For December we reached out to Carles Torner, executive director at PEN International. He prepared a reading list for young writers, here we go!
1. Bejan Matur / Al Seu Desert
“I am deeply moved by the poetry of Bejan Matur. I first read her poems in English translation, until an anthology was translated into my own language, Catalan, with the title Into their desert. I was very moving to listen to the dialogue between Bejan Matur and her Catalan translator Albert Roig at the Frankfurt Book Fair when Turkey was the guest country in 2008.”
2. 50 poemes amb àngel
“I read again and again this anthology of 50 poems with angels, that I prepared with Jaume Subirana seven years ago. You’ll find here classic poets like Baudelaire, Yeats, Dickinson, Rimbaud or Rilke together with great contemporary poets like the Catalan Narcís Comadira or the Kurdish Bejan Matur.”
3. Samar Yazbek/19 femmes
“I met Samar Yazbek one month ago when she delivered a deep and moving keynote speech at the PEN/Oxfam-Novib award for Freedom of Expression in The Hague. (https://pen-international.
org/news/samar-yazbek-oxfam- novib-pen-international-award- keynote ) I am reading these days her book 19 women, a series of interviews through the years of the war in Syria, showing the resistance, the hope, the resilience of women committed to life and truth and building a multifaceted memory from the inside of the horror of the revolution and the war in Syria. It starts with the story of Sara, a victim of the chemical bombings by the Assad regime.”
4. Gabriel Ferrater / Women and days
“The great Catalan poet Gabriel Ferrater roots each poem in the moral challenges of personal experience. I have read his poems again and again for forty years. In the preface, Seamus Heaney likens Ferrater to Robert Frost: “Had Frost grown up during a civil war he might have written like this”. The English translation by Arthur Terry is excellent.”
5. Timothy Snyder/ On Tiranny
“Since it was published, Timothy’s Snyder’s radical pamphlet (in the sense of short, sharp and very articulated text) has been very useful to me to understand the present surge of authoritarian regimes. It is the ideal book for a group reading and a conversation about how to resist the daily threats to democracy, in all societies.”