Author Archives: Viviana Fiorentino

The Light of Home: Ukraine and Ireland. A Celebration of Ukrainian and Irish Culture – Dublin Book Festival

Saturday, 11th November 2023, 8 p.m.

Venue: Townhall, 1WML, Windmill Quarter

Join us for a special evening of music and readings featuring Irish and Ukrainian writers Iryna Starovoyt, Olha Mukha, Tetyana Teren, Thérèse Kieran, Celia de Fréine and John O’Donnell with musicians Olesya Zdorovetska, Nick Roth, Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Catherine Fitzgerald. (Check the Dublin Book Festival website, link below, for updates on speakers).

This event will be dedicated to the memory of Victoria Amelina, Ukrainian writer, human rights activist and much-loved colleague, who would have been here with us for these event if she had not been killed, along with 12 other people, by a Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

This event is supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, in association with Dublin City Council

For more information and to book please visit here.

Tickets: €10.00 (€3.00 Concession/unwaged)

Culture in a Time of War – Dublin Book Festival

Thursday 9th November, 6:30 p.m.

Venue: The Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street, Dubin 2

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann in partnership with Dublin Book Festival and the Ukrainian-Irish Cultural Platform host a discussion centred on the importance of preserving cultural memory in times of war. With journalist, cultural manager, Executive Director of PEN Ukraine, and curator Tetyana Teren; poet, essayist, and Professor of Cultural Studies Iryna Starovoyt; and curator of the WOUNDED CULTURE project, cultural analyst and manager at PEN International Olha Mukha

This event will be dedicated to the memory of Victoria Amelina, Ukrainian writer, human rights activist and much-loved colleague, who would have been here with us for these event if she had not been killed, along with 12 other people, by a Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

This event is supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, in association with Dublin City Council.

Admission is free but booking is essential, please click here.

Human Rights Under Threat: The Arts Respond

October 14, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm IST

Venue: Pearse Street Library Conference Centre

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann is delighted to host this event in partnership with Smashing Times, International Centre for the Arts and Equality for the annual Dublin International Arts and Human Rights festival. The event is supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, in association with Dublin City Council.

George Szirtes, award-winning Hungarian writer primarily in the field of poetry, translation and memoir, will be interviewed by Mary Moynihan, writer, director, theatre and filmmaker and Artistic Director of Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality. He will discuss migration, human rights and freedom of expression, and the role of poetry in these challenging times. He will also give a short reading from his work. Csilla Toldy, also Hungarian and also an award winning poet, novelist, translator and film-maker will join the discussion and read from her work.

Tickets are for free but booking is essential here.

Speaker Biographies:

George Szirtes was born in Hungary and emigrated to England with his parents — her mother a survivor of concentration and labor camps—after the 1956 Budapest uprising.

Szirtes studied painting at Harrow School of Art and Leeds College of Art and Design. At Leeds he studied with Martin Bell, who encouraged Szirtes as he began to develop his poetic themes: an engaging mix of British individualism and European fluency in myth, fairy tale, and legend. Szirtes’s attention to shape and sound, cultivated through his background in visual art and his bilingual upbringing, quickly led to his successful embrace of formal verse. In an essay in Poetry magazine defending form, Szirtes argues that “rhyme can be unexpected salvation, the paper nurse that somehow, against all the odds, helps us stick the world together while all the time drawing attention to its own fabricated nature.”

His first book, The Slant Door (1979), won the Faber Memorial Prize. Bridge Passages (1991) was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Prize. Reel (2004) won the T.S. Eliot Prize, and his New and Collected Poems was published by Bloodaxe in 2008.

Szirtes did not return to Hungary until 1984, when he visited on the first of several Arts Council travelling scholarships. He has since translated, edited, and anthologized numerous collections of Hungarian poetry. For his translation work Szirtes has won several awards, including the Déry Prize for Imre Madach’s The Tragedy of Man (1989) and the European Poetry Translation Prize for Zsuzsa Rakovsky’s New Life (1994). His own work has been translated into numerous languages and widely anthologised, including in Penguin’s British Poetry Since 1945.

He is the author of Exercise of Power (2001), a critical study of the artist Ana Maria Pacheco. He co-edited, with Penelope Lively, New Writing 10 (2001). Szirtes has written extensively for radio and is the author of more than a dozen plays, musicals, opera libretti, and oratorios.

Szirtes lives in England with his wife, the painter Clarissa Upchurch, with whom he ran the Starwheel Press. They collaborated on Budapest: Image, Poem, Film (2006). He is a member of the Advisory Panel of the British Center for Literary Translation, and is on the Advisory Board of the Poetry Book Society. He has been a member of the Royal Society of Literature since 1982.

Csilla Toldy is a writer and translator from Hungary, living in Rostrevor, Co Down. Her publications include various literary magazines in the UK and Ireland, as well as three poetry pamphlets: Red Roots – Orange Sky (2013), The Emigrant Womans Tale (2015) and Vertical Montage (2018, Lapwing), and the short story collection, Angel Fur and other stories (Stupor Mundi, 2019). Her novel Bed Table Door, long listed for the Bath Novel award, and winner of the Desmond Elliot Residency explores the idea of political and personal freedom against the backdrop of the Cold War and Thatcher’s England. (Wrecking Ball Press, 2023). Csilla creates film poems as a visual artist. Her award-winning work has been screened at international festivals. In 2020 she was commissioned by the Executive Office of Northern Ireland to create a public artwork, a film poem for Holocaust Memorial Day. Csilla is a Creative Writing tutor with the Open University and a mentor with the Irish Writer’s Centre.

Her film scripts won the Katapult Prize and the Special Prize of the Motion Pictures Association of America as the Hungarian entry to the Hartley-Merrill Prize and they were placed as Drama (Foreign Film) Genre Finalist in the APMFF Screenplay Competition 2015 in New Jersey. The Bloom Mystery her documentary based on Joyce’s Ulysses was screened internationally. Her narrative non-fiction was short listed for the Kingston University Biography Prize and the Fish Memoir Prize. Csilla’s first novel, Bed Table Door  was long listed for the Bath Novel Award and is recently with The Wrecking Ball Press.

In 2023 she was the recipient of the Desmond Elliot Residency awarded by the National Centre for Writing.

Mary Moynihan, Writer, Director, Theatre and Film-Maker and Artistic Director, Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality

Mary Moynihan, (she/her), MA, is an award-winning writer, director, theatre and film-maker, an interdisciplinary artist and one of Ireland’s most innovative arts and human rights artists creating work to promote the arts, human rights, climate justice, gender equality, diversity and peace. 


On 7th and from 29th to 30th September 2023 at Istituto Italiano Di Cultura – Dublino

The first edition of ”Dublin Festival of Italian and Irish Literature in Ireland” was launched on the 7th September with a special event and it will then officially take place from 29th September to 30th September 2023.

Six Italian authors and six Irish authors will meet in Dublin for a literature festival dedicated to the points of contact between the two cultures.

The Festival was launched on 7th September at the Istituto Italiano Di Cultura – Dublino on the occasion of the exhibition ”Irish in Italy” about the publication of Irish literature in Italy in the first half of the 20th century. It will then continue on 29th and 30th September with a packed and interesting programme of literature encounters. Please see the programme by clicking here.

The Festival is an initiative of the Italian Institute of Culture in partnership with Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann, Literature Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Society for Italian Studies and Irish in Italy.

Statement from Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann on the death of Victoria Amelina

3rd July 2023: A Statement from Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann on the death of our dear friend Victoria Amelina

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann is shocked and appalled by the news that renowned Ukrainian author and human rights activist, Victoria Amelina, has been murdered by a Russian missile strike on a popular restaurant in Kramatorsk on 27th June 2023. Twelve other people, including children, are known to have been killed in this vicious attack. Sixty people were injured.
Victoria was a dear friend and much loved colleague. She has visited Dublin several times. Everyone who has met her, read her work or heard her speak here, has been moved and affected by her words and by her presence.  At an Irish PEN event in Smock Alley during the Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival last October, she spoke powerfully and movingly about the Russian invasion of her native country, and of Russia’s intention to obliterate all traces of Ukrainian culture. She also described her own work in progress: War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War, and her ongoing humanitarian work as a war crimes investigator with Truth Hounds.
During that same visit to Dublin, Victoria kept young children enthralled and entertained during a storytelling session at Pearse Street Library. Both of these Irish PEN events were supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature. At a Vicar Street concert earlier this year, organised by, among others,  Fighting Words and Ukrainian Action Ireland, Victoria stilled the packed theatre with her words, redolent of her courage and determination to secure justice. Two of her essays in English were republished here last year: “Nothing Bad Has Ever Happened”, in the Irish Times, and “Homo Oblivious” in the Dublin Review of Books. Both of these essays predate the illegal Russian invasion of last February.
Although she was an award-winning novelist, Victoria set her own career aside, as many other Ukrainians have, in order to work for her country. She spoke of turning to poetry in the midst of this challenging work: ‘As if shells hit language/ the debris from language/ may look like poems/ But they are not/ This is no poetry too/ Poetry is in Kharkiv/ volunteering for the army’.
When asked how she managed to bear the emotional impact of dealing with atrocities on a daily basis, she said lightly of her and her colleagues’ hugely challenging work: ‘We hug a lot’.

Victoria was due to come back to Dublin in November, to moderate an Irish PEN/ Dublin Book Festival event exploring the role of culture in times of war and the absolute necessity to preserve it, describing writers as ‘caretakers of cultural memory’.
Philippe Sands says that Victoria’s death is “emblematic of a merciless and terrible war, prosecuted by men who feel no compunction acting in manifest violation of the most basic precepts of humanity. Victoria Amelina is gone, but she will always be present, her values embodied in the decency she represented and the accountability she sought. Her killing is a most terrible crime – her legacy will include a renewed and unbreakable commitment to accountability for those who perpetrate such  horrors, in a land she cared for with passion and brilliance.”
Paul Muldoon writes: “Let’s be clear about this. This was not an accident. The type of missile used in this attack is deadly accurate. This was a civilian target and represents a war crime pure and simple.”
The world is a darker place today. Victoria Amelina, award-winning writer and war crimes investigator, has become the most recent victim in a long list of brutal war crimes perpetrated by Russia against the civilian population of Ukraine. Our sincere condolences go to her family, her many friends, and to her colleagues in PEN Ukraine and Truth Hounds. We call for an immediate end to such atrocities. (End statement)

Letter to Irish PEN members from Ilhan Sami Çomak, translated by Paula Darwish.

The prize-winning Kurdish poet Ilhan Sami Çomak has been in prison in Turkey for 28 years, since he was 22 years old. During his confinement, Çomak has written eight award-winning collections of poetry. His first collection in English, Separated from the Sun, edited and with an Introduction by Welsh poet and translator Caroline Stockford, was published in September by Smokestack Books.
During his confinement, Çomak has become a highly-respected poet, with a growing international reputation.

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann is honoured Ilhan Sami Çomak has accepted to be our first Honorary Member. Please find below Ilhan Sami Çomak’s powerful letter to Irish PEN members.

July 2022,

Dear Friends,

I think the reason why people make so many mistakes in life is that they have no access to the possibilities of words, to the opportunity to speak and write. In fact, speaking is a youthful behaviour, while silence is ancient. But it is this youthfulness, above all else, that has the capacity to change the world or us as people.

However you look at it, words and writing are the resistance point as we reach into the infinitely distant expanse that we call the future. When those of us who reject the tyranny of the present seek to invoke the new and beautiful, words are the most viable and humane invention we have at our disposable. I’m sure you already know this story, but I feel the need to share it with you again as it has had a great effect on me: According to belief, Saint Patrick prayed with such fervour and sincerity in the yard of the church on Church Island that the imprint of his knees was left in the ground stones. I think this is a very accurate representation of the proven power of words – be it prayers, poetry or novels – to bring about change and the place this has in our lives. That’s why I sincerely believe that words and writing are a critical factor in our tenacious grip on life.

As far as I can see, this is the reason why every poet and writer writes – more than anything, it is to change their life and themselves in line with their beliefs.

I write poetry for the sake of life and to stay alive, for my deep connection with life, because I miss life, because it brings life to my cell, because I love life and people with a passion and because I believe in life and myself. The continuity of this belief is all I have.

Discovering and understanding life through poetry, together with the persistence of my efforts, eventually altered me and my expectations from life. In fact, life has changed with me. Over these 28 years of unrelenting confinement, I missed life so much, I spoke of so many longings that in the end the longings took on a life of their own; with poetry, above all with poetry, I woke up to life.

Poetry took me by the hand; as I negotiated the unending contradiction of living between the heavy, poisonous pain of my experiences and the beauty and lightness of the things I wanted to experience, it gave me the acute insight I needed to keep my balance. It protected me from reality by supporting my dreams in the circumstances of this place, where time and space are defiled by constant repetition and high walls. The fact that I am still alive and well, despite all these years of unjust confinement, is undoubtedly due to my unrelenting efforts to reach the life envisioned by poetry, and through the act of writing about them, to reach all the things I miss. I may not have the fervent power of St Patrick, but I do have avid, tireless desires that know where and what they should gravitate towards. I want to live; that is why I cling to words and writing, the greatest invention of humankind.

Dear friends, despite this immense ordeal, my voice and my words crossed the seas to reach you. You called out to me with your friendship, taking my hand and my poetry. I see that as proof of poetry’s mighty heart, which can overcome any adversity. And I also see this call as a beacon, signalling that somewhere in every time and space there are warm-hearted people who know what is good, who create goodness and recognise the capacity of words and imagination to change the world.

It is an honour to be accepted as a member of Irish PEN. The step you have taken has given me great strength. Now I am closer to the outside, nearer to clean, fresh air. It’s beautiful to feel the warmth of your hand of friendship! I thank you with all my heart.

From Words to Bullets: Ukrainian Writers and Journalists on the Russo-Ukrainian War

“Words and Bullets” is an online media project launched by the Ukrainian cultural and publishing media Chytomo and PEN Ukraine with support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This is a series of interviews with writers and journalists who became soldiers or volunteers following the Russian invasion. 

The authors and journalists featured in this project all see their lives as divided into a “before and after”. The explosions that rocked Ukrainian cities on Feb. 24 forever changed their personal trajectories. Some left their homes and rushed to save children or elderly parents, others joined the volunteer movement that helps supply the Ukrainian army, and many joined the Ukrainian territorial defense forces or the Armed Forces of Ukraine. 

The project started in June 2022, more than ten interviews with authors and journalists who became soldiers or volunteers due to the war will be published in Chytomo.

Some interviews are already available in English:

Paola Ugaz and the judicial harassment of journalists in Peru

Award-winning Peruvian investigative journalist Paola Ugaz co-authored – with Pedro Salinas – a book entitled Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados (Half-Monks, Half Soldiers), in 2015. The book uncovers an alleged pattern of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse within the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Peruvian Catholic organisation. Paola Ugaz has since faced numerous lawsuits arising from her reporting.

Please read more and latest news about her here:

DUBLIN BOOK FESTIVAL 2022. Screening of the Documentary WHITE TORTURE by Narges Mohammadi

We at Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann are delighted to continue our partnership with this diverse and vibrant festival. You can check out the full programme here:

On the 13th November, the Sunday before the internationally recognised Day of the Imprisoned Writer, Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann will host the screening of a powerful documentary by Iranian human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi. 

Entitled WHITE TORTURE, this documentary explores the devastating effects of solitary confinement on prisoners in Iran. Professor Roja Fazaeli, Associate Professor in Islamic Civilisations, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Trinity College Dublin, will introduce the film.

Dr Roja Fazaeli
Dr. Roja Fazaeli is Associate Professor in Islamic Civilisations and a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. She has published widely on the subjects of Islamic feminisms, women religious authorities, women’s rights in Iran, and the relationship between human rights and religion.

White Torture
Interviews with Iranian Women Prisoners.
With a foreword by Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner
Oneworld Publications,2022. Translated by Amir Rezanezhad

You can find booking details here:

and here:

Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, winner of the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage

Be careful when you use the words ‘change’ ‘dream’ and ‘democracy’. Those things don’t come so easily to us.” (Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, The New York Times, 2 June 2009).

English PEN featured writer, Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, has been named as the winner of the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage.

Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace is an award-winning academic, activist, and blogger from Bahrain. He has spent the last decade in prison, where he is serving a life-sentence for his role in the 2011 pro-democracy protests. In July 2021, Dr Al-Singace started a hunger strike to protest his ill-treatment in prison.

Join English PEN campaign and send a message of congratulations to Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, winner of 2022 PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage:

#FreeAlSingace #PENWrites