Having for some years been the director of a PEN-centre it is easy to get the impression that all important literature is being written in a prison cell or by a writer in forced exile. This is of course an illusion—literature is being written everywhere. The prison cell is then no exception. But over the years a great many books by writers writing—or attempting to write—in a prison cell have had a great impact on world literature. It ought to be possible to write a literary history of prison writing, and a few of the obvious candidates would be Ovid and Dostoevsky. Prison literature, tragically, is a dynamic genre of our time.
In this second edition of The Dissident Blog prison literature is highly present. The short story writer and human rights lawyer Muharrem Erbey, honorary member of Swedish PEN, has since Christmas 2009 been imprisoned in Turkey without a trial. One of the charges against him is that he held a lecture in the Swedish Parliament where he discussed the current situation of the Kurdish people in Turkey. This is all it takes to be imprisoned indefinitely in Turkey—a country that calls itself a democracy. Erbey has sent us a letter from prison, which we hereby present to an international audience. In addition, a member of the Swedish Parliament, Mats Johansson, who is committed to Erbey’s case, has supplied us with a commentary.