The Board of PEN International is elected by PEN Centres. It consists of a group of individuals from across the globe committed to representing and championing the views of PEN International, who believe that our organisation can make a vital contribution to literature and freedom of expression.
Meet our Executive Board:
Jennifer Clement grew up in Mexico City, Mexico. She studied English Literature and Anthropology at New York University and also studied French Literature in Paris, France. She has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine.
Clement is the author three novels: Prayers for the Stolen, A True Story Based on Lies and The Poison That Fascinates. Prayers for the Stolen was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice Book, a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist, winner of the Gran Prix des Lectrices Lyceenes de ELLE 2015 and the Sara Curry Humanitarian Award. The novel appeared internationally on many “Best Books of the Year” lists, including The Irish Times. She has also published of four books of poetry including The Next Stranger (with an introduction by W.S. Merwin). Clement is the author of the acclaimed memoir Widow Basquiat on New York City in the early 1980’s and the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. She has received an NEA Fellowship and is a member of Mexico’s prestigious “Sistema Nacional de Creadores”.
From 2009 to 2012, Clement was president of PEN Mexico and her work focused on the disappearance and killing of journalists. Her writing and activism represent a lifelong commitment to honouring those silenced by gender, class and race.
Kätlin Kaldmaa – International Secretary
Kätlin Kaldmaa is an Estonian poet, writer, translator and literary critic. She has published four collections of poetry, two books for children, an autobiographical work of non-fiction, and a novel. She has translated over 40 books into Estonian by authors such as Jeanette Winterson, Aphra Behn, Michael Ondaatje, Ali Smith, Goran Simić and Gabriel García Márquez. Her own poems have been translated into Arabic, English, Korean, Latin, Japanese, Russian, Slovenian, Turkish and others She is the President of Estonian PEN.
Jarkko Tontti – Treasurer
Tontti is a novelist, essayist, poet and lawyer. He is president emeritus of Finnish PEN.
Tontti studied law, philosophy and literature at the universities of Helsinki, Edinburgh, Berlin and Brussels. He has published two collections of poetry, five novels and two collections of essays.
Tontti’s first published collection of poetry Vuosikirja (Book of Years, 2006) won the Kalevi Jäntti literature prize. His poems have been translated into English, French, Swedish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Croatian, Estonian, German, Greek, Slovenian, Latin, Polish, Romanian and Portuguese.
Before his writing career Tontti worked in the Ministry of Justice, Local Court of Espoo, in the Parliament of Finland and at the University of Helsinki. He received his Doctor of laws degree from the University of Helsinki in 2002 and is a specialist in philosophy of law, freedom of expression law and copyright law.
Meet our Board Members:
Anders Heger is a writer, the director of the Norwegian publishing company Cappelen Damm and President of Norwegian PEN.
Mohammed Sheriff was born and bred in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He writes children’s stories, short stories, novellas and drama for radio, TV and the stage. He produces and directs documentary videos, short films, radio, TV and stage plays for both entertainment and development projects. He has won several international awards and the ECOWAS Prize for Excellence in Literature for Secret Fear, a novella for teenagers, published by Macmillan Publishers. He travels a lot but lives with his family in Freetown.
A surgeon, writer and political commentator, Thida spent 5½ years in prison in the 1990s for her activism. Ever since her release she has monitored and written on events in Burma, and, with the lifting of the military regime, is now the president of PEN Myanmar. In 2016 Ma Thida was awarded the first annual “Disturbing the Peace” award by the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation in New York on September 28.
Born in 1955, Regula Venske is a scholar, novelist and essayist and president of German PEN. She is a distinguished German writer best known for her crime fiction, but she also writes experimental prose and literary criticism and once in a while comes up with a poem. She wrote a thesis on the “construction and criticism of masculinity in contemporary German-language literature by women” and received her Ph. D. in 1988. She taught German literature at Hamburg University, the Free University of Berlin and Queen Mary College, London, and is regularly teaching creative writing both in schools as well as for adults. Regula Venske received a number of literary awards, including the Oldenburg Jugendbuchpreis, the German Crime-Writing Award (Deutscher Krimipreis) and the Lessing Scholarship of the City of Hamburg. She has been a member of German PEN since 1998 and has been elected General Secretary in May 2013.For more information, please see www.regulavenske.de.
Antonio Della Rocca
Antonio Della Rocca was born in Trieste in 1943. He graduated from the University of Trieste in Political Sciences. He is a Certified Public Accountant.In 1963 he started what he likes to call his first career in the management of many Italian companies in Italy and abroad. He is fluent in Spanish, French, German and English, with a limited knowledge of Russian.In 1999 Della Rocca come back to Trieste and decided to make literature his main interest.
He has published four novels and a collection of poems.In September 2003 he was a founder of the Trieste PEN Centre, of which he has been Secretary General, Vice President and is currently President.
Non voting co-opted Board members:
Elizabeth Hiester is qualified English lawyer. After teaching law at the University of Kent, Canterbury, she went on to become a partner with Clifford Chance, one of the world’s pre-eminent law firms. Her special area of practice was the development of law to meet the many different challenges of information technology and the digital age. She was a regular contributor to legal texts on issues of IT and communications law. She became a co-opted Board Member in 2012 to assist with the PEN Declaration on Digital Freedom and since then has provided input on a number of other legal aspects of PEN’s work. She is a member of the PEN International Lawyer Group. After retiring from Clifford Chance, she has worked on environmental issues with a particular focus on public access to information and justice and the impact of toxic chemicals on human health and the environment; most recently, with ClientEarth, a public interest environmental law organisation.
Burhan Sönmez is a prize-winning novelist. He is the author of three novels: North (2009), Sins and Innocents (2011) and İstanbul İstanbul (2015). His novels have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Burhan Sönmez was born in Turkey. He grew up speaking Turkish and Kurdish, then later moved to Istanbul where he worked for a time as a lawyer. He was member of Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD), Human Rights Society (IHD) and a founder of TAKSAV (Foundation for Social Research, Culture and Art). He lived in Cambridge (UK) in exile for political reasons about ten years.
Burhan Sönmez lectured in Literary Theory and Novel at the METU (Middle East Technical University). He served as jury member for the Cevdet Kudret Literature Prize. He translated the poetry book of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake from English into Turkish.
He contributes various newspapers and magazines like the Guardian, la Repubblica, L’Unita, Die Zeit, BirGün, Guernica, and Electric Literature.