The 2014 PEN Pinter prize goes to Salman Rushdie

The author of 'The Satanic Verses' and 'Midnight's Children' has been selected to receive the 2014 PEN Pinter prize for his literary works for their 'unflinching, unswerving' views on society, according to the English PEN organization.

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    In this Jan. 29 , 2013, file photo, author Salman Rushdie attends a promotional event of “Midnight’s Children” in Mumbai, India.
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Indian-born British author Salman Rushdie will receive the highly prestigious 2014 PEN Pinter Prize this October.

The prize is given annually to a British or British resident author who has shown, in the words of British playwright Harold Pinter, a "fierce intellectual determination ... to define the real truth of our lives and our societies." 

The prize was established by English PEN in 2009 to honor the memory of Pinter, a playwright and Nobel laureate. English PEN, which stands for "Poets, Essayists and Novelists," is the founding group for International PEN, a worldwide literary organization that strives to promote free expression in all forms of literature.

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According to PEN's website, Maureen Freely, one of the judges for this year's prize, said that “this prize is English PEN’s way of thanking Salman Rushdie not just for his books and his many years of speaking out for freedom of expression, but also for his countless private acts of kindness.  When he sees writers unjustly vilified, prosecuted, or forced into exile, he takes a personal interest."

In a statement, Rushdie said that he was honored to receive the award. "The work of PEN, both in promoting the best of world literature and in opposing abuses of freedom, continues to be vitally important, and I’m proud to have been a part of that effort in England as well as the United States," the author said, according to the PEN website.

Salman Rushdie is no stranger to abuse of literary freedom. His book, "The Satanic Verses," sparked controversy across the Middle East and earned him an execution order from the then-spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, forcing the author into hiding in 1989.

In addition to this prize, the writer received a Booker Prize for "Midnight's Children" in 1981 and was knighted in 2007 for his services to literature.

Rushdie will share the PEN Pinter award with a fellow writer who has been intimidated or oppressed for speaking out on their beliefs. He will choose the writer in conjunction with English PEN’s Writers at Risk Committee. The co-winner will be announced at the prize ceremony at the British Library on Oct. 9.

Weston Williams is a Monitor contributor.

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