Today is the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Manifestations are held all over the world, even in Växjö, where I live and work. Day of the Imprisoned Writer was started by International PEN in 1981, and has been kept recognized ever since. It puts focus on writers – authors, journalists - standing up against repression and attacks on the free word. The manifestation in Växjö took place at the ”speaker’s corner” in Storgatan. Present were local politicians, representatives from the local daily newspaper, the city public library, Amnesty and various literary associations. I was invited to speak as a representative of my university, and it felt important to participate. It was a small but sincere manifestation in the cold and misty november lunch hour.
An imprisoned writer is never just an imprisoned writer – an imprisoned writer is always a concern for society as a whole. There are many ways to support writers who are imprisoned or under threat. It can be done through NGO:s such as PEN or Amnesty, and it can be done through singular manifestations and protests. It can also be done by keeping the imprisoned writers’ words available and relevant. For this, institutionsal structures in society are required, first and foremost perhaps, through libraries. By securing a strong library system, society is supporting imprisoned authors and by trusting librarians to do their job, the words of authors and journalists under threat are kept alive through persistence. This is important in these times of limited attention span in media and short term political projects. Freedom of speech must never be used by politcians to make self righteous projects in order to gain cheap political credit. Instead work on these issues must be taken seriously and recognized as a cornerstone of librarianship and as such, of society. Only with the unglamorous dullnesss of persistence can forces that wish to limit free speech be kept out of power.