Vice-President of Writers’ Organization (PEN) Resigns Because of Panel’s Excluding Russian Writers

A really fascinating article in The Atlantic (Gal Beckerman):

[B]oycotts [of Russian culture] have solely elevated in depth, and in ways in which show how wartime assaults on freedom can ripple far outdoors the battle zone—the place the sound of warfare isn’t that of bombs detonating however of piercing silence. Now the impulse to censor anybody Russian has arrived in the US, at a venue that’s designed to—of all issues—champion and promote freedom of speech and expression: PEN America’s annual World Voices competition. It has additionally led, fairly precipitously, to the author Masha Gessen’s resolution to resign because the vice chairman of PEN’s board of administrators.

This previous Saturday, as a part of the competition, Gessen was set to average a panel showcasing writers in exile, two of them, like Gessen, Russian-born authors who had left their nation in disgust. However a day earlier than the occasion, ticket holders acquired an electronic mail saying that due to “unexpected circumstances” the panel had been canceled. Their cash could be refunded. No different clarification was provided and any hint of the occasion disappeared from PEN’s program on-line.

A small delegation of Ukrainian writers, who participated in a panel deliberate for a similar day because the canceled Gessen occasion, had declared they may not attend a competition that included Russians. As a result of two of the writers, Artem Chapeye and Artem Chekh, are active-duty troopers within the Ukrainian military, they argued that there have been authorized and moral restrictions in opposition to their participation. Chapeye, a author whose quick story “The Ukraine” was not too long ago revealed in The New Yorker, texted with me from a bus on his means again to Ukraine. He did not see himself as having boycotted the Russians. It was merely that their presence was incompatible along with his. “The Russian contributors determined to cancel their occasion themselves as a result of we as energetic troopers weren’t in a position to take part beneath the identical umbrella,” he wrote.

Chapeye stated he did not make distinctions between “good” Russians and “unhealthy” Russians. “Till the warfare ends,” he wrote to me, “a soldier can’t be seen with the ‘good Russians.'”

I do not fault the Ukrainian writers for merely not eager to be on the panel; that is their name. (This having been stated, I very a lot doubt that there is any “authorized” obligation for Ukrainian troopers to not even communicate at a convention, in another country, at which another audio system are civilian residents of an enemy nation; and I discover it arduous to see it as an moral obligation, both.) However I am inclined to share Gessen’s view that Russian writers should not be excluded from such occasions merely due to the writers’ nation of citizenship, coupled with a requirement by Ukrainian writers. And the organizers’ opposition, which I share, to the warfare being waged by Russia should not translate into such exclusion of Russian writers.

(Notice that, as I perceive the story, the occasion was canceled by PEN, not by the Russian contributors themselves.)