The number of writers who have signed a letter in protest of PEN’s award to Charlie Hebdo has grown to 145—a sharp increase from the initial group of six dissenters, The New York Times reports. Signees include Junot Díaz, Lorrie Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Eric Bogosian, and Michael Cunningham. The first six—Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Peter Carey, Francine Prose, and Taiye Selasi—withdrew as table hosts for the PEN Literary Gala, which takes place next Tuesday, May 5, at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.
PEN released a statement Thursday, April 30, in response to the 145 signatures on the protest letter:
“We have seen that a letter is making the rounds, though it has not yet been sent to us. We appreciate its expression of support for PEN’s work and mission, and agree that there are many writers who merit recognition for courage in defending free expression. A number of people have approached us urging a counter-letter, but we feel strongly that asking writers to declare themselves for or against oversimplifies and needlessly polarizes a complex issue. We have heard and felt powerful support in many different forms over the last few days and don’t see value in a roll-call that pushes people to take a position that may not fully reflect the subtleties of their view. Everyone in PEN is committed to free expression; debate over its meaning and how to reconcile it with other important values is vital. We have created an open online forum for people to share their views, which we are reading carefully. We see this robust conversation as a credit to the strength and diversity of PEN’s membership.”