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Fund for Free Expression Honors 23 Writers

May 22, 1991

The Fund for Free Expression announced Tuesday the distribution of Lillian Hellman/Dashiell Hammett awards of up to $10,000 to each of 23 writers who have been persecuted or imprisoned in countries around the world.

The awards, totaling $200,000 a year from the Hellman and Hammett estates, reflect the commitment both writers had to battling political repression and censorship. In 1952, when summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Hellman refused to testify, saying: "I will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions." She was blacklisted and lost her work as a screenwriter. Hammett was imprisoned for several months for contempt of a McCarthy-era federal court.

The award recipients: Vietnamese novelist and poet Duyen Anh; Chinese poets Bai Meng and Xue Di; Guatemalan journalist Byron Barrera Ortiz; Turkish writers Ismail Besikci and Esber Yagmurdereli; American writers Chrystos, Audre Lorde and Minnie Bruce Pratt; American activist Richard Criley; Togolese essayist/novelist/poet Yves-Emmanuel Dogbe; Egyptian novelist Alaa Hamed; Argentine journalist Eduardo Jozami; Malawi journalist Sandy Kuwali; Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlu; Peruvian editor Humberto Tasayco Levano, and Burmese comedian Zargana. Six additional award recipients--in China, Liberia, Egypt, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Romania--have requested anonymity because of fear of reprisals.

Writer John Hersey is executor of the estate. The five-member award selection committee included authors E. L. Doctorow and Hortense Calisher, journalist Michael Massing and publishers Peter Osnos and Lawrence Hughes.

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