After the controversy over holding a literary festival in Sri Lanka in January – white-washing war crimes? – the issue continues to resonate. Here’s an event organised by English PEN in London on 10 April:
Should writers boycott festivals in countries with poor records on free speech and human rights? Or is it always better to engage with regimes, however unpleasant? At a time when literary festivals are appearing all over the world, authors increasingly face such complex ethical dilemmas. Rachel Holmes, Director of Literature and Spoken Word at London’s South Bank Centre, Sri Lankan author Romesh Gunesekera and South African writer and President of English PEN, Gillian Slovo debate with PEN International President John Ralston Saul the increasingly blurry boundary in writers’ lives between politics and aesthetics.
Let’s hope the speakers honesty address the ways in which writers and artists are routinely used by regimes to legitimise their rule.