Tarık Günersel mentions the recent PEN International Congress in Iceland as he recalls Chile’s 9/11.
Founded in London in 1921, today PEN International has 20,000 members organized in 144 centres in more than 100 countries. P stands for Poets and Playwrights, E for Essayists and Editors, and N for Novelists.
- Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
- Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia.
This year marked the 79th PEN International Congress, which was hosted by the Icelandic PEN Centre in Reykjavik from September 9-12. Not surprisingly, the governments of Turkey, Russia, China, and Iran were among those criticized for their shortcomings in freedom of expression this past year, but among the many international attendees was also an invited writer from Chile—the author Antonio Skármeta. His appearance was related to the 40th anniversary of the CIA-backed military coup against Chile’s elected Allende government.
The Previous 9/11
These days, for most people, mentioning 9/11 brings one tragedy to mind. The one in 2001. However, there is a 9/11 from 1973 that should also be remembered.
In 1970 Salvador Allende was declared the first elected socialist leader of Chile. On September 11, 1973 a US-backed Chilean army, led by Augusto Pinochet, launched a coup d’etat against the Allende government. For decades it was believed that Allende had shot himself before facing death at the hands of the insurrectionists. Recently it has been suggested that he was killed like thousands of other civilians.
So on September 11, 2013, Skármeta, who was born in 1940 to a Croatian family that moved to Chile, was an invited speaker the PEN Congress in Reykjavik. His speech was entitled “Reflections on the Coup in Chile.” Have you had a chance to see the movie Il Postino? It was based on Skarmeta’s play about Pablo Neruda and has recently been staged at Istanbul Metropolitan Theater, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.
Missing, directed by Costa Gavras in 1982, is a movie about the post-coup situation in Chile. If you have not yet seen it, don’t miss it. It makes me miss Jack Lemmon, who was a great actor, superb not only in comedies but also in tragedies, as he demonstrates in Missing.
… is a group of verbs in disguise.
‘Democracy’ is a noun. IRL, it requires constant struggle to give birth to it and keep it alive.
“Postmodern dictatorship” in Turkey
Pro-democracy demonstrators maintain their enthusiasm as police terror continues. One of the last police attacks was at the Süreyya Opera House in Kadıköy, a major district of Istanbul. At the time, wounded peaceful demonstrators had taken refuge there thanks to the help of social-democrat mayor Selami Öztürk, a member of the leading opposition party CHP (People’s Republican Party).
The police did not stop their attack. But the resistance is very much alive in spite of the increase in the number of youngsters murdered by the police, who behave like gangsters in uniforms, neither criticized nor touched by the rulers of today.
The local elections and the general elections are approaching. The “Gezi Park Spirit” should combine with efficient political organization. At least a significant part of it. Otherwise, Erdocracy, which is a version of Islamofascism, as I call it, may prevail by use of any means.
President Gül has also been censored!!! But there will be a tomorrow.