A note from John Simmons, whose idea 26 Exchanges originally was.
So it's started. This freewheeling, barnstorming,
all-consuming, self-denying, self-exposing and possibly posing exchange of words
between writers from 26 and writers from PEN.
The idea is to explore the shifting plates of
meaning across cultures and languages. A writer from PEN sends a short text to a
writer from 26. The text is almost certainly in an unfamiliar language - there
will be French and Spanish but our linguistic ingredients could also include
Aymara, Quechua, Basque. What meaning is conveyed? What meaning can be teased
from these unfamiliar words? It's an act of translation but not of a
What matters is the journey itself. How will the 26
writers respond? With bemusement or exasperation. with frustration or
bafflement, with pain or fear or joy? Well, perhaps they'll learn new ways of
expressing those feelings in English and other languages.