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John Ralston Saul: Opening speech at the 78th PEN International Congress

This is a remarkable city.  I have been coming to Gyeongju for fifteen years.  It is a city not only of history but of ideas; a city built on the idea of a humanist civilization, both Buddhist and Confucian.  I think often, wherever I am in the world, of The Divine Bell of the Great King Seong Deok from the 8th Century, which sits a short distance from here.  It is covered in script: the philosophy of the day.  “The Absolute Truth”, it says, “embraces all of creation, here and beyond.  We cannot see its real form, nor can we trace the path to its origin”.  Here is a profoundly anti-ideological idea; an idea of doubt and of creativity, which writers can embrace today.  And then this line: “The people [of the Silla Kingdom] admired literature and art over gold and jade”. Here is an idea which would mystify many of those who control policy around the world today – the belief that the imagination needs to trump mere self interest.PEN is stronger in its 91st year than is has ever been. Why?  Because  we function on the fundamental principle of the Divine Bell.  Creativity, imagination, language may be forbidden, battered, turned into propaganda in the short term.  But creativity, the imagination, prevail.

Ljubljana welcomes a new ICORN writer!

Ali Amar is a Moroccan writer and journalist. In 1997 he co-founded the Casablanca weekly ‘Le Journal hebdomadaire’ which he edited until its closure in January 2010. It was the first independent journal banned by the Moroccan regime.  Ali Amar  holds a degree in economics and a Master in International Journalism of the City University London, UK. He has been frequently persecuted in his home country because of his "engaged pen" and his thorough inquiries about the Moroccan monarchic system.     He is author of a best-seller "Mohammed VI, le grand malentendu" (Mohammed VI, the big misunderstanding), published in France in 2009 by Calmann-Lévy. The book was censored in Morocco. His book reveals the reality of the first ten years of the reign of the Moroccan king. His second book "Paris-Marrakech : argent, pouvoir et réseaux" will be published end of January 2012 again at Calmann-Lévy editors. It decrypts the incestuous ties between Moroccan and French elites against the arab revolutions. Ali Amar currently lives in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia that recently joined the ICORN network of cities of refuge for persecuted writers. He writes for the information site Slate. Ali, welcome!