Author and philanthropist Andrew Solomon assumed the Presidency of PEN on Tuesday, to much acclaim. Solomon, who has written several best-sellers championing the unjustly misunderstood and criticized, including his most recent, Far From The Tree, spoke about his new responsibilities at a PEN dinner hosted by Gail Furman on Monday, one of a series of PEN author’s dinners taking place this winter around New York.
“This is an urgent time for issues of free expression, and a spectacular time for PEN,” said Solomon. “In the wake of Charlie Hebdo, revelations about surveillance in the United States, international assaults on open dialogue for gay people, and restrictions on press and Internet in many countries worldwide, our mission could not be more clear: free speech is under siege and its defenders cannot rest. PEN has expanded dramatically under the inspired presidency of Peter Godwin and the brilliant leadership of [PEN Executive Director] Suzanne Nossel. It is better placed than ever before to remind the world that when discourse is curtailed, there can be no other liberty. I am proud to step in as president of this increasingly crucial organization as it strives to construct a nobler, more just world.”
“PEN is the primary organization for American writers concerned with freedom and justice, and also a place where many of our country’s greatest minds have come together,” Solomon continued. “I am tremendously honored to follow in the footsteps of great writers like Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, and Salman Rushdie as the next president of PEN American Center. PEN’s work to both champion new ideas and to protect those who voice them fits deeply with my own commitment to literature in general and to freedom of expression in particular. As threats to creative freedom erupt, writers look to PEN as both our greatest literary community and one of the country’s true leaders on human rights.”
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