Edinburgh author JK Rowling last night received the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award – and then warned against barring Donald Trump from the UK in defence of free speech.
The Harry Potter author received the award for her work that “opposes oppression in any form” and “champions the best of humanity”.
Rowling attended PEN America’s annual Literary Gala to collect her award from actress Sarah Jessica Parker at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
She called PEN’s campaigns in defence of imprisoned writers around the world “essential”, although “it is sad to reflect how needed your defence of writers continues to be today”.
Then, the 50-year-old writer warned against barring Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump from the UK in defence of free speech.
“I find almost everything that Mr Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted,” said Rowling. “But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine.
“Unless we take that absolute position, without caveats or apologies, we have set foot on a road with only one destination. If my offended feelings can justify a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral grounds on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the fight for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes.”
Previous winners of the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award include Tom Stoppard, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood.
Andrew Solomon, president of PEN America said: “Through her writing, Rowling engenders imagination, empathy, humour, and a love of reading, along the way revealing moral choices that help us understand ourselves.
“Through their experiences with Rowling both on and off the page, countless children have learned not only the power of speaking their own minds, but the critical importance of hearing others. A gifted storyteller, fierce opponent of censorship, advocate for women’s and girls’ rights, and staunch defender of access to education, Rowling uses all of the tools at her disposal to create a better and more just world for our children.”
Rowling’s Harry Potter books are translated into 68 languages and have sold 450 million copies so far worldwide, giving her an estimated net worth of more than $1 billion in 2014, according to the Sunday Times’ Rich List.