Poisonous malice and resignations: PEN struggles for a new beginning
Created: 05/14/2022Updated: 05/14/2022 14:29
The journalist Deniz Yücel takes part in the general meeting in Gotha.
© Martin Schutt/dpa
The rift at the PEN leadership, who has since resigned, has torn deep wounds in the writers' association.
The healing - the contentious members in Gotha agreed for once - will take time.
Gotha - After the Gotha PEN earthquake, which culminated in the surprising departure of President Deniz Yücel, the writers' association is in ruins - and before a new beginning.
Many members were still appalled by the showdown at the general meeting of the German PEN center in the Thuringian capital on Saturday.
They found the trench warfare between Yücel critics and supporters to be shameful, undignified and shabby.
At the same time, demands for renewal and rejuvenation of the association were heard from the PEN ranks.
In the debate on Saturday, there was talk of "toxic masculinity" and "a squad of old West German gentlemen" who put personal vanity before the political effectiveness of the association.
Quite a few PEN members thought aloud about leaving.
The writer Julia Franck spoke of a "hellish spectacle" in Gotha and battles in which she did not want to take part.
Her colleague Thea Dorn said that staying in PEN only makes sense for her if the association radically reorganizes itself.
PEN member Herbert Wiesner warned: "We need a fresh start with younger people after this disaster, we are heading for nirvana."
It was only last October that PEN elected the leadership team headed by the journalist Yücel.
Less than seven months later, the presidium had dismantled itself in a dispute.
Essentially, it was about leadership style, allegations of bullying, insults and tone.
The stumbling block was extensive internal mail traffic that was forwarded to third parties.
The 48-year-old Yücel then narrowly escaped being voted out in Gotha on Friday evening, but then angrily threw it down because he didn't want to be a "prominent figurehead in a bratwurst booth".
At the same time, the journalist, who spent a year in Turkish custody for alleged terrorist propaganda, announced that he was leaving the writers' association.
PEN is recognized around the world as the voice of persecuted and oppressed authors.
In Gotha, the members only spoke about one thing: themselves - and that in a sometimes irreconcilable and poisonous tone in which none of the camps gave anything.
The dispute not only revealed a deep rift, but also a struggle over the direction of PEN.
After his resignation, Yücel spoke of a discrepancy between the PEN past with big names and the present, in which "self-promoters and busybodies" misused the association as a stage and for which persecuted authors were only accessories.
In order to clear the way for a new beginning, the entire remaining presidency resigned in Gotha on Saturday.
The writer Josef Haslinger was elected interim president by a large majority.
He is to lead the writers' association until the new leadership team is elected at an extraordinary general meeting in a few months.
Haslinger was PEN President from 2013 to 2017.
He wants to prepare for the restart, said Haslinger.
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With the sometimes public disputes of the past few months, PEN has gained visibility, but not reputation.
There was agreement in Gotha on only one point: there are only losers.