HISTORIE ČESKÉHO CENTRA MEZINÁRODNÍHO PEN KLUBU
České centrum Mezinárodního PEN klubu je součástí samostatných světových společenství PEN s ústředím v Londýně. Počet národních center se každoročně mění, nyní jich 145 ve 104 zemích celého světa. Sdružují kolem dvaceti tisíc tvůrců - lidí, kteří obrazně řečeno vládnou perem (PEN - Playwrights, Poets, Essayists, Novelists).
Cílem jejich snažení je zejména - podle Mezinárodní Charty - svoboda vyjadřování, svoboda slova a svobodný život člověka. O to se snaží už od samého vzniku ve Velké Británii roku 1921 (zakladatelka Catherine Amy Dawson-Scott, první prezident John Galsworthy), tehdy velmi idealisticky, avšak základní myšlenky - kulturní spolupráce, snášenlivost národů, odpor a sepětí intelektuálů proti hrubému násilí - přetrvávají. Každoročně pořádá Mezinárodní PEN kongresy v různých městech světa, na kterých jeho ústředí hodnotí snažení předchozího roku a jednou za tři roky volí prezidenta a výbor. V září 2003 byl na kongresu v Norsku zvolen prezidentem Světového PEN klubu český spisovatel Jiří Gruša, na dalším světovém kongresu v Berlíně 2006 byl znovu zvolen na další funkční období a v této funkci působil až do roku 2009. Současným prezidentem mezinárodního PEN klubu je Burhan Sonmez. PEN International — Board and Vice Presidents (pen-international.org)
Český PEN klub, založený Karlem Čapkem v roce 1925, má nyní 190 členů a dvanáctičlenný výbor v čele s předsedou Jiřím Dědečkem.
K uctění památky svého zakladatele uděluje Český PEN klub od roku 1994 v každém sudém roce Cenu Karla Čapka.
Souběžně s Cenou Karla Čapka byla v letech 1996 - 2000 udělována Cena PEN klubu za celoživotní dílo (1996 Adolf Branald, 1998 Jan Vladislav, 2000 Jiří Krupička, 2009 Bohumila Grögerová, 2011 Jana Štroblová, 2013 Jaroslav Putík, 2015 Josef Vinklát, 2017 Petr Kotyk
a 2019 Daniela Fischerová). V roce 2021 cena nebyla udělena.
Knihu Svědomí slova o historii Českého centra PEN klubu v české i v anglické verzi lze zakoupit v kanceláři PEN klubu
v Kolowratském paláci nebo objednat
za 300 Kč.
THE STORIE OF CZECH P.E.N.
Czech PEN Club’s founding was preceded by a rather complicated overture, and it took several years to establish. Otakar Vočadlo, a Czech professor of English and American studies and a literary historian, played a crucial role as initiator of the process. Having succeeded Bohdan Chudoba as the teacher of Czech language and literature at the School of Slavonic Studies at London University College, he worked there on his habilitation thesis. Th is phenomenal linguist and expert on contemporary English, American, and Czech literature, conveyed informatik between the London PEN centre and the Czech literati circles. Without his input, the Czech centre would most likely have been founded signifi cantly later and with more diffi culties.
Vočadlo picked the writer, journalist, and dramatist Karel Čapek as a suitable candidate for the leading role of the Czech Club: Čapek had a command of both official PEN languages (English and French) and, as a journalist and a sociable person, he knew many people and had influential contacts in all fields of public life.
Finally, Čapek surrendered and between May 27 and July 27, 1924, he took a trip to Britain, primarily to accept the invitation to a London session of PEN and to visit the British Empire Exhibition. He arrived in London by train via Folkestone and took part in the eventful program, rich in attractive meetings. Čapek was charmed by the greatness, history and tradition of London club and artistic society, and he enthused over meetings with famous writers, and over the attention the press and theatre paid to his person and work.
After his visit to London and the British Islands, Čapek finally fully comprehends that PEN Club is not some ordinary “little club” of trifl ing signifi cance, but a unique oportunity to establish vital bonds with infl uential writers of the world, offer works of Czech authors for translation and look arend for pieces of world literature suitable for translation to Czech. As a democratic writer, he had long been convinced of the posibility of humanising the world through literature, and thus quickly adopted the PEN ideas for his own. Regarding tmatters of building the new Czechoslovakia, he considered membership in International PEN highly convenient. Britain, France (and the USA) assisted in the genesis of a free Czechoslovakia, and in the interwar period, guaranteed its existence and development in the interwar period – until the distressful tragedy of the Munich Agreement.
When Čapek returned from England, he first summoned several literary friends – František Khol, Otokar Fischer, Hanuš Jelínek and Vilém Mathesius – to discuss the ways and means of establishing a Prague PEN Centre. The participants decided to form an autonomous PEN Club with a hosting role, serving as a potent helper in promoting the young republic and its literature abroad. Jiřina Schubertová (married Tůmová) translated the PEN Charter, which Čapek had brought from England.
To be submitted for approval, it required slight modifi cations reflecting Czech customs and needs. For the ideas of PEN, Čapek managed to win over both President T. G. Masaryk and Foreign Minister Edvard Beneš. He understood how the current financial situation of a Czechoslovak PEN Club and its domestic authors could hardly compare to those of theLondon Centre with its existentially secure, successful authors, and that without government subsidies, the project of Czechoslovak PEN would be extremely diffi cult to execute; upon agreement with the highest state representatives, he took the fi rst administrative steps to secure the necessary state and ministry aid.
The actual founding act of the Czechoslovak PEN Centre took place on February 15, 1925. Thirtyeight Czech writers, editors, scientists and translators met in the Cafe Louvre on Prague Národní Avenue, where in the National Theatre Soloists Club, the new writers’ organisation was established. Karel Čapek opened with a speech about the club’s objectives: he welcomed all participants, and emphasised that – as witnessed in the achievements of English PEN – the club would chiefly facilitate
personal relations between Czechoslovak and foreign authors; he highlighted the importance of the appropriate manner of receiving guests from abroad, as well as the opportunity to keep in closer touch with out-of-Prague and Slovak authors with in the club. The association was to obtain a governmental finandal subsidy, as it supplemented certain hosting competences of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Čapek was particularly concerned with suitable premises for future Club headquarters. He also invited guests to propose other suitable members for the future committee. Afterwards, the committee was elected. Karel Čapek became its president, František Khol the executive director, and the prose-writer Božena Benešová became its treasurer.
Prague PEN officially started its operations on March 30,1925, with a social dinner at the Municipal House, with President T. G. Masaryk, his daughter Alice, and the ministers Edvard Beneš and Ivan Markovič in attendance. Two hundred people gathered, all PEN members and other signifi cant personalities of cultural and public life. Čapek read a greeting from London PEN and Masaryk remembered his literary beginnings and pledged loyalty and support to both Czech and German-writing authors of Czechoslovakia.
In the first year of its existence, PEN was eager to accept new members and invited the literary active artists, musicians, and professors of Czech and German universities, and other eligible candidates, so by the end of 1925, it counted roughly one hundred members. Despite the membership fluctuation, in 1938, at the peak of its interwar activity, the Czechoslovak PEN Centre had – as indicated in PEN Club documents found in the Literary Archive of the Memorial of National Literature – around 150 members, one hundred out of which were active. It was a literary association that was professionally, ideologically and personally often rather diverse. The numerous problems In the first year of its existence, PEN was eager to accept and areas of friction that appeared were usually resolved with objective discussion, further information, and by the charming diplomacy of its president, Karel Čapek, and after 1933, his successor, Anna Marie Tilschová.
In the 1920s, PEN strictly avoided any political topics, however, with Hitler’s rise to power, wild disputes over current political problems became an uproar at the congresses of the thirties. After the Dubrovnik Congress, it was increasingly obvils there are only two ways of perceiving Nazism, either to remain silent, i.e. actually approve, or to protest. The Czech PEN Club played an important role within the anti-fascist activities of the left-wing and democratic literati. The cultural front campaign culminated in the critical year of 1938. As early as the PEN congress in Edinburgh, two resolutions were adopted: in the first International PEN protested against the imprisonment of unlawfully sentenced writers; the second off ered active help to the expatriated.
The London exile Centre for German authorsv was established, and aid to exiles was provided even at individual national PEN centres. The London headquarters ruled that expatriates maybe admitted to any PEN centre in thein asylum providing country. The highpoint of Czechoslovak PEN Centre activities during the interwar period arrived with the PEN International Congress in Prague in 1938. The event proved highly politically important as, after the Austrian Anschluss in March, amidst threats from Hitler’s Germany, and Sudeten Germans, the international public needed to be reminded of the democratic reality in the country, and thus disprove Nazi propaganda about the oppression of German citizen rights. A month before the congress, a partial mobilisation of the Czechoslovak Army took place, caused by riots in Sudetenland and the operations of German troops. It ought to demonstrate determination, courage and readiness of the Republic for its defence.
The Prague Congress was conducted in a similar spirit, lasting from the 26th to the 30th of June in 1938. The Congress organisers – Karel Čapek, Anna Marie Tilschová, and the irreplaceable secretary Jiřina Tůmová – had an excellent idea to move the event date so it coincided with the massive gymnastic festival of the national all-age sport organisation – the Sokol Slet – and thus the Congress delegates had a unique opportunity to attend this remarkable spectacle. The hosts arranged for a wonderfully attractive program – a trip to Slovakia and visit to the Bratislava PEN branch, and an excursion to the Czechoslovak Army, which presented their manoeuvres and treated their guests to goulash from a field canteen.
The Congress was a true success, and the mere presence of delegates expressed their support to a democratic republic in the heart of endangered Europe. Two hundred foreign delegates attended the event, twenty-five delegates, at the head with H. G. Wells, flew in from London, and twenty French delegates were led by Jules Romains. World-renowned poets were present, such as the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara and the Italian futurist Fillippo Tommaso Marinetti, there were also delegations from Wallonia (Louis Piérard), and Bulgaria (the poets Dora Gabe and Elizaveta Bagryana). Delegates were sent from many other centres, including: Irish, Polish, Palestinian, Romanian, Estonian, Latvian, Scottish, Spanish and Dutch. At least one delegate arrived from Argentina, China, Finland, Brazil, Iceland, Sweden and the United States of America. The event was attended by representatives of the German PEN in exile. Austrian and Hungarian delegates, however, were absent.
After the Munich crisis, the Prague PEN Centre formally existed until 1942, however, its operation was mostly paralysed. Large number of Jewish-origin authors emigrated (e.g. Egon Hostovský and Adolf Hoff meister to the USA, František Langer and Viktor Fischl to Great Britain), and some passed away, often struck by the tragedy of historical events (Otokar Fischer died of a heart attack upon receiving the news of the German Anschluss of Austria, in December of 1938, and Karel Čapek died of pneumonia, both key figures in the interwar culture and history of Czechoslovak PEN). Čapek’s funeral marked a symbolic closure to the first period of the Czech PEN Centre’s existence…