Wednesday September 11 marks the 40th anniversary of the coup in Chile, in which president Salvador Allende was overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet. Allende had come to power in 1970, as the first democratically elected socialist president in Latin America. On the morning of September 11 1973, General Pinochet, in a move condoned by the United States, led a military uprising across the country that soon had the president walled up with his supporters inside the presidential palace La Moneda. Later that day, as Pinochet’s forces bombed the palace and prepared to storm it, Allende chose to commit suicide rather than be captured. There followed waves of repression and forced disappearances in Chile, and Pinochet remained the country’s dictator until 1990.
Antonio Skármeta is one of Chile’s leading writers. He is best known for his novel The Postman (1985), which was turned into the hugely successful film Il Postino (1995). Skármeta left Chile shortly after the coup in 1973, and didn’t return to live in Chile until 1989; he has also worked as a film director and screenwriter, and last year’s film ‘NO’ was based on a play by Skármeta. ‘NO’ stars Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, and this year became the first Chilean production to be shortlisted for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. Skármeta, who will be at the PEN International Congress representing PEN Chile, will deliver a talk entitled ‘Reflections on the Coup in Chile’ at 8pm Wednesday evening in Harpa Concert Hall as part of PEN International’s Free the Word! programme. The film ‘NO’ will be shown during the Reykjavik Literary Festival.
Also, in a PEN Free the Word! event during the Literary Festival programme, English poet, critic and journalist James Fenton will give a lecture on the rise of obscenity in the media.
Fenton, has worked as a political journalist, drama critic, book reviewer, war correspondent, foreign correspondent and columnist and is considered one of the most talented British writers working today. On Wednesday evening he will give a reading of his poetry alongside Antonia Scarmeta at Harpa Concert Hall. In the same evening ceremony PEN International’s first New Voices Award for young unpublished writers will be presented by French-Congolese novelist Alain Mabanckou.
Notes to editors:
PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now comprises 144 Centres spanning more than 100 countries. Our programmes, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers for global solidarity and cooperation. PEN International is a non-political organization and holds consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO.
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