Pune: Today 84th PEN International Congress begins with a Silent Prayer offering tribute at Kasturba Memorial, Agakhan Palace to Kasturba Gandhi. This year’s PEN International Congress- Pune will run alongside the year-long commemoration of the life of Mahatma Gandhi, whose celebrated autobiography ‘My Experiments with Truth’ is the theme of this year’s Congress, with events and panels focusing on the values of truth and non-violence. Truth, Freedom and Diversity are the three thematic axes for the PEN Congress-2018. The 84th PEN International Congress will be hosted by PEN South India, first time in Pune, India, from the 25th to the 29th September 2018.
For the conference, over 400 writers and delegates from around the world gathered in Pune, including Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Ashok Vajpeyi, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Ashis Nandy and PEN International president Jennifer Clement. The annual PEN International Congress – which celebrates Truth, Freedom and Diversity – is an opportunity for contemporary literary voices, both leading and emerging, to celebrate literature, discuss pressing threats to freedom of expression and exchange ideas and stories.
Speaking on the occasion, “Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International said,” We are honoured to bring together our global membership of writers in Pune, India, in celebration of the life of Mahatma Gandhi at a time when peace-building and the pursuit of truth are becoming ever more challenging and essential. PEN has a long history of bringing together a diversity of voices in celebration of the written word, in storytelling and exchange, and we look forward to inviting new members into the PEN community”
In a special lecture on “Why Pen? Why Pune? , G N Devy, PEN South Asia said, “Pune speaks a language that has a continued history of 1500 years. Marathi with together with other Indian languages represent the very best in Indian through and that thought is the foundation of Indian civilisation. Through the history of this great civilisation, diversity has always been celebrated and diversity is at the heart of democracy. PEN today celebrates diversity in the hope that freedom and truth will prevail. Gandhi, the greatest advocate of truth, is at the heart of this PEN Congress.”
More than 80 countries are represented at this Congress. Together they represent more than 4000 languages. Together we stand united in the defence of all these languages and the creativity in those languages. The process of economic globalisation has posed a serious threat to language, voice and thought. United we defend the threatened.
I thank PEN International on behalf of India and the speakers of 800 Indian languages for giving us an opportunity to restate the ancient Indian wisdom, which says that the whole world is mine but it does not belong to me. I belong to it.
Several programmes will be organised during the five-day conference. Among the major events is the inauguration of a world language park “Bhasha –Vana”, (where writers from each country participating in the conference will plant a tree), “Play on Katurba Gandhi, written by Ramdas Bhatkal, in English Version by Yashodhara Deshpande”, “Kalagajar Exhibition by poet & Painter & Gulammohammed Sheikh & The Kalagajar Lecture by him on , “ Reaching Gandhi in Our Time”;“Jagatik Bhasha Wari” – Pune University Main Gate to Balgandharv Rangmandir and “Multilingual Poetry Recital”
Hosted by PEN South India, this year’s Congress will consist of literary events such as visits to schools and universities by PEN members, and a celebration of literature and the diversity of languages.