Tom Stoppard & Charlie Hebdo Staff Lauded By PEN As Free-Speech Exemplars: Media

Tom Stoppard, a fevered friend of free expression and foe of bad writing, will receive the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award for his “extraordinary career as a dramatist and his abiding commitment to the defense of creative freedom worldwide.” It’s the highest honor bestowed by the American chapter of the global human-rights organization of writers and editors. Stoppard’s plays include Arcadia, The Real Thing and most recently The Hard Problem, currently running at the National Theatre in London. His screenplays include Shakespeare In Love, Brazil and Empire Of The Sun.

charlie hebdo coverSatirical journal Charlie Hebdo, devastated by a January attack at its Paris headquarters, will receive the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award. It is to be accepted by Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a staffer who arrived at the office late on January 7, barely escaping the invasion by Islamist terrorists in which eight of his co-workers and four others were murdered.

The awards will be presented May 5 during the annual PEN American Center Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Among the other honorees is Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle, cited for his “leadership role in the global literary community.” During the event, PEN also will present the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award to a jailed writer, to be announced.

“Stoppard is without peer among modern dramatists, using comedy, theatricality and intimate stories to explore the deepest reaches of identity, ethics and freedom,” PEN American Center President Andrew Solomon said in a statement released with the announcement. “While his accomplishments as a playwright are universally acknowledged, we honor Stoppard not only for his literary genius but also because he is a writer of conscience, courageously using his pen and his voice to speak out on behalf of those denied the freedoms that have helped make his own work possible.”

Of Charlie Hebdo, PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel said: “It is the role of the satirists in any free society to challenge the powerful and the sacred, pushing boundaries in ways that make expression freer and more robust for us all. In paying the ultimate price for the exercise of their freedom, and then soldiering on amid devastating loss, Charlie Hebdo deserves to be recognized for its dauntlessness in the face of one of the most noxious assaults on expression in recent memory.”

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