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On Third Attempt, PEN Member Ilija Trojanow Permitted into U.S.

November 8, 2013

Photo courtesy of Das Blaue Sofa

Vocal Critic of NSA in New York to Speak About Literature and Surveillance

NEW YORK—PEN American Center learned today that Bulgarian-German writer and PEN member Ilija Trojanow has arrived safely in New York on a U.S. Visa to speak at the Goethe Institut’s "Surveillance and the Naked New World” on Wednesday, alongside journalist Liesl Schillinger and PEN American Center Executive Director Suzanne Nossel, for a candid conversation on the ramifications of the global surveillance apparatus.

Trojanow was denied entry to the United States on Monday, September 30, when checking in for a flight from Brazil for a conference of the German Studies Association in Denver. Airline personnel told him that, due to “Border Crossing Security,” they were required to inform American authorities of his presence at the airport. He was then refused entry on the flight without further explanation and told he had to fly back to Germany. Trojanov was also reportedly denied a U.S. visa earlier this year.

“Historically, the United States has been a haven for foreign writers and dissidents,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center. “It was a place where writers felt safe to speak their minds. Mr. Trojanow's only crime was voicing his opinion, and that was enough to get him barred from boarding an airplane to the U.S. While the original denial of Mr. Trojanow was inexcusable, the Department of Homeland Security has now made the right choice in admitting him into the US. We hope that today’s events mark a shift in policy away from ideologically-based exclusions of people whose views the U.S. government may not agree with.”

A member of the German PEN Center, Ilija Trojanow was born in Bulgaria in 1965, but in 1971 fled the country with his parents via Yugoslavia and Italy and obtained political asylum in Germany. He is the author of more than 20 books, including Angriff auf die Freiheit (Attack on Freedom), a polemic on surveillance that he co-wrote with fellow writer Juli Zeh and published in 2009. In July, he and Zeh penned an open letter calling on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to respond to the NSA’s surveillance program.

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PEN American Center is the largest branch of PEN International. PEN America’s 3800 members stand together with more than 20,000 PEN writers worldwide to defend writers and journalists who are persecuted or imprisoned, to protect free expression, and to celebrate achievements in literature. For more information, please visit www.pen.org

For more information, contact Suzanne Nossel: snossel[at]pen.org; (917) 214-8665