More writers come out for and against PEN American Center's award for "Charlie Hebdo"

04.05.2015

Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman and Alison Bechdel are among the writers who have agreed to be table hosts at tomorrow's PEN American Center gala after six authors withdrew in protest at an award being given to the satirical French magazine "Charlie Hebdo".

The literary and human rights organisation told AP at the weekend that the other new hosts are George Packer, Azar Mafisi and Alain Mabanckou, a Congolese-born French author who will present the award to editor-in-chief of "Charlie Hebdo" Gerard Biard and critic and essayist Jean-Baptiste Thore. PEN is giving the magazine a Freedom of Expression Courage award, a decision that has been fiercely defended and criticised.

Criticism of the PEN American Center's decision to honour the French magazine "Charlie Hebdo" continued last week as more than 30 writers, including Junot Diaz and Joyce Carol Oates, signed a letter calling the award "particularly disheartening".

The letter, dated 26 April, followed PEN's announcement the previous weekend that six out of 64 table hosts for the literary and human rights organisation's gala on 5 May were withdrawing. The protesting writers, who also include Michael Ondaatje and Peter Carey, have cited what they consider offensive cartoons of Muslims by "Charlie Hebdo" as their reason for their withdrawal. PEN is awarding "Charlie Hebdo" a freedom of expression prize after the magazine's Paris offices were the site of a deadly shooting in January.

Salman Rushdie has been a leading defender of the prize. He said that it is "quite right" to honour the "Charlie Hebdo" artists killed during a January shooting at the magazine's Paris offices. Rushdie was forced into hiding for years over death threats related to his novel "The Satanic Verses". (Qantara/AP)

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