The PEN World Atlas is launched today in 'first draft' form and looks like a very worthwhile development in spreading understanding of different literature and literary scenes around the globe.
Traveling to Athens with the British Council I found myself meeting eminent Greek writers whose names I'd never heard of and whose work is in a language I can't even begin to read. Visual artists and scientists working in similar fields can exchange a lot of ideas across language divides, but a work of literature in one language is as meaningful as a brick to those without the vocabulary to decipher it. In lesser used languages, only a very few make it to the international shelves, and even when their work is translated, there may be lots more that should be known about the specific context it was written in. How can we find out about budding talents, the places they meet and the publications their work appears in?
The PEN initiative aims to help spread the word about emerging voices as well as the big guns. "We believe that great writing has the power to change your life, and to change the world. All the content is added by you: readers and writers who want to pass on your tips and create a new global community of readers. This site is launching with a focus on writing from the Arab region. There is a world of writing out there. Tell us about it!"