pointed out that it was a necessary moral imperative for every country to join together in a «league of nations» whose job would be to ensure their peaceful co-existence.  As such, this German philosopher would seem to have first fathered the idea of the United Nations.  A few years ago we were able to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  And there was good reason to celebrate this milestone, as human rights still need to be protected against infringements and brutal violations.  The only difference now is that, for more than fifty years, we have had an institution and an instrument with which to defend these rights.

Perhaps the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents the greatest triumph of philosophy and literature so far.  For human rights were not bestowed on us by higher powers, nor were they plucked from thin air, but rather they represent the culmination of a thousand-year maturing process, a process which to a large extent was carried forward by the written word, by English and French literature of the Enlightenment, by Italian Renaissance writing, by the literary heritage of ancient Greece and Rome, and of course by a clutch of religious tracts as well.  Behind this humanistic tradition were flesh and blood individuals who, at certain times of their lives, sat down to think and write – and they thought on behalf of the whole of humanity.  The very notion of a person’s «natural rights» has had a long and tortuous development; women’s political rights are, for example, hardly more than a century old, and they still need to be fought for – proof in itself of our slow development from tyranny and arbitrariness towards freedom and humanity.

The question that faces us at the start of a new millennium is how long we can go on talking about rights without simultaneously focusing on the individual’s obligations.  Maybe we need a new universal declaration.  Perhaps the time is ripe for a Universal Declaration of Human Obligations.  It is simply no longer meaningful to talk about rights without simultaneously stressing the individual state’s, or person’s, obligations.

Currently there are hundreds of organisations throughout the world which protect human rights, but only a handful that are concerned with human obligations – like, for example, the responsibility of looking after the rights of future generations.  Despite its very modest first showing, the Kyoto Protocol provides a preview of what must be achieved through international commitments aimed at rescuing the environment, the earth’s resources and the basis of human and animal life.

My question is: what role does art and literature play in all this?  We often see examples of artists, writers or people in the international entertainment industry disclaiming responsibility by pointing to freedom of expression or «artistic freedom».  But what do we mean by artistic freedom?

An important bedrock of all ethics has been «the golden rule «: you should do to others as you would be done to yourself.  Immanuel Kant defined this reciprocal principle by pointing out that the right action is the one we would wish everyone to perform in a similar situation.  Two hundred years after Kant’s death we have just about begun to get used to the idea that the reciprocal principle must also apply between rich and poor countries.  In addition, it must include the relationship between the generations.

The question is whether we would have wanted the people who lived on this planet before us – a hundred, a thousand or a hundred thousand years ago – to have deposited large quantities of atomic waste on the bed of the sea or in caves or mountain ravines.  If not, we have no right to do the same.  It’s as simple as that.  Or we can turn the question round and ask: how much does it cost to rent a security company for half a million years?  And who will pay the bill?  Or: how many geologists would dare to guarantee plutonium-free playgrounds in a hundred, or a hundred thousand years time?  Or: who will clean up after us?  Who will clear up after our party?

The question is whether we would have wanted previous generations to cut down more forests and rain forests.  Would we have preferred it if our ancestors had exterminated even more plant and animal species?  If not, we are duty bound to preserve biological diversity.  We cannot even be sure that Kant would have tolerated our high consumption of non-renewable energy sources.  We must first make sure that we would have wanted our ancestors to burn the same amount of coal and oil per head as we do.

We are the first generation to affect the climate on earth – and perhaps the last that won’t have to pay the price for it.

It has been pointed out that we have not inherited this planet from our ancestors, but have it on loan from our descendants.  But we are leaving a planet that it worth less than the one we borrowed.  And so we are eating into a capital that we really ought to have repaid with interest.

We can use the following simple idea borrowed from the American moral philosopher John Rawls: imagine you were a member of a formal committee whose job was to work out all the laws of a future society.  The committee members need to think of absolutely every eventuality because, once they have reached agreement and ratified all the legislation, they will all drop dead.  But after that they will all immediately wake up again in the very society whose laws they have written.  But – they would have no prior knowledge of what position in society they would occupy.  Nor would they know their ethnic or religious background, or if they were going to be born a boy or a girl.  A society like that would be a just society – simply because it had been formed by equals.

To make this notion more relevant to a modern global community, it would however be necessary to add one other important criterion: the members of this legislative body would also not know when they would be living in this society that everyone was equally responsible for.  It might be straight away.  But it might also be five hundred or five thousand years in the future.

Is today’s society a similarly just – and sustainable – one?  In other words, would we dare to be born in the middle of this millennium, for example?  The question boils down to whether we would risk sharing the fate of our own grandchildren?

How wide are our ethical horizons?  How wide are the ethical horizons of literature and art? In the final analysis it comes down to a question of identity.  What is a human being?  And who am I?  If I were nothing more than myself, I would be a creature without hope.  At least in the long term.  But I possess a deeper identity than my own body and my own short span on earth.  I am part of – and take part in – something greater and more important than myself.

Radhakrishnan, the former President of India said: You must love your neighbour as yourself because you are your neighbour.  The belief that your neighbour is anything other than you is merely an illusion.  And we might possibly add: isn’t it also an illusion that makes us believe that life on this planet is something different from ourselves?

But we don’t need to travel to India to encounter this more profound sense of identity.  We simply need to restore the old farming ethic.  It was an unwritten rule that the farmer would hand on his land in a better state and in better heart than he’d inherited it.  When the old farmer was on his death bed it was, of course, a time of melancholy and sadness.  But it would have been a greater and more irreparable tragedy if the farm itself had burnt down.

It has been said that the problem with Spaceship Earth is that it didn’t come with any instructions.  But in that case, why don’t we get on and write an instruction manual!  For that we need authors and philosophers.  We know that things are going wrong, and we know that we need to change course.  Don’t we also understand that something in our very system of economics is on a collision course with what the planet can tolerate?  Far too many decisions give priority to short-term profit of small groups rather than considering what is a fair distribution of the earth’s resources.

We are often told that ideologies are dead.  But isn’t the consumer ideology also an ideology?  And is it really the only model?

The question for writers and artists at the start of the third millennium must be: what shift in consciousness do we need?  What is a sustainable wisdom?  Which qualities of life are the most important?  Which values are the true values?  What is the good life?  And importantly: what kind of mobilisation is possible in the global village?

I have met people in small local communities who have expressed profound sorrow about the enormous cultural loss suffered in their area as a result of what many regard as colonialism or neo-colonialism.  But the cultural sphere is not the only thing that suffers in this so called «globalisation».  The effects on the environment have been even more serious and irreversible, for example a total or partial extermination of native flora and fauna.  Some of these species still survive in traditional folk songs and folklore.  It’s just that they have been eradicated from the face of the earth.

A threat to ancient habitats is naturally also a threat to art and culture.  Even an attack on traditional economy can be an attack on a traditional culture.  Nature forms the basis of culture.  This can be easy to forget in an international consumer society in which the distance between producer and consumer can seem enormous.  But plundering a people’s natural surroundings is simultaneously to misappropriate that people’s culture  – and their soul.  It’s fruitless to discuss which is the greater loss.  It would be rather like asking what someone would hate to lose most: body or soul.

This «body and soul» perspective – or nature and culture – is clearly relevant to the whole of our planet.  If our very economic system is on a collision course with what nature can endure, it is also a threat to all cultural life.  For a playful, inventive and vain primate it is easy to forget that, at root, we are a part of nature.  But are we really so playful, inventive and vain that the game itself, the inventions and the art are given pre-eminence over our responsibility for the planet’s future?

Today, many of us well understand the challenges facing the planet.  But we feel paralysed by political and economic systems.  Politicians, too, have a far greater insight than might appear in practice.  And this is the paradox: we have sufficient insight – and we know that time is short – but we aren’t able to turn things round before it’s too late.  But if we do manage it, I am convinced that art and literature will play a decisive part.  In the same way that authors and artists have constituted an avant-garde in the fight for human rights, so they may form a vanguard, too, in the struggle for human obligations.

When Churchill was appointed Prime Minister in May 1940 – as German forces were advancing on the English Channel – he told the House of Commons: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, sweat and tears.  The amazing thing was that he managed to mobilise his people – in spite of what was, to put it mildly, a depressing political message.  But the message was a necessary one.  Today we are perhaps facing an even greater and more imminent danger – by which I mean a fatal collapse of the earth’s environments, including all artistic and cultural values.  But where is that political courage now?  Where is the political decisiveness?  Where are the politicians who dare to ask for a little sweat and tears to bring about a new and necessary political direction simply to save our children’s futures, human civilisation – and the very dignity of the human race itself?  Perhaps it is we poets, essayists and novelists, who must raise our banners and make our politicians toe the line.  We have done it before.

Perhaps the most important question of all in relation to literature’s importance in a post-modern world is this: how can the written word inspire a young generation to believe in – and so fight for – a more just and sustainable future?  What visions can art give the younger generation in a world where half the population lives below the poverty line and the other half practically drowns in materialism and excessive consumption?

According to an old parable a frog that is dropped into boiling water will immediately jump out again and so save its skin.  But if the frog is placed in a pan of cold water which is gradually brought to boiling point, it will be unaware of the danger and be boiled to death.

Is our generation like that frog?  Is modern art and culture such a frog?  Or the modern entertainment industry?  I don’t know, but it really is down to us to decide.  We can’t count on any outside help.  We’re not likely to be saved in the final second before boiling point – either from outer space or by some form of supernatural intervention.

Human beings are largely social creatures, and authors are no exception.  But we can’t continue only to relate to each other.  We also belong to the earth we live on.  That, too, is a significant part of our identity.

To a large extent we modern human beings have been shaped by our cultural history, by the actual civilisation that has nurtured us.  We say that we have a cultural heritage.  But we have also been formed by the biological history of the planet.  We also pass on a genetic inheritance.  We are primates.  We are vertebrates.

It took several billion years to create us.  But will we survive the third millennium?

Human beings are possibly the only living creatures in the universe with a universal consciousness.  And so it is not only a global responsibility to preserve the living environment of this planet.  It is a cosmic responsibility.

Literature is nothing less than a celebration of mankind’s consciousness.  So shouldn’t an author be the first to defend human consciousness against annihilation?

Jostein Gaarder

Tale av Vigdis Finnbogadottir, 9. september

Voices of the World

We should care for the reduction of language diversity and dying languages for the very same reason that we care when a species of animal or plant dies. It reduces the diversity of our planet. We are talking about the intellectual and cultural diversity of the planet now, of course, not its biological diversity. But the issues are the same. Enshrined in a language is the whole of a community’s history, and a large part of its cultural identity. The world is a mosaic of visions. To  lose even one piece of this mosaic is a loss for all of us.

We can learn so much from the visions of others. Sometimes the learning is eminently practical, such as when medical treatments from the folk medicine practices of an indigenous people spread to other parts of the world to the benefit of all. Sometimes it is intellectual- an increase in our awareness of the history of our world, as when the links between languages tell us something about the movements of early civilisations -or as when oral literature or myths or just the meeting with another foreign mindset, philosophy or poetry open up new inner universes. And of course, very often we learn something new about language itself – the behaviour that makes us truly human.

That’s why it is so important to document these languages as quickly as possible. With every language that dies, another precious source of data about the nature of the human language faculty is lost – and don’t forget, there are only about 6,000 sources in all.

There are nine different words in Maya for the colour blue in the comprehensive Porrua Spanish-Maya Dictionary, but just three Spanish translations, leaving six butterflies that can only be seen by the Maya, proving beyond doubt that when a language dies, six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the world.  (Earl Shorris, Professor of Anthropology)

A widespread effort is being made to document «indigenous knowledge» (IK) and see its use in sustainable development in the form of a world-wide and rapidly expanding network of IK-resource-centres. The initiative is based on the growing international reconnection of the link between cultural and biological diversity, and the IK-system’s role as cultural capital. These IK-resource-centres secure national and international contacts between individuals and institutions working with IK.

The cultural, biological and linguistic tendencies of development all point in the same direction: A notorious growth in mono-cultures that all too often disregards local conditions. In the long run this may lead the globe to a state of biological, cultural and linguistic desertification, for with the local languages and cultures, disappears also the knowledge about local biological conditions that is necessary for survival. When a language is moribund, it is often a sign of a milieu crisis, or -to put it the other way about -where there are indigenous peoples with a homeland, there are still biologically rich environments.

The dangers threatening small communities are bigger than ever: a growing number of languages are becoming extinct, in line with the general tendency towards assimilation into bigger national states. To maintain linguistic diversity is not just an idealistic wish, but rather a necessity -if we want to keep the variety on which humanity depends. Language, culture and nature are interconnected, and if one is obstructed it will have consequences for the others.
Thousands of years of accumulated knowledge disappears every fortnight, because the last speaker of a language dies. This is not only a problem from a humanitarian point of view. This is knowledge that is being lost to the world. Any effort to maintain languages is an effort to prevent the intellectual and practical knowledge they have inherited from disappearing from the consciousness of the world.

PRESENT SITUATION OF THE LANGUAGES IN THE WORLD

Languages have died off throughout history, but never have we faced the massive extinction that is threatening the world right now. As language professionals, we are faced with a stark reality: Much of what we study will not be available to future generations. The cultural heritage of many peoples is crumbling while we look on. Are we willing to shoulder the blame for having stood by and done nothing?’ (Opening statement, Endangered Language Fund, USA 1995)

Statistics suggest that over half of the world’s languages are moribund: i.e. not being passed on effectively to the next generation. We are living at a point in human history where, within perhaps two generations, most languages in the world will die out.

Language is a fundamental part of life, common to all humans, and an identity and culture- defining factor unique to the species of humankind. Without language you cannot define yourself as a human being, without language you cannot express your cultural identity. All languages are rich with characteristic creative grammatical and phonetic ways of organising and categorising human experience, and specific ways of expressing their conceptions of the world. Language might very well have been the crucial element that made it possible for Homo Sapiens to become the most successful species in the world, because language made possible communication about new findings and insights.

There is nothing unusual about a single language dying. Communities have come and gone throughout history , and with them their language. Hittite, for example, died out when its civilisation disappeared in Old Testament times. But what is happening today is extraordinary, judged by the standards of the past. It is language extinction on a massive scale.

Estimates as to the total number of languages spoken in the world today range between 4,000 and10,000, depending on how the exact border between ‘language’ and ‘dialect’ is defined; but most recent linguistic publications agree on a total of just under 7,000, which breaks down as follows:

Asia                33 %               2,197 languages

Africa             30 %               2,058 languages

Pacific             19 %               1 ,311 languages

America          15 %               1 ,013 languages

Europe            3 %                     230 lanauages
Total             100%                 6,809 languages

The biggest tropical rain-forest region on earth, which holds the majority of the species of the world, is also the home of the highest range of linguistic diversity. Most of the world’s languages are spoken in two zones – one running from the West African coast via the Congo to East Africa, and the other from southern India and the south-eastern Asian peninsula via the Indonesian islands to New Guinea and the Pacific.

The 17 largest countries in these regions account for 60% of the languages of the world, but only for 27% of the world’s population, and only 9% of the world’s area.

Nigeria                       427 languages

Cameroon                  270 1anguages

Zaire                          210 languages

The Ivory Coast           73 languages

Togo                           43 languages

Ghana                         72 1anguages

Benin                           51 languages

Tanzania                    131 1anguages

India                           380 languages (incl. 3 on first languages top 15)

Vietnam                         86 languages

Laos                              92 1anguages

The Philippines             160 languages

Malaysia                      137 languages

Indonesia                     670 languages (incl. 1 on first languages top 15)

Papua New Guinea        860 languages

Vanuatu                       105 languages

The Solomon Islands      66 languages

Australia represents another 250 languages, Mexico 240 and Brazil 210 languages, while Europe represents only a modest 3% of all languages, and China with it’s 21.5% of the world’s population and 8.6% of the world’s area, holds only a mere 2.6% of the world’s languages (96 languages). So 70% of the world’s languages are gathered in only 20 nations, which include some of the poorest in the world.

Mandarin is on the top-1 O-list of ‘first languages’, representing 726 million speakers, followed by English with it’s 427 million speakers, and Spanish with 266 millions, Hindi has another 182 million speakers, Arabian 181 millions, Portuguese 165 millions, Bengali 162 millions, Russian 158 millions, Japanese 124 millions and German 121 millions.)
(The list does not include second-language speakers, totals which in many cases are considerably higher.)  In effect, the statistics mean that

96% of the languages of the world are spoken by 4% of the world’s population
4% of the languages of the world are spoken by 96% of the world’s population

52% of the world’s languages are spoken by less than 10,000 people
28% by less than 1,000
10% by less than 100

This implies that well over half of the world’s languages, i.e. some 3,500 languages, have 10,000 speakers or less; and that a quarter of all languages have only 1,000 speakers or less. At present, linguists suggest that there are around 50 languages which have only one speaker left.  Estimates about the number of languages in the world must be treated with caution. There is unlikely to be any single, universally agreed total. As a result, translating observations about percentages of endangered languages into absolute figures, or vice versa is always problematic. Nonetheless, one fact is clear and solid: the number of living and spoken languages is diminishing at an alarming rate.

Estimates have it that only around 600 of the world’s languages are not threatened by extinction. Statistically, one language dies every fortnight -which means that some 50% of the languages of the world will be gone by the end of the twenty-first century, and with them the cultures, that they embed. Somewhere between 20% and 30% of the languages of the world are not being passed on to new generations, and because this natural transmission is not taking place, the languages are moribund. So we are reaching a critical point in human history, where, if we do not take action, numerous languages of the world will have vanished within 2 generations, taking their cultures with them.

Why are so many languages dying?  The reasons range from natural disasters, through different forms of cultural assimilation, to genocide.  Small communities in isolated areas can easily be dicimated or wiped out by earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and other cataclysms.  A habitat may become unsurviveable through unfavourable climatic and economic conditions – famine and drouht especially.  Communities can die through imported disease.  Cultural assimilation is an even bigger factor.  Much of the present crisis in language loss stems from the major cultural movements which began 500 years ago, as colonialism spread a small number of dominant languages – English, Spanish, Portugese and French – around the world.  The extinction of languages and cultures is symptomatic of the social process following globalisation.  Great numbers of the worlds languages are threatened by the spreading of a small handful of major languages.

This radical change is not a question of ‘survival of the fittest’, or the result of a sound concurrence between equals, but, on the contrary, largely the result of unequal social conditions both between the industrialised countries and developing countries, and, more especially, between developed and undeveloped regions within the same country.

REVITALISATION & MULTlLINGUISM

The figure of 100,000 when talking about endangered languages, sometimes takes people by surprise. Surely a language with 100,000 speakers is safe? The evidence is to the contrary. Such a language is not going to die next week or next year; but there is no guarantee that it will be surviving in a couple of generations. It all depends on the pressures being exerted upon it -in particular, whether it is at risk from the dominance of another language. It also depends on the attitudes of the people who speak it -do they care if it lives or dies?

Problems arise when the mother tongue is not being passed on effectively to the next generation. This may either be because the parents find it futile to speak their mother tongue, or perhaps because the children abandon it when they find that their mother tongue is seen as a social and/or economic stigma.

Can anything be done? Obviously it’s too late to do anything to help many languages, where the speakers are too few or too old, and where the community is too busy just trying to survive to care a hoot about their language. But many languages are not in such a desperate position. Often, where languages are seriously endangered, there are things that can be done to give new life to them. The term used to describe this process is ‘revitalisation’. A community, once it realises that its language is in danger, can get its act together, and introduce measures which can genuinely revitalise. You’ve seen it happen in Australia, with several aboriginal languages, and it’s happening in other countries, too. Conditions have to be right, of course, for there to be a likelihood of success. The community itself must want to save its language -that’s the absolute first step. The culture of which it’s a part must also need to have a respect for minority languages.

An endangered language will progress if it’s speakers:

.have access to media

.increase their wealth

.increase their legitimate power in the dominant community .have a strong presence in the educational system

.can write their language down

.can make use of electronic communication technology

Breton, in France, is a classic case. At the beginning of the 20th century it was spoken by as many as a million people, but by the end of the century it was down to perhaps a quarter of that total. Breton could be safe if enough effort is made – the kind of effort that has already helped Welsh to recover its growth. It not, the downward trend will just continue, and Breton could be gone in 50 years. This scenario has already happened, in recent times, to two other Celtic languages in Europe- Cornish, formerly spoken in Cornwall, and Manx, in the Isle of Man.

Language diversity, like a gene pool, is essential for our species to thrive. If we are to prosper, we need the cross-fertilisation of thought, that multilinguism gives us. Linguists have for a long time been calling attention to the fact that it is a benefit to master more than one language, as long as there is a balance between the mother tongue and the second language.

Today, English is the main contender for the position of world lingua franca. There are few competitors. Several other languages have an important local role as a lingua franca, such as Russian in Eastern Europe or Spanish in South and Central America, but no comparable international level of use. Mandarin has more speakers than any other language in the world, but is too unfamiliar in western societies to be used there. German and French are still widely used, but far less than they were a century ago.

The world has diminished. We exchange information globally more than ever- through news,
trade agreements and political associations. Art, culture and religion are constant carriers of discussion, and the electronic media will bring us together even more closely in times to come. We cannot deny this fact -using it wisely is a task we have to face.

The ideal of globalisation is that each culture should be able to guard its own cultural and linguistic heritage, as well as all its embedded knowledge, expressional individualism and traditional poetry , keeping its own individual taxonomy alive -while at the same time everyone is empowered to communicate with the rest of the world in at least one or two major lingua franca, for the benefit of all. The ideal is certainly not that the price to be paid for the currency of the lingua franca should be the demise of linguistic -and cultural- diversity.

VOICES OF THE WORLD

VOW proposes to take effective action towards maintaining cultural and linguistic diversity. In order to help revitalise moribund languages and create an archive of those which are beyond hope of resuscitation, it will begin by initiating positive global dialogue on linguistic and cultural diversity in the world today, and laying the foundations for a lasting archive resource for study. Central to the VOW concept are the audio-visual media and broadcasUdigital networks which will ensure that the profile of this dialogue is high, and has a significant impact at a cultural level, all over the globe.

The VOW organisation and network offers to co-ordinate people, ethnic groups and cultures, UN- agencies, different kinds of NGOs, research-centres, universities and educational establishments

A crucial aspect of the project is the process that VOW will generate in each participant culture, enabling each language-group to:

* appreciate its mother tongue as unique and ‘identity creating’
* increase attention to the development of the individual languages
* raise awareness of the transmission of the language to coming generations encourage language care (for instance establishing written vocabularies, education, administration, information, cultural practices, artistic productions)
* identify foreign language influence and exchange
* formulate the importance of multi-linguistic environments
* establish appropriate legal and cultural rights to a mother tongue
* generate scientific documentation where it is neede

A crucial element of VOW will be an Archive of Language & Languages, a collection of existing knowledge and documentation accessible through one portal, with the aim of facilitating contact between people from all over the world. Over the years, many individual initiatives have been
made towards true international co-operation on this front, but none have reached full fruition. In order to have our network in place and the content ready for dissemination by October 2005, VOW hopes that the challenge of this new initiative will be taken up with full commitment to the necessary collaborative work.

9th September 2004

Vigdis Finnbógadottir

 

Departementsråd Helge M. Sønnelands tale 7. september

Dette er manuskriptet til departementsråd Helge M. Sønnelands lunch-tale i Tromsø.  Talen ble dessverre ikke holdt pga. sykdom

Tromsø 7.september 2004

Your Royal Highness
Dear writers,

It is a pleasure for me to have been invited to disturb your luncheon today. My task is to present in a few words ­ and no more than 15 minutes ­  the Norwegian literary system, as seen from the desks of the Ministry of  Culture and Church Affairs . According to the organizers, this is to be done in a light-hearted way, preferably with a touch of humour. Not a very usual prescription to a bureaucrat. And also close to impossible, taking into account that the current situation in the Norwegian book market is seriously uncertain, calling for profound contemplation rather than a bright mood. So ­ as there is no such thing as a free lunch ­ there is probably no such thing as a lighthearted, entertaining description of the literary scenery in  this country.

Anyway: When the invitation came, the Ministry felt ­ to the extent that a Ministry can feel ­very honoured ­ and so did I ­ I also felt humble to be asked to speak to such a prominent assembly as yours ­ and the task felt slightly overwhelming, taking into consideration that I would have liked to have had a few more hours speaking time. So this will necessarily be somewhat superfluous ­ not for the first time in bureaucratic history. I will take the liberty of expanding the time frame to 17 ½ minutes, of which 2 ½ will be devoted to humoristic  attempts.

I will address you in the most spoken language in the world, namely: English as spoken by foreigners.

The title offered to me – “The state of the book and the book of the state” – might evoke associations of literary systems which PEN-members would instinctively want to dissociate themselves from. Let me therefore hasten to underline that Norwegian governmental policy in this area is to provide the basis for a literary production characterized by breadth, multiple choice and quality, and to uphold and enhance the endangered Norwegian languages ­ and Sami and not to interfere with what is to be published, or  in any way censor literary expressions. (On the contrary: censorship of printed material has been prohibited by our Constitution in 185 of its 190 years of existence ­ the exception being WW II.) And in any matter of allocations of funds, to beneficiaries of say literature scholarship, the policy is an armlength’s distance between the government and the decision makers.

My immediate response to the question: what is the state of the book in Norway? would be to declare that overall the situation is not bad. This is an understatement for close to excellent ­ but only late at night and without witnesses would my friends and counterparts in the author’s organisations subscribe to this .However, new literature of all kinds is written, published, praised ­ and condemned ­debated, bought, read, borrowed ­ the old analogue book survives ,simultaneously with the electronic distribution of texts .”The book is dead ­long live the book”, Norwegian author Jon Bing stated 20 years ago. He now proves to be right.  I note that he sounds sad when he predicts that the Norwegian language will be -if not dead, so at least seriously ill   in less than 100 years ­ and I am convinced too that it might deteriorate as English is gaining new ground in our daily – and nightly life. Norwegian governmental cultural policies include steps to avoid this ­ at least prolong the longevity of our languages. Supporting authors and literature is instrumental in this respect.

Let me then revert to my task, and draw your attention to some main features of our system:

1. No VAT on books ­ and for the publishers: payed VAT is deductable.

2. Financed by the state, 1000 copies of new titles of  fiction literature for adults in the Norwegian languages are bought and distributed to public libraries

3. 1500 copies of fiction literature for children and adolescents in the Norwegian languages are bought for public libraries and School libraries

4. Plans are made to introduce a similar purchase scheme for non-fiction literature

5. Royalty to authors of the purchased books is paid by the state, and 5% added to the normal royalty according to the so-called “ standard contract” between Norwegian fiction authors and the publishers

6. Authors are among the groups  eligible for guaranteed income, and governmental scholarships

7. Norwegian libraries ­ including all kinds of libraries ­ hold a stock of 50 million units of material published in Norway. For this material, held for loans or reference use in the libraries, the government pays a public lending right, presently resulting in ca. 8 million Euros/ 9,5 mill. USD. This money is distributed to funds managed by relevant rightholders’ groups, and are mainly given as scholarships to authors. The rightholders decide themselves how to do this ­ as long as there is no discrimination on the ground of nationality within the European Economic Area, and as long as the money is accounted for. (Allow me here a slight digression, in the form of a lovely story concerning  reporting  the use of scholarships and grants. It is contributed to the author Odd Eidem, who had gotten a travel grant. The Ministry wrote: One can not see that one has received a report, one ask you to submit one promptly. The author replied: One have received the travel grant. One has bought a boat. One is still travelling”.)

8. How is the sum of money to public lending right decided, you may ask. The sum to be paid pr lending-unit is negotiated between the government and the rightholders ­ as a part of a general negotiating right provided for Norwegian artists of any kind.

What I have mentioned, are examples of how the Norwegian state takes an interest in securing a plurality of voices in the public sphere. The Norwegian Parliament is currently putting the final touches to a new Article 100 of the Constitution, protecting freedom of speech in Norway. One of the proposals which the Parliament is considering is to include the state’s obligation in this respect ­ to secure the infrastructure of freedom of speech ­ in the Constitution itself. Although more of a political than a legal obligation, it would mean that the state i.a. should continue to contribute financially to art, culture, newspapers, public service broadcasting and literature.

I mentioned the negotiating right of the artists. Here you may ask ironically: what is the negotiating power of artists ?Do they have any ? Part of my answer is to point to the power of this organisation: the power of words. Time and again, the word has proved to be powerful and influential ­ also when used for the purposes of defending artists’ rights in this society- and not least words in the form of head-lines in nation-wide newspapers….

Furthermore, I would like to point to the fact that Norway has for many decades had a well functioning copyright legislation . It is not an exaggeration to say that the Nordic countries ­ which uphold a strong wish to have a harmonized copyright legislation ­ have been in the forefront in securing the rights of the authors ­ as well as in finding practicable solutions for the users. This legislation will be brought up to “Information society-standard” shortly, and thereby the rights of authors will be strengthened. This does not imply that Internet is presently law-less country ­ but it has some similarities with the Wild West ­ it is  hard to be the sheriff.

Norway has a strong copyright legislation, and in addition to being a small and transparent country, we are also extremely organized. The average Norwegian is member of 2,4 organizations. This is also valid for authors, who have formed not less than 4 fiction-writers organizations if the same organizations are included. For the purpose of management of intellectual property rights, you will find well ­functioning collecting societies all over the field-from performance rights of texts and music, to photocopying, where the umbrella organisation is named KOPINOR.

The remuneration collected for photocopying in this country exceeds (USD30 Mill).One of the reasons for this world-record level, is a special Nordic legal solution implemented in our copyright law ;the so-called extended collective licence system. Under this system, the effect of agreements between  a user ­i.a. a university  or government administration-  and a relevant rightholder’s organization ­like Kopinor ­ is extended to cover also non-members of the relevant category of rightholder’s -the result is a strong bargaining power for the rightholder’s, equalled with the possibility for the user to clear all rights needed in an effective way. Through the agreement necessary flexibility can be achieved.

The Ministry intends to propose shortly a similar system to apply to electronic copying.

A characteristic of Norwegian remuneration schemes is solidarity between the artists, and a pragmatic approach in search of solutions. In a majority of cases we have chosen collective solutions, which ­ is my postulate ­ is a characteristic not only of the government’s policy, but also of the policy of the organizations-slightly in contradiction to major trends in other countries.

Concerning photocopying, however, we know from surveys the national origin of the material which has been copied, and payment is made accordingly to relevant organisations representing foreign rightholder’s. We did not dislike it when US publishers received a check of some million USdollars from Norway and ­in the absence of individual data – had to use them for collective purposes ­ which they did by successfully bringing  copyright infringers to court.

Even in the copyright field, where individual management and individual remuneration is the starting point, we have found practical solutions based on solidarity. Most organizations have chosen to distribute the i.a. photocopying money in the form of scholarships, even if individual payment is possible when a specific act of copying can be proven. This collective way of thinking is even stronger represented when you look at remuneration schemes based on cultural policy, outside of copyright, like the Public Lending Right.

But in my eyes, in these times of individualism, when I comes quicker to mind than us and we ­ not to mention they and theirs- it seems that Bob Dylan was and is right: Times, they are a-changing. Mine is the trendy word, and some of the Norwegian schemes may so to speak become minefields, capable of slowly undermining the system.

Also, there are dark clouds in the literary horizon. For many years bookstores and publishers have had fixed price-agreement on newly published books.

The present agreement terminates by January 1. 2005 ­ the start of our 100 year anniversary as an independent nation.

Long lasting negotiations between the parties failed in June.

The Minister of Culture has met with the different parties ­including the authors although they are not directly involved in the negotiations – to listen to their views. The outcome is presently uncertain ­ it is a difficult matter, not least in political terms.

It is my hope that common ground is found for a renewed voluntary agreement. If not, a possible outcome might be the death of the literary system as we know it.

On the other hand ­ speaking as a bureaucrat in the ministry of Culture and Church Affairs ­ I should know that without death, there can be no resurrection…..

This brings me to the end of this quick run-through of some of the elements of our literary landscape. Other speakers will fill out ­or give a more nuanced picture later in this conference.

Anyway: Anyone dealing with and trying to find his or her place in the exciting part of life that cultural policy and literature represent, may get the feeling that it is hard to keep one’s head above water. Be it then a comfort to recall that a person who has her head above water, only sees the tip of the iceberg.

Thank you for your attention.

HKH Kronprins Haakons tale under åpningen av kongressen 7. september

HKH Kronprins Haakons tale under åpningen av International PENs 70. Verdenskongress i Tromsø, 7. september 2004

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

The freedom to publicly voice political opinions is a fundamental right. In order to create just societies a host of liberties and freedoms are vital. Freedom of political speech is a prerequisite for creating the future we want. How else would we be able to find the right solutions to complex problems? We are dependent on the best arguments and insights we can get. So we definitely need to hear from the people that are right. We also need to hear from people that are partly right because there are lessons to be learned from them as well. We even need to hear arguments that are wrong so that they can be debated and identified as invalid.

Freedom of speech is a source of power. If used constructively it is amazing what speech can do. It can fight corruption, free political prisoners, and make oppressive regimes crumble.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that: “Freedom of speech is a right to be fought for, not a blessing to be wished for. But it is more than that: it is the essential vehicle for the exchange of ideas between nations and cultures. And without that exchange and interaction, there can be no true understanding or lasting cooperation.”

Freedom of speech is, however, not a good in itself. As other forms of power freedom of expression can also be abused. Freedom of speech does not mean that it is OK to do or say whatever you want. There are ethical boundaries that are important to keep within. At the same time we should not be scared of outing truths that are needed to create a better society.

To protect human rights and liberties we need watchdogs to protect them. International PEN is such a watchdog.

International PEN is, mainly through its Writers in Prison Committee and its many centres, working for about one thousand individual persecuted writers, journalists and editors at all times. You can boast of many spectacular successes – writers saved from unjust prison cells or life-threatening refugee camps, some times at the last moment – some of them are even with us here today. I know that the two main themes, on which you will be working during this week, are «Writers in Exile» and «Writers in Minority Languages», respectively. Neither of these problems are new. The work which is done by International PEN and its many centres is indeed needed.

In Norway, International PEN is represented by the Norwegian PEN centre, which today is known as one of the most active PEN centres. Norwegian PEN is also administering the Norwegian cities of asylum for persecuted writers. Scandinavia has a tradition for this sort of work, and it is important that this tradition is carried on. This is the responsibility which follows from our privileged position in a peaceful and relatively wealthy corner of the world, and I am happy to see that our responsibility is taken so well care of as this congress week in Tromsø seems to prove.

It is a pleasure to meet so many delegates from International PEN in Norway, and in the city of Tromsø. International PEN is an organization which has turned out to be able to change during its 83 years of existence, from being a literary club at a high level to become today’s powerful agent in the fight for freedom of expression with almost 140 PEN centres all over the world, most of them represented here today.

I wish every one of you a most happy stay in Norway, and I wish you all a fruitful week and all imaginable luck in your important work. I hereby declare International PEN’s 70th World Congress open.

Tale av Elisabeth Eide, UiT 6. september

LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN FRIEND

Dear friend,

It may seem strange to you that I should call you a friend, since we have never met and do not know each other. However, this week several hundred writers, cultivators in the world of words – are gathered near the Northern tip of the world. And today some of us are urged to discuss a topic formulated as like this: Should writers stay in prison? I thought you should be informed since it is about you. May be this headline provokes you, since you are barred by thousand walls from being here. However, the question may be formulated as it is just to remind us here that people like you exist. But it may also function as a word play hinting to the story of suffering and art. Or should we call it not a story but a myth? Does not prison tear apart more than it stimulates in any human being?

Come to think of it, there are undoubtedly prisoners who became artists while in prison. For some the prison years compelled them to write, like many survivors from the Nazi concentration camps in WW II. French-Jewish writer Fania Fenelon’s story of the women’s orchestra in Auschwitz-Birkenau is one brilliant example, not the least because she dares to explore also how the dark sides of the human soul appear in detention, that is, not only humanity but also greed and vanity, the presence of solidarity and the opposite.

One living proof of becoming a writer in prison I met recently, the president of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao. For seven years he was confined to a cell in Cipinang prison in Jakarta, Indonesia. During these seven years he gradually got access to canvas and paint, to a typewriter and later a computer. But he does not tell a prison story, he becomes a poet. One result of this period is a collection of poetry called Mar Meu, My sea of Timor, illustrated by his own paintings, dream-like images of his longed-for country:

Timor / where flowers also bloom / to make beautiful / the unknown graves / ‘in cold, endless nights’.

The longing for what you cannot see, but imagine with your baggage of experience, the longing for where you cannot be but have belonged to. I imagine this longing takes a huge part of the day in a prison cell. It made Xanana an artist.

But my East Timorese friends tell me the best book written about East Timor, its suffering and courage, was created and published by a writer who has not even visited the island. The person is Timothy Mo, with his novel The Redundancy of Courage. In this book he is deeply inspired by the seemingly madly courageous East Timorese guerrilla movement, that is; of mountain men he has never met; a couple of hundred men challenging Indonesia who occupied the country for 24 years, a world power. He writes of them with a blend of critical empathy, admiration and humour. Timothy Mo, born from a Hong Kong Chinese father and an English mother, has never spent time in a prison cell. But he has lunched with Timorese exiles. And they must have left quite an impression.

At present Xanana, the president-poet longs for somewhere else, a place beyond a position he did not really want, but felt compelled by his people to take on. Being an old guerrilla fighter in Timor’s mountains he has become a national Icon. He now expresses his need for a room of his own, a retreat in which he can write and paint. He will have to wait for the 2007 elections. But he should not have to go back to a cell block.

For in prison the horrors overpower the blessings of the dream world, a world Jack London generously let his straitjacketed prisoner escape to almost a hundred years ago. Did you ever read his The Star Rover, in Norwegian actually called the Strait jacket? In this novel a man on Death Row writes of a soul wandering across the world and across history, while physically he was confined to a small dark cell.

The horrors of such a place may follow a person throughout a life time, as it has to this day followed the Afghan writer Razak Mahmoon. In his novel “Asr-e-Khodkhoshi” (The Era of Suicide) he makes an account strongly based on his personal experience from Kabul’s Poul-e-Charkhi prison. His own story is sad, but also carries a string of irony. Being part of a radical underground movement, he was mistaken for an extreme fundamentalist, then arrested by the Soviets, tortured and imprisoned at the age of 16. For the first four years he was in a dark place, in solitary confinement. Then one day a Russian doctor came to see him and concluded that if he was left there much longer, he would turn blind. So his guards had the sense to transfer the young boy to a cell with 150 other prisoners. Razak Mahmoon did not like it much, he detested the smells of the other inmates, their behaviour, their fundamentalism. Sometimes he even wanted to return to his small cell, where he had nursed his imagination; to prevent himself from turning mad. But in the new, crowded cell books were allowed to circulate. He started reading. In his home there had not been many books, but he had been obsessed with listening to radio and thus discovered a larger world. Now the guards brought in literature. Since he was not a very devout believer, Mahmoon took to philosophy, the Russian classics and even Lenin for a while. – I am the son of Dostoyevsky, he told us as we meet him in Kabul. His new novel Pardai Haftum, the seventh curtain, is too radical for this country, he tells us, since he is a critic of orthodoxy in Islam. He struggled with his prison book for years, but got his award when an Iranian critic thought his name must be a pseudonym for a Russian writer.

Through his novel he tries to control his traumatized mind. He is restless, does not trust the future in his own homeland. And without doubt, say other Afghan writers, his eight years in prison, the best years of his youth, have given shape to great literature – and a tormented soul. So who am I, dear friend, to say that any such suffering is worth while?

You have obviously reflected more deeply on these questions than I have. Maybe you would even – in spite of your own miserable situation argue that some of the great art of this world is created from people’s sufferings. Slave labourers and quarry workers whipped through endless days of toiling. In the end for me it is impossible to imagine. But if we happened to be in that moment of history we would have sided with the slaves but admired their skills, wouldn’t we?

A different kind of irony of history has been lived and experienced by Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer. In his four novels called the Buru Quartet he explores Dutch colonialism mainly through a young and ambitious person’s mind. Through their schools the main character Minke learns of the freedoms that the rulers will not allow people like himself. Thus his subversiveness grows. But do you know where he started writing these four volumes? We may not even call it writing, since for several years the dictator Soeharto denied him access to pen and paper. When he was imprisoned the police destroyed eight unfinished manuscripts and his great library. But like you, he did not give in. From his arrival in 1967 to the prison island Buru, in the Malaccan archipelago; he was compelled to take part in unpaid slave labour with his fellow prisoners. But then, in the dark and damp evenings, rather exhausted, he sat down with fourteen of his compatriots. Under these circumstances Pram Toer started telling his stories of Minke’s life at the beginning of the 20th century, chapter by chapter. One prisoner became so intrigued from hearing about Minke’s experiences that he disappeared in the jungle of Buru. When his friends luckily found him before the prison guards did, he explained to them that he wanted to be Minke. A free person.

In the year 1973, after eight years of imprisonment, Toer was allowed writing utensils, and his fellow prisoners started taking over some of his work in the fields, while he was still responsible for providing his group with firewood. His novels were produced in four copies, helped by carbon paper, and smuggled out of Buru and Indonesia by a German priest. After another six years Toer was released 1979, but had to live under restrictions resembling house arrest until Soeharto’s fall in 1999.

But why do I only tell you about the man and his writings? Writers are beings of flesh and blood. They need protein to survive, especially when forced to do hard physical labour. Today often mentioned as a candidate to the Nobel price, Toer hunted rats and reptiles to survive at Buru. He was arrested when the youngest of his seven children was two months old. Throughout his stay in prison he tried to reach them, scribbling on insides of cigarette packs, smuggling out small notes and thus showing how he cared. Not the least he was trying from his awkward position to give them advices about the future. In short; all the things a parent should be allowed to do face to face.

Do not remind me, you say. I am a mother and a father and the thought of my children is the worst part of being in this place.

I answer you that I know, but then again I don’t. It just came to my mind as I had the privilege of meeting Toer this summer. I also feel helpless; I can do little to comfort you but saying that Pram Toer eventually learnt to know his children again after fourteen years away. But what these relations might have been with him living with them in Java, and what kind of literature he could have created without the prison years, with his library and his eight unpublished manuscripts intact, nobody will ever know. All those ‘might-have-been’s’ must surely haunt him at times. I have read some of his pre-prison works: He has always stayed close to the Indonesian common man. He did not need imprisonment to learn to know him. Only now, when he declares he is too old to write, when his fingers will no longer willingly follow the signals of his brains, he is living in a style more typical of a famous writer.

When shifting my focus from the president-poet in East Timor and young Razak Mahmoon in Kabul to Pram Toer, I also shifted from men who became writers in prison or as a result of prison, to an established well-known writer from whom everything – his writings, his research, his family and his right to let his voice be heard – was taken away by his tormentors. I do not know, however, whether Mahmoon the Afghan would have published a first novel or a volume of short stories in his early twenties if it had not been for the brutes who arrested him. He probably does not know himself either.

And between the two ways of relating to prison that I have just described,  there are the in-betweens. Like Partaw Naderi, another Afghan writer who was a grown-up family man when he was thrown into Poul-e-Charkhi, south of Kabul, on the Logar road. He ended up in prison accused of being a Maoist, since he had some friends belonging to one of their groups. He himself did not believe in them, since they seemed to adhere to the same ideology as the Soviet invaders of his country. But his name was found in the house of one of his friends, and this was enough to get him arrested. His friend, like many others, was shot. In prison Partaw met other, more experienced writers and was thrilled when at times he was able to have his poetry evaluated by other, more experienced authors who shared his prison experiences. Partaw, the leader of Afghan PEN, is a very sociable man. He did not dislike so much the company of 149 cell mates. In prison he became a tailor. He and his fellow prisoners had access to books and newspapers, and they were allowed to work, sewing uniforms for the army. The trick in the sewing department was breaking needles, a kind of mild sabotage that had to be performed with care, not too many, and – if one wanted to be considered a good Muslim – not too few, either.

Partaw seemed more eager to become a good poet, writing on the silver paper of the cigarette boxes, on the small empty spaces of the newspaper, on wrapping paper, on whatever he could lay his hands on.

All kinds of scrap paper were in high demand. You surely know that – since you have at times been denied even reading, and since your hands have not been allowed a pencil to hold and to move. At this stage I wonder whether all these stories do you any good, or if they just increase the pain you must feel. I am not able to stand inside your shoes, you can not hear my voice and the other voices being raised in this room. My hope is that we both have the power of imagination and thus we are somehow able to communicate.

Partaw did communicate in Poul-e-charkhi prison, and one of his favourite writers spent nine years in another block, Assadullah Walwaliji. The first two months he spent in a cell on the Kabuli version of Death Row. Often at night the guards came to pick up a new victim, and his cell mates knew they would never see him again. Walwaliji says that many of the survivors have not recovered from this experience. Somehow, he himself says he learnt what it meant to be a human being while in prison.

At a Chinese restaurant in Kabul we asked him how and why. He said he had been a thoughtless, wild, undisciplined guy not caring about the next day until he was arrested. His poems from that time were – in his own words – bad love poems that he does not even want to be reminded of today. – I just cared for myself, he said, – and did not give the human condition, human suffering much of a thought. In Poul-e-charkhi I had time to reflect, it was there that I laid the foundation stone for the philosophy that has nurtured my life and my poems ever since. To my knowledge, he still writes love poems!

In spite of all this suffering, does he have a point? Do some human beings have to personally experience suffering to be full human beings? The Indian social psychologist Ashis Nandy in his book “The Intimate Enemy” discusses the impact of colonialism on peoples’ bodies and minds. He sees through Western hypocrisy – colonial and so-called post-colonial – and suggests an alternative universalism based on the experiences of the suffering and oppressed people around the world. That would leave a huge responsibility on people like you, a burden you cannot take on alone, in your small cell. I therefore write to you in the hope that you eventually, when reading these words, will feel a sense of belonging to a world-wide network of experience. Another writer, Gayatri Spivak, says that a prerequisite for more symmetrical human relations in this world of deep inequalities is that privileged people need to recognise their privileges as a kind of loss – that is, there are horizons we as privileged will never discover unless we admit to this complicated fact. This lack of experience due to privilege may make us less full human beings. She adds that one needs to do a special kind of homework, which equals unlearning these privileges. How can one do that? We can not all go to prison, but we can travel to you in our minds, put on a straitjacket and try to see the world as it may be seen from your confined space. The president of PEN this morning mentioned empathy as one of the four key words for further development of the organisation. One special case is the German writer and journalist Günter Wallraff, who during his life has taken on a number of roles to be able to explore the living conditions of people at the bottom of his society. In an interview with two Swedish journalists he says that as a young man he felt his personality was poorly developed, and he lacked self confidence. His work with taking on other people’s identities – for example the Turkish immigrant worker Ali – made him develop into a richer human being. This may be an extreme example, but it still shows how seeing the world from another place can develop a personality.

You are in prison. Excuse me for also taking the opportunity to write a few words about other kinds of imprisonment. My experience tells me that one can be imprisoned in narrowness, in prejudice and ignorance. At times I feel this country, so much trying to be a humanitarian superpower and a peace negotiator around the world, suffers from some of this narrowness. It is more normal than rare for people from non-western areas to be treated with a blatant lack of respect when invited to visit us. Black British writer Caryl Philips has eloquently in his “The European Tribe” described his brutal encounter with Norwegian passport and customs officers. Other writers share his experiences. Only by very narrow margins were we able to have our Afghan colleague attending this conference. There may be other similar experiences.

For me, who enjoys the privilege of travelling so-to-say in any direction, these restrictions represent an albeit modified, but shameful way of erecting walls around the rich and privileged, thus denying writers and all others the right to share experiences across the globe. As the keynote speaker Amin Maalouf, later to be heard at this conference has so eloquently expressed it:

For it is the way we look at others that may imprison them within the narrowest allegiances, but it is also the way we look at others that may set them free!

Elisabeth Eide

The Saladin Provocation

Thorvald Steens foredrag under PEN-dagen på Universitetet i Tromsø 6. september

THE SALADIN-PROVOCATION

It was the Palestinian author Izzat Ghazzawi who first introduced me to sultan Saladin. In Ramallah in 1995, Izzat told me that he often thought about Saladin during the years he was in Israeli prisons. Izzat was especially taken by Saladin’s relationship to revenge.

Izzat thought I was joking when I told him that I’d never heard of the tiny sultan who united Sunni and Shia Muslims and, with peaceful means, won back Jerusalem from the crusaders in 1187.

When I returned from Ramallah, I read about the sultan Saladin in Amin Maaloufs The Crusades through Arab eyes. Then I forgot all about him.

After the 11th of September 2001, pictures from demonstrations in the Middle East were repeatedly shown on television. Portraits of Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush recurred on posters. But once in a while a third portrait emerged on the screen: A painted image of a man with handsome, perhaps beautified features, with a beard and black hair under a tall turban. I rang Izzat. Surely enough; it was Salah ad-Din Yousufubn Ayyub, better known as Saladin.

But why hadn’t I heard about Saladin when I went to school, and how come he is not better known in my part of the world? In medieval times even Christians spoke respectfully of him. In La Divina Comedia Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) presents a list of the worlds most distinguished, non-believing, good-natured souls, Homer, Caesar, Plato and Virgil are mentioned, as well as the sultan, the headman’s son and the Kurd: Saladin.

In our part of the world, especially after The Third Crusade’s attack on their Byzantine allies in 1204, Saladin’s name seems to have been shroud in a veil of silence.

Who was he? His father was a regent under King Nureddin (1117-1174) of Syria. Saladin was born in 1138, in Tiqrit in today’s Irak. 39 years earlier the crusaders took over Jerusalem and massacred the city’s Jews and Muslims. King Nureddin announced Holy war against the occupants. On their way to win back Jerusalem (al-Quds) they had to defeat Egypt and its Shia Muslim regime which cooperated with the crusaders. In the war against Egypt, Saladin attended the third campaign as an officer. Saladin’s uncle, general Shirkuh, lead the army. Shirkuh carried the nickname “Lion”, and was a great military strategist.

Some days after the victory, after a much too heavy meal, Shirkuh had a bad turn and suffocated.

The influential Arab chronicler Ibn al-Athir (1160-1223) from Mosul, writes that the caliph al-Adids suggested Saladin to be the next vizier, because he was the youngest and most untrained of the Emirs in the army. The caliph figured that Saladin was easy to govern. Saladin was called up by the caliph who gave him the title “al-Malik an-Nasir”, “The victorious king”, and equipped him with a white turban with goldthreads woven into it, a dress with a scarlet coloured tunic, a lance inserted with jewels, a red horse, and an engraved harness decorated with gold and pearls, as well as many other costly items reserved for the vizier. In 1169 Saladin had become the undisputed commander in chief of Egypt and his reputation wasn’t actually weakened by the fact that his forces successfully struck down a Frankish invasion.

After another few months, Saladin caused the name of the Shiite Fatimid caliph to be left out from the Friday prayer in Cairo. 1171 the Fatimid regime fell, without a battle. For over two hundred years this Muslim movement had influenced a major part of North Africa.

Contemporary chroniclers, and historians of our time, emphasis on Saladin being broadminded and generous, also towards the non-believers. Saladin himself was exceptionally modest, his face was contemplative and sincere. Saladin was entitled to live in the caliph’s luxurious palace in Cairo. But Saladin chose to move into the rather Spartan vizier-residence. Judged by appearance, Saladin was a tiny and slim man, with a short cut, even beard, and he accurately obeyed the commands of every religion. In addition he had the same goal as the deceased Syrian king and leader; Nureddin: To unite the Arab and the Muslim world, and to recapture Jerusalem which the crusaders took in 1099.

After the massacre of Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem, only Christians were allowed to practise their belief in the Holy city of the three world religions.

Saladin survived several murder attempts by the Assassins as well as various battles against the Frankish crusaders. At the same time he consolidated his position as sole sovereign of the Egyptian-Syrian Empire. In stead of immediately taking Jerusalem back from the Franks, Saladin formed an alliance with those of the Franks who wanted a peaceful co-existence. One of them was count Raymond of Tripoli, who spoke fluent Arabic and was eagerly preoccupied with Arabic literature and Islamic texts. Both camps were tired of making war. The truce lasted for three years and business thrived. In spite of several grotesque examples of the Franks’ plundering of Mecca, as well as other cities, Saladin did not launch an attack on Jerusalem.

But even Saladin had his limit. The duke and crusader Renaud de Châtillion repeatedly assaulted the Pilgrims, and Saladin could no longer justify the truce. He encouraged all Muslims to come to Damascus. Holy war was proclaimed. After a few days the city was besieged by tents made of camel’s hair, princely pavilions in rich coloured textiles embroidered with verses from the Koran and poems written in calligraphy. Arabic, Turkish and Kurdish soldiers flocked to Damascus. Count Raymond was forced by his own, the Christians, to join in the great Battle of Hattin, a battle the Christian fundamentalists looked forward to. While fighting, Saladin let count Raymond escape to Tripoli. After having conquered the crusaders in Hattin in July 1187, Saladin took the Citadel in Tiberias and the seaport of Acre. Both places the defenders were free to go to Tripoli. Then, without resistance, fell Galilee, Samaria, Neblas, Haifa and Nazareth. Saladin was just about to reach his goal. He could glimpse the domes of Jerusalem.

To avoid blood shedding, Saladin first allowed the Franks access to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They refused. After a short war, the Franks were forced to surrender. Friday the 2nd of October 1187, the 27th day of Rajab in the year 583 after Hidjra, on the same day the Muslims celebrate Mohammed’s night travels to Jerusalem, Saladin made his solemn march into the Holy city.

Saladin decided that neither Frankish Christians, nor the ones of oriental heritage should be pursued. Saladin placed guards around the church of the Holy grave as well as other holy places belonging to the non-Muslims, to avoid them being destroyed. Saladin encouraged the Franks to stay, and invited Jewish families to move back in to Jerusalem. Saladin’s tax collectors were shocked by the fact that their leader allowed Franks, and others who wanted to leave Jerusalem, to depart without returning goods they had stolen. Firstly, Saladin said, it will be difficult to prove what is actually plundered, and secondly; he had not taken the city to enrich himself on material wealth.

Saladin let al-Aqsa, which was previously turned into a church, once again become a mosque after having the walls sprinkled with rose-water. Then Saladin let the slaves free without them having to pay, further on he proclaimed that he would not take a ransom for the richest. Some of his trusted men objected loudly. Saladin answered them: “Christians throughout the world will remember the good deeds we have done for them.”

The historian Ibn a-Athir was fairly reserved towards Saladin’s broadminded behaviour. The Franks whom Saladin let escape, had gathered in the city of Tyr. The West was not willing to give up. In April 1191, the Frankish king Philippe Augustus disembarked close to Acre, followed by Richard I the Lion-Heart (1157-1199), king of England, in June. In Acre Richard Lion-Heart, the man that I in my childhood — through books like Robin Hood and Ivanhoe — learned to know as the most outstanding representative of chivalry, massacred 3000 Muslims. Saladin let Richard’s commanders go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and many of them accepted the offer. But Richard the Lionheart, who more than once tried to meet the legendary Saladin, refused to go to the Holy city. He returned to England and never came back. The 3rd of March 1193 Saladin died, 55 years old, in Damascus, peacefully sitting under an olive tree in the garden.

Perhaps Izzat Ghazzawi was right when he said that the world has never raised a greater agitator for tolerance and pluralism. Saladin’s provocation towards his own time, and also on us, are his actions towards “the others”. No one, either Sunni, Shia Muslim, Jew or Christian, was able to question his generosity towards people who had a different belief than Saladin himself, something which also must be a paradox to many of the Muslim fundamentalists nowadays. No one, either an author or not, serves his case best by being imprisoned. According to Izzat the romantic “stay in prison philosophy” ignores that the world does not need fewer spokesmen like Saladin, but rather more of them, outside the prison walls. “Martyrs may surely have an essential role, but the ones building bridges are of a greater significance.”

What made this determined believer, this Muslim, undertake all those merciful and tolerant decisions throughout his life? And what kind of battles were fought in Saladin’s head when he was betrayed by “the others”, or the non-believers, whom he had shown his generosity, or even by his own people? Who was he? What kept him going? Why do we so rarely experience someone who has the whole of humanity as his own concern? To get closer to an answer, I could not make use of reference books. I wrote the novel Kamelskyer.

Thorvald Steen