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Novelists boycott NY gala in protest of honoring Charlie Hebdo protest

Six prominent Novelists are protesting against the honoring of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with a freedom of expression award

AFP , Monday 27 Apr 2015
Peter Carey,
Peter Carey, one of the six authors
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Six prominent novelists are boycotting a New York literary gala next week to protest against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo being honored with a freedom of expression award.

Australia's Peter Carey, Canada's Michael Ondaatje, British-born Taiye Selasi, and Americans Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Francine Prose have withdrawn from the May 5 PEN American Center gala.

They informed PEN over the weekend of their decision not to attend the glittering annual event, which is also a key fund-raiser, a month after the Charlie Hebdo award was first announced.

"They've all been in touch with us to say they didn't feel comfortable attending," PEN executive director Suzanne Nossel said.

Carey, a two-times Booker Prize winner, told The New York Times that the award stepped beyond PEN's traditional role of protecting freedom of expression against government oppression.

"A hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom-of-speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about?" the newspaper quoted him as saying in an email interview.

"All this is complicated by PEN's seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population."

On January 7, two brothers claiming to avenge the magazine's depiction of the Prophet Mohammed -- offensive to Muslims -- stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, killing 12 people.

Gerard Biard, Charlie Hebdo's editor in chief, and essayist Jean-Baptiste Thoret, who escaped the attack by arriving late to work, will accept the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award on behalf of their colleagues.

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