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‘Freedom of expression is like breathing: deny it, and you suffocate. This is why I have pledged my support to PEN International’s new Writers Circle, an initiative to strengthen solidarity among writers and freedom of expression around the world. I hope other writers will join me in this new and worthwhile venture.’

Hanan al-Shaykh, Writers Circle member

‘The writer and the reader are locked in an intimate relationship. Literature is about writing, but equally about reading. Free expression means being able to speak out. But it equally means being allowed to listen.’

John Ralston Saul, PEN International President Emeritus & Writers Circle member


(Members Yann Martel, Margaret Atwood and John Ralston Saul in Québec City)


Without literature, there can be no meaningful freedom of expression. Without freedom of expression, there can be no meaningful literature …

Members of the PEN International Writers Circle are writers who believe that literature and freedom of expression are at the heart of a strong, vibrant society. They support PEN International’s activities to ensure that silenced, unheard and unknown voices are connected to readers and writers everywhere. The Writers Circle is essential to the ongoing success and continuation of our work.

The Writers Circle was launched publicly during the 81st PEN Congress in Québec City, October 2015. The launch received worldwide attention, including this piece in the Guardian.

The Founding Members of the Writers Circle are:

Isabel Allende
Jirō Asada
Margaret Atwood
Arthur Golden
David Lagercrantz
Eric Lax
Geert Mak
Yann Martel
Sofi Oksanen
John Ralston Saul
Judith Rodriguez
Salman Rushdie
Bernhard Schlink
Colm Tóibín
Alexander McCall Smith
Elif Shafak
Hanan Al-Shaykh
Ian Rankin
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Karl Ove Knausgaard
Robert Cottrell
Vida Ognjenović

Membership of the Writers Circle involves an initial joining fee followed by an annual financial contribution which will fund vital education, campaigning and protection work and supports PEN’s broader work of advancing literature and defending freedom of expression.

If you are interested in joining the Writers Circle, please contact James Tennant, PEN International’s Literature & Strategic Partnerships Manager:

Tel.: +44 (0)2074050338
E.: james.tennant[@]pen-international.org