A historical account
Cyprus PEN was founded in 1979, on the initiative of Mr. Panos Ioannides and with the active collaboration of Dr. Klitos Ioannides and a large group of writers. The Founding Assembly approved the Charter of PEN Cyprus and elected the first Board of Directors: Panos Ioannides, President, Andreas Sophokleous, Vice President, Klitos Ioannides, General Secretary, Andreas Antoniades, Treasurer, Irena Ioannidou-Adamidou, Public Relations.
To date, Cyprus PEN has been steadily promoting Cypriot culture at national and international level, through its publications and the organisation of their presentations, but also through the organisation of workshops, seminars and conferences. For forty years Cyprus PEN has been a member of the largest Writers’ Union in the world, PEN International, consisting of more than 100 national centres. Its members are important Cypriot writers who contribute to the realization of a gigantic effort, especially in relation to the means available to Cyprus PEN, which has so far offered translations, publications, special events, international conferences, workshops and symposia, collaborations with twined European Centres, the aim always being to highlight domestic literary creation.
The goals of Cyprus PEN derive from and are harmonized with the goals that constitute the core of the Charter of PEN International, as well as with the goals set by the Charter of Cyprus PEN. As PEN International reports: “The Charter of PEN International has guided, unified and inspired its members for over 60 years. Its principles were implicit at the organisation’s founding in 1921. However, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the PEN Charter was forged amidst the harsh realities of World War Two. It was approved at the 1948 PEN Congress in Copenhagen”.
The Statutory Assembly of Cyprus PEN in 1979 set the following objectives, which since then are consistently adopted and promoted by all General Assemblies and the Boards of Directors:
1. The systematic translation and international promotion of remarkable Cypriot literary works, through the channels offered by PEN International and others.
Significant work is produced by Cyprus PEN in the field of translations. From 1979 until today, dozens of volumes of Cypriot Literature have been published in English by Cyprus PEN, either in the form of anthologies and yearbooks or as autonomous books. In addition, through bilateral agreements and exchanges with other National PEN Centres, always with the encouragement and active assistance of the Translation Committee of PEN International, Cyprus PEN has promoted the publications of Cypriot Literary works in many other languages: Chinese, German, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, among others. Many works of the members of PEN Cyprus have been hosted in the magazine Pen International, which circulates in 150 countries.
A complete list of the publications of Cyprus PEN is presented on this website at the publications section.
2. The creation of opportunities for dialogue between Cypriot writers and their colleagues abroad.
Creating opportunities for a creative and productive dialogue and exchanges with other National Centres and authors working in other countries is one of the major goals of Cyprus PEN, that has been achieved by the successful organisation of eight international conferences / seminars in Cyprus, using grants provided by UNESCO and mainly by the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The promotion of a constant dialogue and mobility process on international level is being also achieved with the participation of members of PEN Cyprus in General Assemblies, Conferences and Seminars organized by PEN International abroad.
The first international conference was held in 1981 in Nicosia and had the theme “Freedom and creation in a troubled world“. The conference was attended by personalities from thirty countries, from all continents. Among the Greek delegates were Kimon Freier, Antonis Samarakis, Titos Patrikios, Nikos Fokas, Lydia Stefanou, Aloe Sideris, George Daniel, the Directors of Kedros and Estia Publishing Houses, etc. This was followed by “Literary Criticism and Translation”, 1985, in the context of which representatives of PEN Centres, Associations of Literary Translators, Critics and Publishers from thirty-five countries in Europe, North and Latin America, Asia, Africa and Australia participated. The Greek PEN was represented by the writer Mr. Telis Nikolaidis. “Monuments and Literature”, 1996, which was attended by three Ministers of Culture, dozens of writers and many authorities on history, archaeology and monumental architecture from France, Spain, Croatia, Bulgaria, Israel, Palestine, as well as many Greek delegates and Cyprus. This Symposium was so successful that UNESCO and PEN International decided to entrust PEN Cyprus with the organization, in 1998, of another Mediterranean Seminar on “Cultural and intellectual values of the Mediterranean world”. The seminar took place between 6 and 10 December 1998 in Nicosia with the participation of 50 delegates from 12 Mediterranean countries. This was followed by the international conferences “Europe writes History”, 2004, “Cultural Diplomacy”, 2009, “The magic, power and suffering of translation in the modern European Babel”, 2017 “Woman, art, literature, society“, 2018.
In parallel with the organization of conferences in Cyprus, members of Cyprus PEN, with the financial assistance of the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture and other institutions, participated in international seminars, conferences and other events, where they are given the opportunity to promote Cypriot literature, but also to introduce Cypriot voices to international forums and to enlighten foreigners about the problems of Hellenism. The latter is done in close collaboration with colleagues of PEN Greece and other friendly countries. Cyprus PEN has developed cooperation and bilateral relations with many other sister Centres: PEN of Greece, France, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. With these Centres and several others, mutual visits and publications materialized.
3. Encouraging internal communication between its members.
Its third major goal, the encouragement of communication between its members and the general public, is promoted by the Board of Directors of Cyprus PEN by organising lectures, presenting new publications at special gatherings, as well as roundtable discussions and other events.
In parallel with the International Conferences, Cyprus PEN organised Pancyprian Symposia and Conferences. Indicatively, the following are mentioned: “Literature, History and Philosophical Dimension”, 2011, in collaboration with the Philosophical Society of Cyprus, “Eros, Literature and Art”, 2012, “Historical and cultural Marathasa” and” The Translation of Literature “, 2012. In 2014, a conference was organised, its theme being “Religion as a source of creation”.
In 2012, Cyprus PEN organised two Vigils. One in memory of Vassilis Michaelides and those massacred and hanged in 1821 during the Greek Revolution and the second in memory of the poet Theodosis Nikolaou, in collaboration with the Society for Cypriot Studies and the National Writers’ Association of Cyprus.
Another important activity of Cyprus PEN, serving the same communication goals, had been the PEN Excellence Awards, which aimed at focusing the attention of the reading public and art lovers on the work of distinguished Cypriot creators. The Excellence Awards were given to writers, members of PEN or not, who have contributed significantly to the literature production of the country. The following have been honoured: Costas Montis, Nikos Kranidiotis, Kypros Chrysanthis, George Filippou-Pieridis, Eugenia Paleologou-Petronda, Nikos Spanos, Costas Kyrris, Michalis Pashiardis, Dina Katsouri, Christos Karmios, Andreas Pastellas, Sophocles Lazarou, Mimis Iacovides.
Cyprus PEN systematically organises presentations of its publications as well as other literary events. On a yearly basis, presentations of the Literary Profiles of Cypriot writers in English, published by PEN Cyprus, are organised.
In 2020, in collaboration with Writers’ Union, which also had the initiative of this event, organized a poetry night to honour the International Women’s Day. Poets, members of the two cultural organizations, recited one of their poems choosing from three themes: Woman, Cyprus, Eros. The event was adorned with photos presented by members of the Nicosia branch of the Cyprus Photographic Society.
Since 2021, Cyprus PEN has set as a goal the harmonization of its activities with the new digital age, creating an electronic archive, a modern website, an updated presence on social media and the inventing of innovating digital interactive spaces. In parallel, human contact with the wider public and its members, through the organization of events, will remain an important pillar of its activities. Audience development, the activation of Cyprus PEN to the maximum extent at international, but also at national and regional level, as well as social contribution are the bases for the materialization of all the goals that emerge from the Charter of Cyprus PEN and the Charter of PEN International.
Through the translations of Cypriot works of literature in international languages, Cyprus PEN has promoted Cypriot literature abroad and is now accessible to critics, researchers and academics. Many of these publications are already used by departments of Greek Studies in Europe and America. Poems, short stories and essays by Cypriot writers are being chosen from the publications of Cyprus PEN and are hosted in international anthologies and are translated and published in other languages.
Cyprus PEN Sponsors
The department of Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture is a permanent, consistent, and valuable sponsor of Cyprus PEN and of this website.
At times, sponsorships were also offered by the Leventis Foundation, the Cultural Foundation of Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank.
Generous sponsorships had been received from UNESCO, the International PEN Fund and the European Union of Literary Translators, based in Paris, for the organization of four Cypriot PEN Conferences.
The Board of Directors of Cyprus PEN expresses deep gratitude to all the sponsors that support the materialization of its goals.