Right at the beginning of the PEN conference there are boos and insults, the mood is extremely heated. “I don’t need it – take it or leave it, PEN,” says Yücel – and finally gives up.
The journalist Deniz Yücel has surprisingly resigned as President of the PEN Center Germany. At the same time he announced his departure from the Writers’ Union. “I don’t want to be a figurehead for this bratwurst booth,” said the 48-year-old after the German Press Agency. “The club with the big names is history.” A motion to vote Yücel out of office had been narrowly rejected at the general meeting in Gotha.
Of the 161 valid votes cast, 75 voted against removing the President. The result was extremely close: 73 members had voted for his deselection. The current executive committee, headed by 48-year-old Yücel, was only elected last October and recently made headlines with heated arguments and power struggles. The management style of the top ranks led to major distortions in the ranks of the members, which came to light in Gotha in an extremely heated debate.
The conflicts are essentially about insults, allegations of bullying and the tone of conversation. The voting motion against the PEN President was a novelty in the recent history of the association. Yücel said to the quarrels in Gotha: “I don’t need it – take it or leave it, PEN.”
He saw the association well positioned despite the internal dispute. This is also supported by the growing public interest in the writers’ association. The quarrels are not about a generational conflict, emphasized Yücel, who also made it public in Gotha that he had suffered from depression at the beginning of the year. Right from the start of the meeting, Yücel was confronted with boos and insults. According to its report, the Presidency, which wants to bring PEN back up to date, has inherited several latent problems. The smoldering conflicts and tensions would have erupted, if not in this Bureau, then in another.
The journalist, who spent a year in Turkish custody for alleged terrorist propaganda, also admitted to making mistakes. Members had previously expressed concern about the infighting, which was damaging the PEN Center’s image. Cash auditor Klaus Wettig therefore suggested mediation. At the same time, members appealed to return to objectivity. A dismissal of Yücel would have been tantamount to defeat and embarrassment for the entire PEN, supporters of the president said.
According to the PEN Center Germany, it has 770 members and is one of more than 140 writers’ associations worldwide that are united in the international PEN. The three letters stand for the words Poets, Essayists and Novelists.