10. 15. 2012. 11:52

Ferlinghetti had initially accepted the prize, says Szőcs

In September, Lawrence Ferlinghetti had accepted the Janus Pannonius Prize, but in mid-October he informed the American press that he would decline it because of human rights concerns, the President of the Hungarian PEN Club told Hungarian press agency MTI on Sunday.

The international jury of the Hungarian PEN Club awarded the 50 euro prize to the 93-year-old American poet at the end of September, and planned to hand it over to Ferlinghetti in San Francisco. However, on 11 October the poet told the Los Angeles Times that he would decline the prize, having learned that it was partly financed by the Hungarian state which "curtails freedom of expression and civil liberties".

Géza Szőcs, President of the Hungarian PEN Club and former State Secretary for Culture reminded the press on Sunday that the poet had accepted the prize in September. He added that at the time Ferlinghetti did not seem to mind the fact that the Hungarian government was among the sponsors, nor did he think that the government was an extreme rightist one. The poet himself had suggested that the location for handing over the prize could be one of the Hungarian consulates in the United States, Szőcs said.

He added that Ferlinghetti had also said that he would accept the prize on condition that the financial award would be given to artists who fight for the freedom of expression and against social oppression. The Hungarian PEN Club accepted this proposal, and also suggested that the money granted by the government, a minor part of the award, could be deducted from the sum of the prize. They asked Ferlinghetti to name an artist he would like to support, and suggested that if the poet had no candidates, the Hungarian PEN and Klubrádió, a left-liberal radio station could choose the beneficiaries, who could be artists from the Roma minority. Ferlinghetti ignored these suggestions, made it clear that under no conditions would he accept the prize, and immediately made his decision public.

The President of Hungarian PEN added that to his knowledge, there are no imprisoned Hungarian writers or journalists or books censored by any writer at present in Hungary, a country which is in the vanguard of the world in terms of internet freedom. "The problem in Hungary is usually not that a government of any hue gives money for cultural purposes, but that they do not give enough. These are public monies from taxes, and their acceptence does not mean identification in any sense with the politics, views or aims of the government", Géza Szőcs pointed out.

"Whatever happened, I am sure that there will be excellent poets who will be very happy to accept the Janus Pannonius Prize, and who will not reverse their decision", Szőcs said.

Tags: Géza Szőcs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti