FREE SPEECH | HUMAN RIGHTS | POLITICS OF MEMORY | COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED
PEN America released this statement on its website today:
NEW YORK—The decision by the Alma Littera publishing house to cut all ties with their author Ruta Vanagaite, and to remove remaining copies of all of her five books from circulation and pulp them, is a troubling overreaction and should be reconsidered, said PEN America today.
The publisher’s decision to remove and destroy all of Vanagaite’s books was a response to her recent criticism of Adolfas Ramanauskas, a Lithuanian nationalist widely perceived as a hero. Vanagaite previously touched on sensitive historical issues in her most recent book, Mūsiškiai (Our People), published in Lithuania in 2016, which discusses the role of Lithuanian nationalists and freedom fighters in the persecution of Jewish Lithuanians and the Holocaust during World War II. Lithuania still denies their role in WWII and the Lithuanian authorities claimed that the book jeopardized national security. The destruction and removal of Vanagaite’s books demonstrates the tight borders of what is acceptable criticism of a national hero in Lithuania. Since the publication of the book, Vanagaite has received threats, which have escalated in recent weeks; a suit against her for slander and denigration of a deceased person has also been filed with the prosecutor by a patriotic group (the prosecutor has declined to take up the case, finding no evidence of malicious intent).
“PEN America deeply disagrees with Alma Littera’s decision,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Program at PEN America. “PEN America champions the freedom to write and read work which represents a plurality of opinions and viewpoints, even if they are controversial. The destruction of Vanagaite’s books represents an act of censorship and an attack on the values of free expression which we strive to protect.”
PEN America fights to keep books available to readers both in the U.S. and abroad, and has compiled a timeline of the most notorious acts of censorship.