John Ralston Saul’s greetings
Iceland has always been a great centre of literature. It has the highest per-capita reading public in the world. One other remarkable fact: the stability of the Icelandic language is such that today people can easily read the great Sagas of Icelanders from one thousand years ago. Finally, Iceland is one of the birthplaces of modern democracy, with its Alþingi, where the great public debates took place as early as the 10th Century. The site is still very moving. I hope you will have a chance to see it.
To all of this I must add that Iceland has a remarkable and large family of contemporary writers. All of them are members of Icelandic PEN. Their President, the novelist Sjón, and his colleagues are putting together a Congress which will mark another step in our attempts to make these gatherings more informal and inclusive.
I know this will be an important Congress for strengthening our Digital strategies. Also, the last year has seen a lot of PEN interventions on the ground in support of freedom of expression, literary initiatives through our restructured Free the Word! program and an emphasis on Centre development. We must talk about all of that. We will be launching the first PEN International literary prize - the PEN International/New Voices Award.
This 79th gathering will also see an important new approach because of the way the Congress is being linked with The Reykjavík International Literary Festival.
I look forward to seeing you all in Reykjavík.
John Ralston Saul
President of PEN International