Only four weeks after being elected co-president of the PEN Center Germany, the writer Maxi Obexer has already resigned. She leaves the office to Josef Haslinger, who previously shared it with her. This also marks the end of the historically first dual leadership of PEN Germany. With her resignation, she is moving out of the line of fire, Obexer explained in an email to the members last Wednesday: “The hostilities, the hardening, the slurs. Thinking in camps. There is still war in the minds of many.”
The quarrels during the spring conference of the PEN center in Gotha, which also led to the high-profile spin-off of a new “PEN Berlin”, did not leave the “old” PEN in peace either. At the meeting in May, the incumbent President Deniz Yücel was confirmed in office, but resigned shortly afterwards in protest against the harsh criticism of his person. In a spontaneous election of an interim presidency, Josef Haslinger and Maxi Obexer were then appointed with a high proportion of votes. Maxi Obexer stood for a PEN Club that was also being restructured in terms of content, “I thought you could start the necessary reform with reason,” she told the SZ: “Every structure is capable of reform, but the reform-resistant, domineering men dominate in the PEN Center Germany.”
In the long term, the old PEN will have to come to terms with the new one
The situation became more complicated after the founding of PEN Berlin, for which numerous members had left PEN Germany. The speakers of the new PEN, Deniz Yücel and Eva Menasse, said at the founding meeting that the number of visitors had exceeded all expectations. Already in the first week, more than 300 authors had themselves registered in the list of members of PEN Berlin. With that, many had left the old PEN who had been supporters of Maxi Obexer and had shared responsibility for their election in Gotha.
The interim president Josef Haslinger regrets Maxi Obexer’s resignation and says in an interview with the SZ that Obexer was an ideal person for him, “formerly a Yücel supporter, but still loyal to the PEN center”. But the camp mentality really got to him and Maxi Obexer. In the long term, the old PEN must come to terms with the new, “there is little point in continuing the old disputes, should PEN Berlin be officially recognized by PEN international, we will be PEN colleagues again and we must cooperate”.
Maxi Obexer maintains her membership in the PEN Center Germany. Referring to the remaining members of the transitional presidency, she said: “I’m not planning to withdraw my support from Josef Haslinger and Cornelia Zetzsche.”
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