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Speech delivered by the President of the Republic at the award Ceremony of the Portuguese PEN Club Literary Prizes
Portuguese Society of Authors, 15 December 2008

I am very pleased to be associated with the distribution of the PEN Club Prizes awarded for the best literary works published in 2007.

I want, before anything else, to address a very special greeting to the current President of the PEN Club, Poet Casimiro de Brito.

First of all, for the importance that, in all fields of activity, is held these days by the role of associative membership and by citizens’ free initiative, as I myself, as President of the Republic, have made a point of underlining so often.

Secondly, for the persistent and continued way in which the PEN Club has contributed to the dissemination of our writings, both nationally and internationally, and for the interchange between Portuguese writers and their foreign counterparts.

Maybe it has now become commonplace, but nonetheless true, to state that in today’s world, languages, literature and peoples, as well as individuals, cannot survive by themselves.

Humanity’s cultural heritage is today an open and diversified field, where each specific culture becomes more valuable, in the exact measure in which it asserts and shares with others its own specific way of interpreting the world, the originality of its artistic and literary works.

It is for this reason that writers’ associations such as the PEN Club, which has in its genetic code the essential values of humanism, particularly the uncompromising defence of freedom of expression and of the tightening of relations between all cultures, are deserving of our greatest regard.

It is equally for this reason that the work of the Portuguese section of the PEN Club has been so relevant, strengthening the presence of our literature through the dialogue with which the greater proximity between peoples is endeavoured.

I was invited to come here by the Officers of the PEN Club, and did so to associate myself with this act of recognition and tribute to the authors of the works already referred to in this event, and presented by the representatives of the judges responsible for the prizes awarded.

These works are representative of a true demonstration of the vitality and heartbeat of our literature, a literature which goes back to the very beginnings of our nationality and which continues to produce all types of works of great quality and at times international projection.

Naturally, the laurels belong to the prize winners, and it is them that I want to warmly congratulate.

I very sincerely congratulate Professors Pina Martins and António Machado Pires, poets Hélder Moura Pereira and Daniel Jonas, novelist Jaime Rocha, and newcomers Francisco Camacho and Maria Helena Santana, and wish that their literary work continues to attain in the future the success enjoyed by the works they published in 2007.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all know that the work of writers is, by definition, genuinely individual and subjective, where the main quality is to be original and different.

However, literature is also one of the oldest expressions of the collective identity of each nation.

Portugal will always be the fatherland of Camões and of Fernando Pessoa. Not just because they were born here and are our people but, above all, because they were able to interpret in the language we speak everything we really are and the main characteristics with which we are universally known.

That is why I want, in this moment when the annual PEN Club prizes are awarded, to leave a word of public recognition to writers and their art, which continues to be a motive of satisfaction for so many readers and of prestige for our Country.

To all of them, and all those present here, my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

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