The three initials for Poets, Essayists, and Novelists, PEN, make up the name of that well-known international association of writers organized in 140 Centres worldwide. Founded in England in the early 1920s as a literary circle of friends, PEN has spread to many countries around the globe and has long established itself as a voice speaking out for persecuted and suppressed writers and as a defender of the right to freedom of speech.

The Charter of PEN International is based on resolutions adopted at international congresses. Though its wording may have taken on a little patina, in substance, it has lost none of its timeliness.

Membership in the organization is restricted to those representatives of the profession who, on the basis of outstanding literary achievement, have been invited to join any of the existing national PEN Centres and who, with their signature to the Charter, attest to the principles of PEN. However, anyone interested in becoming a friend and sponsor of PEN is welcome to do so.

The history of PEN has not remained untouched by the political and social developments of the 20th century. Yet its members have always remembered that, beyond all national and ideological differences, a major task of their club has been and should be to offer a forum for free discussions on questions of literature and culture in general as well as on the chances and challenges inherent in any historical situation.

PEN is independent of party politics and ideological camps and transcends the political trends of the day. And yet, in a more general meaning of the term, it is far from unpolitical, in as much as its binding principles do have political implications as well.