From the prisoner Ukrainian journalist to a high school activist in the village FloridaPEN-America on Monday night paid tribute to democracy and freedom of expression and warned of the dangers facing the United States and abroad.

“Instead of focusing on petty responsibilities such as school work, my generation has been forced to mobilize quickly and fight for our future,” said Florida teenager Jack Patch, a well-known opponent of the so-called “Don’t Tell Gays” bill. Monday. “If our collective voice couldn’t make a difference, they wouldn’t have tried so hard to silence it.”

Celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Literary and Human Rights Organization held its annual fundraising party when about 650 authors, publishers, editors, and others gathered at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Friday received the PEN / Benenson Award for Courage, author Sadie Smith an award for literary services, and the founder of Donald Katz – an award for being far-sighted in business. Actor – comedian-commentator Faith Sally.

Ukrainian journalist Vladislav Esipenko, who is currently serving a six-year sentence in a Russian labor camp for reporting in Russian-occupied Crimea, was awarded the PEN / Barbie Prize for Freedom of Writing in absentia for political prisoners. Yasypenka’s wife Katsyaryna, represented by actor Michael Douglas, spoke on his behalf.

“He believes that people deserve to know what is happening, to know what the truth is,” she said, speaking in Ukrainian, translated by a PEN official. “My husband believes so deeply in this that he is willing to risk his life. I share his commitment. “

Some presenters referred to personal attitudes towards the winners. Douglas noted that he had ancestors from Eastern Europe. Katz introduced the sen. Cory Booker from New Jersey, who recalled that when he was mayor of Newark ten years ago, Katz made the city his base for producing and distributing audiobooks.

“Audible was the first major company to move to Newark when I was mayor,” Booker said. “People abandoned Newark. People ignored our city. People declared our city dead.”

Smith, a British writer known for novels such as White Teeth and Beauty, wondered why she received an award for literary merit. As she admitted on Monday night, she severely limited her “service” to writing books, did not chair any committees, avoided literally all the boards she could, avoided open letters and literary petitions as if they were hand grenades. ”

She contrasted herself with activist authors such as Simone Weil, Albert Camus and James Baldwin, expressing “awe and respect” to them, and called her work her contribution, saying that “thought is also a form of action.”

“I know I am. I am a novelist. I’m sitting in my room. I write. I’m reading. Sometimes when my kids come asking me to do something, they’ll say, “You’re literally doing nothing!” She said. “I want to admit that I consider it my vocation to apply all the language skills I have,” she said. service to the language itself ”.

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