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Authorities have initiated a widespread media blackout in Egypt: “Security forces are also becoming increasingly violent against both demonstrators and journalists.”

Doug Liman directs a production of Reckoning with Torture at the Sundance Film Festival this Saturday, featuring Paul Auster, Annie Proulx, George Saunders, Esmeralda Santiago, and others.

Four of works on the 2011 Best Translated Book Awards fiction longlist were included in last year’s PEN Translation Feature; another showed up in our featured excerpts from the PEN World Voices Festival.

The Center for Fiction launches its new web site and online literary magazine, featuring interviews with Cynthia Ozick and Yiyun Li, new fiction from Kim Chinquee and Peter Cameron, and more.

David Haglund reviews Yan Lianke’s The Dream of Ding Village, a book, banned in China despite the author’s attempts at self-censorship, about the destructive effects of blood selling in the Henan province.

The National Book Critics Circle announces the finalists for its 2010 awards, including Christopher Hitchens, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, and Anne Carson.

“When you hit a wall, just kick it in.” Patti Smith talks to the Guardian, among other things, about her book Just Kids, a finalist for the NBCC Awards.

“The biggest challenge is simply trying to visualise something that doesn’t exist.” Shaun Tan talks about his film The Lost Thing, just nominated for an Oscar.

“Art can save our country.” Despite news that the husband of one of its performers was arrested that morning, the Belarus Free Theater gave a moving performance at Le Poisson Rouge last week, along with readings and performances from E.L. Doctor, Billy Crudup, Don DeLillo, Tom Stoppard, and others.


We are relieved to hear everyone at the Japan PEN Club in Tokyo is safe following Friday morning’s earthquake. Our thoughts and hopes go out to all who have been affected.

“English isn’t a language; it’s a big mess.” Susan Bernofsky attends translator David Bellos’s lecture on Georges Perec and other topics ranging from “matrix literature” to what Bellos calls “Tranglish,” “an ‘almost invisible’ language that ‘offends nobody.’”

Congratulations to the deserving winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards, including C.D. Wright (Poetry), Clare Cavanagh (Criticism), Darin Strauss (Autobiography), and Jennifer Egan (Fiction), all PEN Members. See the full list of winners and finalists.

“That was just the opening act.” Over at The Rumpus, Mark Follman takes a closer look at social media’s role in the uprisings spreading across the Middle East.

In honor of International Women’s Day, we feature a special video series from the PEN archives, including Zadie Smith reading from her novel On Beauty (part of the 2006 PEN World Voices Festival).

“I’m only telling the truth.” Andy Morgan of The Observer examines how a little-known rapper, inspired by Tupac Shakur, helped galvanize Tunisia’s youth during its revolt.

Matthew Alexander, a former military interrogator who has appeared in PEN’s Reckoning with Torture series, points out the “blatant hypocrisy” in former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s recent memoir.

A top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime.”

What’s more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under U.S. law — “even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them.”

Zelikow argued that the Geneva conventions applied to al-Qaida — a position neither the Justice Department nor the White House shared at the time. That made waterboarding and the like a violation of the War Crimes statute and a “felony,” Zelikow tells Danger Room. Asked explicitly if he believed the use of those interrogation techniques were a war crime, Zelikow replied, “Yes.”

CIA Committed ‘War Crimes,’ Bush Official Says | Wired (via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity)

Note: If you are interested in torture and human rights, check out The Torture Report: What the Documents Say About America’s Post-9/11 Torture Program, by PEN’s own Larry Siems or participate in PEN’s Reckoning with Torture project, jointly run with the ACLU.


Actress Samantha Osaki reads at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.

The Reckoning with Torture project is based on a simple but powerful notion: that coming to terms with human rights abuses starts with reading the documentary record. Over 130,000 formerly secret documents detailing the torture and abuse of detainees in US custody since 9/11 are now publicly available. A collaborative project with Doug Liman, the ACLU, and PEN, the Reckoning with Torture Project asks the public to read the record and spread the word.

(via » Blog Archive Reckoning with Torture: Samantha Osaki and Lili Taylor -

Secrecy and Torture | The Dissident Blog

Samantha Osaki, a student living in Pennsylvania, reads the sworn statement of an interpreter at the Kandahar detention facility in Afghanistan who witnesses the mistreatment of a detainee: 

Here’s actress Lili Taylor reading the same statement at the Sundance Film Festival 2011:

And here’s a fragment of the original handwritten statement: 

Join Samantha and Lili in honoring this interpreter: 

1) download the statement

2) film yourself reading 

3) send us the file


In Doug Liman’s documentary film Reckoning With Torture, ordinary Americans stand side-by-side with actors, writers, and former military interrogators and intelligence officers in a reading of official documents that reveals the scope and cost of America’s post-9/11 torture program.

This Sunday on Moyers & Company, Liman joins Larry Siems, PEN American’s Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs, to discuss the film and the importance of hearing the voices of detainees.

To find out when the show airs in your area, click here.

(via » Blog Archive Reckoning with Torture on Bill Moyers -