FTW Award Honoree Shows Up To Accept Honor

Novelist Rashim Esenov from Turkmenistan became the first writer to accept PEN’s Freedom To Write Award in person, at a gala event. (Because of the nature of the award, the recipients are usually in prison, or not able to travel to New York.) Apparently, Esenov’s ‘offence’ was:

According to PEN, he was arrested two years ago when he returned to Turkmenistan from a trip to Moscow with 800 copies of his banned trilogy, “Ventsenosny Skitalets” (“The Crowned Wanderer”), about a 16th-century Turkmen poet and general, Bayram Khan, who is said to have saved the Mogul empire from breaking apart.

Mr. Esenov was accused of smuggling the books and with inciting national and religious hatred. Although he was released from prison a few weeks after his arrest, he was forbidden to leave Turkmenistan, even to seek medical treatment in Moscow. Many of his books were burned.

After leaving New York, Esenov is due to go to Moscow for medical treatment, and then he “expects to return to his homeland after that. It is unclear what his status will be then.”