John Ralston Saul is a Canadian writer with a long background in Burma, having spent a large part of the 80’s in South East Asia witnessing the repression of freedom of speech in the region’s literature. In 2009 he was elected President of PEN International, the largest literary organisation in the world that supports freedom of expression and creativity.
Since the November admission of the PEN Myanmar centre into PEN’s worldwide network of chapters, it was only a matter of time that John came to visit Burma and PEN Myanmar’s board of directors. Accompanied by John Makinson, the Chair of Penguin Random House international publishing company and Jo Lusby Managing Director of Penguin China, they spent a day at the British Council meeting with Dr Ma Thida (Sanchaung), poet and publisher Moe Wai, short story writer and National Lit Award winner Ye Shan, Poet Khin Aung Aye and others.
Much of the meeting was spent discussing the range of activities that Pen Myanmar has delivered over the last couple of months and how the centre should react to developments in freedom of speech and creativity in the country.
The two Johns followed the meeting with a visit to Naypitaw and the Ministry of Information.