Home Page > News Item > PEN Haiti to Host International Free the Word! Festival, April 20th-22nd

“The writers in Haiti… are increasingly convinced of the necessity to build, nurture and share a critical understanding. In order to better communicate among Haitians. To make ourselves better understood in the world”

Jean-Euphèle Milcé, President, PEN Haiti

PEN Haiti is hosting its first international Free the Word! Festival from April 20th- 22nd, with a special series of events taking place in the Institute Français (Port-au-Prince) and the Alliance Française (Gonaïves).

Free the Word!, PEN International’s network of literary festivals around the world, celebrates the best of contemporary literature and aims to introduce readers to both established and emerging writers. Each festival is rooted in its local culture, but is international in outlook, and seeks to bring together writers from across cultures to share experiences and explore ideas.

The programme of events for Free the Word! Haiti will include discussions on issues such as freedom of expression in times of crises (‘La Libre Expression en Temps de Crise’), women’s writing and free speech (‘Paroles de Femmes, Paroles Libres’) and an examination of the work of PEN International in promoting freedom of expression (‘L’engagement du PEN International pour la liberté d’expression’).


The festival will also pay homage to murdered Haitian writer Jacques Stephen Alexis (pictured), who was disappeared in April 1966. A leading writer and political activist, Alexis, who was born on 22 April 1922, is today best remembered for his novel Compére Général Soleil (1955), Les Arbres Musiciens (1957) and L’Espace d’un Cillement (1959). For more information about Jacques Stephen Alexis, click here.


The festival, which will include a host of Haitian and international writers – including Jean-Euphèle Milcé, Georges Castera, Emmelie Prophète, Evelyne Trouilot, and Roger Bonnair-Agard – is a testament to the resilience and determination of Haitian PEN, whose founder Georges Anglade (pictured here) was amongst those killed in the devastating earthquake which struck the country in January 2010.

PEN International will be offering live updates from the festival on our website and via facebook and twitter, using the hashtag #HaitiFreeTheWord.

To follow Deji Olukotun’s live blog from the festival see here.

Click here to view the full Programme of Events

Click here for an introduction to the festival from PEN Haiti President Jean-Euphèle Milcé, including a history of the Haitian PEN Centre (In French).

Click here for a moving Tribute to Georges Anglade from PEN International Vice-President Joanne Leedom-Ackerman.

Click here to read PEN International’s press release for the festival PRESS_RELEASE_-_Haiti_FtW

The festival is being organised by PEN Haiti, in collaboration with the American PEN Centre and PEN International. For more information on the festival please contact Paul Finegan at paul.finegan@pen-international.org

Haiti Free the Word! has been generously supported by -