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Georges Anglade, founder of PEN Haiti, dies in earthquake

Georges Anglade, the Haitian-Canadian writer, scholar and political activist who founded and served as president of the international writers association PEN's Haiti Center, was among the victims of Tuesday's devastating earthquake, International PEN President John Ralston Saul reported on the organization's Web site Thursday.

Anglade and his wife, Mireille Neptune, were killed when the house in Port-au-Prince's Turgeau quarter they were staying in (several reports indicate that it was Neptune's ancestral home) collapsed, the couple's daughter Pascale Anglade reported. The couple left their home in Canada in December for a three-month visit in Haiti, and were in Port-au-Prince to attend an international writers' conference that was to begin on Thursday, according to their daughter.
 
Anglade was born in Port-au-Prince in 1944 but fled his homeland to escape the tyrannical regime of Francois "Poppa Doc" Duvalier and emigrated to France in 1965, where he studied geography and earned a Ph.D. at the University of Strasburg in 1969. That same year, he was hired as professor of Geography and Demographics at the University of Quebec at Montreal, a position he held until his retirement in 2002.
 
An international human rights advocate and champion of free expression, he founded the Haitian Solidarity Movement (MAS) and published its manifesto calling for democracy in Haiti. Upon his return to Haiti in 1974 on behalf of the movement, he was arrested by Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier's infamous Tonton Macoutes, but was later released and deported. He was deported again in 1991 following the first military coup that removed Jean-Bertrand Aristide from the Haitian presidency.   
 
A close adviser to Aristide and his successor, Rene Preval, he served briefly as Haitian Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communication in 1995. He returned to Canada and his teaching position at the University of Quebec a year later.
 
Mireille held a Ph.D. in economics and had written extensively on feminist issues. Until her recent retirement, she had been employed by the United Nations, where she monitored the status of women in Haiti, and authored reports on the significance of Haitian women in the nation's economy.
 
Anglade's French-language books include Les Blancs de Mémoire (Memory Blanks,1999), Ce pays qui m'habite (This Country that Lives Inside Me, 2002), Leurs jupons dépassent (Their Slips are Showing, 2004 ) and Et si Haïti déclarait la guerre aux USA? (And What if Haiti Declared War on the USA? 2004).  His most recent book was Rire haïtien / Haitian Laughter (2006), a collection of lodyans or "dwarf-sized sagas," that are a traditional oral narrative genre native to Haiti.
 
Anglade was the founder and prime mover behind the establishment of a International PEN Center in Haiti in 2008, and served as the organization's first president until the time of his death on Tuesday. "He was a wonderful writer, a courageous man who had stood up to the enemies of free expression. He had an amazing spirit and enthusiasm, which drove him to continue to stand up and speak out for literature and freedom. He was a force of nature ... the kind of friend you could always count on," International PEN president John Ralston Saul eulogized in his letter to PEN members.
 
--R.D. Pohl
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