The final issue of Notes for the current academic year is themed on silenced voices, and is in collaboration with Cambridge Student PEN and Cambridge University Amnesty International. It aims to highlight the plight of those whose freedoms have been curtailed and the work of artists whose work has been censored in their home countries.
“No word on truncheon and machete beatings, on blows, on the ‘swing’; no word on food deprivation and the total darkness… no word on sleeping on the floor… no word on any of these abuses…” Enoh Meyomesse’s essay on human rights in Cameroon, translated by Lucrezia Baldo, describes how interrogators can seemingly silence the voices of those they oppress, forcing them to answer only the questions they, the interrogators, want, in the way they want.
Yet they cannot entirely silence the voice of writers like Enoh Meyomesse. A poet, prose writer, and political activist sentenced to 12 years in jail for his criticisms f the Cameroonian government and made nearly blind by spending a month in utter darkness while in detention, Meyomesse continues to write from within prison. His book, “Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison” (a free e-book) is testimony to the courage of those who refuse to be silenced when they see injustice. His work speaks of the power that words and writing can have to reach out and inspire others to fight for positive change.
Phoebe Thomson explores the theme in a different way in her poem ‘Uncounted’, which cuttingly examines media portrayal of the conflict in Syria. Similarly Nathan Smith experiments with partial censorship to show how easily information can be distorted.
This collaboration was inspired by voices of oppressed people and we hope to do what we can to make sure they are not silenced. From Chris Hitchcock’s translation of Iraqi poet Adam Homeh, whose country has been terrorised by ISIS, to an extract Tehmina Kazi’s novella of a gay asylum seeker from Iran, the pieces in “Notes: on silenced voices” tackle difficult and urgent issues, and make known the voices of those who often have most to say.
We would like to thank all of the contributors to issue 26 of Notes,
Notes, PEN and Amnesty
For more on Cambridge PEN and their work campaigning for writers like Enoh Meyomesse, Mahvash Sabet, Payam Feili and the Syriac Writers’ Union, please like their Facebook page or contact firstname.lastname@example.org