Home Page > Who We AreMeet the Board > John Ralston Saul

International President

John Ralston Saul, a long-time champion of freedom of expression, has been intimately involved with International PEN since the 1980s.

An award-winning essayist and novelist, Saul has had a growing impact on political and economic thought in many countries. His works have been translated into 22 languages in 30 countries. Saul is perhaps best known for his philosophical trilogy – Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense and The Unconscious Civilization. This was followed by a meditation on the trilogy – On Equilibrium: Six Qualities of the New Humanism. He was President of Canadian PEN 1990-1992 and is equally an active member of Centre québécois du PEN international. He was one of the driving forces in the creation of the Canadian PEN Writers In Exile Network in 2004. He is also a member of the Norway based Council of Writers and Experts of ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network).

In 2005 in The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World, Saul warned that, like it or not, globalism was already collapsing and that if we did not act quickly we would be caught in a crisis and limited to emergency reactions. His most recent book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada, argues that the country is far more aboriginal in its methods than European.

He has received many national and international awards for his writing, most recently Chile’s Pablo Neruda Medal. The Unconscious Civilization won Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award. His Reflections of a Siamese Twin was chosen by Maclean’s magazine as one of the ten best non-fiction books of the twentieth century. His novel, The Paradise Eater, won Italy’s Premio Lettarario Internazionale.

He has published five novels, including The Birds of Prey, as well as The Field Trilogy, which deals with the crisis of modern power and its clash with the individual. It includes Baraka or The Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor of Anthony Smith, The Next Best Thing, and The Paradise Eater. De Si Bons Americains is a picaresque novel in which he observes the life of modern nouveaux riches Americans.

John Ralston Saul is co-Chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. He is also Founder and Honorary Chair of Le français pour l’avenir/French for the Future, an organisation which advances the use of French among secondary school students. He is Founder and Chair of the LaFontaine-Baldwin symposium, which advances an egalitarian and inclusive approach to democracy. A Companion in the Order of Canada, he is also Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France. His 14 honourary degrees range from McGill University to Herzen State Pedagogical University in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Born in Ottawa, Saul studied at McGill University and King’s College, University of London, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1972.

Read John Ralston Saul’s Monthly Letters to the PEN membership