The PEN America Center’s organizational focus is the effect of world events on the safety and freedom of expression of writers, so the topic of war naturally looms large in its cultural consciousness. As part of the recent PEN World Voices Festival, Polish journalist and author Wojciech Jagielski was interviewed by Joel Whitney, a founding editor of Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics.
Jagielski began his career on assignment in the former Soviet Union and then spent a decade in Afghanistan. He became particularly interested in how countries with trenchant ethnic divisions seem so often to wind up in the midst of seemingly irresolvable conflicts. His most recent book, The Night Wanderers, is on Uganda and the problematic resistance leader Joseph Rao Kony, a now recognizable name thanks to a wildly circulated viral video.
The PEN World Voices event took place at the Brooklyn Public Library on May 2 and was introduced by Meredith Walters, the director of exhibitions at the library. Listen to the talk between Jagielski and Whitney by clicking on the link above.
Jagielski on becoming a foreign correspondent: "It was easy choice because in the '80s, when we [Poland] were the colonist country, writing about Poland and politics in Poland, it was not the job for the journalist, it was the job for the politician, the activist."
Jagielski on child soldiers: "The scenario was always the same. At night the guerillas were attacking a village … and they were taking hostages, the children. It was planned action because it was easier for children to be made a soldier. I was even told the best age to be kidnapped … to be made a future guerilla, was eight to 10 years."
Jagielski on Idi Amin: "The stereotype was created in Western media. The real Idi Amin was not the same person that we have from the movies, from the books."