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In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting the winning entries for our monthly writing contest PEN Shorts. The prompt for our first contest, “Out of Context,” was: “I suffer from heightism. I’m sure you’re familiar with that.” The quote came from a contentious panel that took place at the 1986 Congress of International PEN and included Grace Paley, Susan Sontag, and Norman Mailer.

The winner:

by Maria Benson

Look up at the sky, and I see you. I am on the ground, you should be here too. I suffer from heightism, I’m sure you’re familiar with that. I experience tragedy hands-on, it has improved my outlook. You experience tragedy, selectively. It … impacts your mindset. As a matter of fact, take one step off the pedestal. Present your strength to win this war. This time free those who speak for those without voice. Make this one choice, side with freedom. Use this one time to see the world through the eyes on the ground. Without a sound, Experience!

I heard on the news that war was declared between my country and the United States. Of course, that was big news for both the United States and Japan—but I was much more concerned about whether or not the copy of Volume Two of The Brothers Karamazov was still at the library, whether someone else had already checked it out.
Kōbō Abe at the 1986 PEN Congress