Writer and PEN vice-president Moris Farhi dies, aged 84

Writer and PEN vice-president Moris Farhi dies, aged 84

Acclaimed writer and vice-president of PEN International Moris Farhi has died aged 84, his publisher has announced.

Farhi, described as a “tireless advocate of freedom of expression”, passed away at his home in Hove on 5th March after a long struggle with a heart problem.

Born in Ankara in 1935, Farhi moved to London in 1954, training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and having a brief acting career before turning to writing. A playwright and screenwriter, he published many novels including his lauded works Children of the Rainbow (1999, Saqi Books) and Journey Through the Wilderness (2002, Saqi Books). His poetry and short stories have been published in anthologies and publications around the world.

Saqi publisher Lynn Gaspard said: “It is with great sadness that all of us at Saqi Books have learned of the death of Moris Farhi. We are extremely proud to publish him. Musa, as he was known to his friends and family, was an exceptionally gifted writer. His ideals and passionate humanism imbued all of his works. Musa was a tireless advocate of freedom of expression, a dreamer and a poet – he was our comrade and friend, and he will be greatly missed.”

During the course of his career, Farhi worked in film, theatre and on television scripts, including a brief stint on “Doctor Who”. His books won many prizes including the Amico Rom from the Associazione Them Romano of Italy, the Special prize from the Roma Academy of Culture and Sciences in Germany and the Alberto Benveniste Prize for Literature.

Farhi was also a strong advocate for freedom of speech and learning, campaigning for over 25 years for writers persecuted or imprisoned by repressive regimes. Between 1994 and 1997, he served as chair of the English PEN Writers in Prison Committee and between 1997 and 2000, as chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee. In November 2001 he was elected a vice-president of PEN International, the same year that he was awarded an MBE for services to literature. He was a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Geographical Society.

His long-term agent Jessica Woollard, of David Higham Associates, said: “Musa was a man with a heart big enough for all the world. As a prize-winning writer, he could turn his hand to anything, and produced exquisite poetry, erotic short stories, thrillers, epic novels that were translated all over the world, television scripts. His writing was robust, rich, sensual, entertaining and culturally expansive and his relationship with his publisher Saqi Books was incredibly close.

“Moris was charming, funny and incredibly kind. I have fond memories of him insisting on us drinking raki together after lunch when I was a young agent and loving his company. He will be missed by many, many people.”

Saqi, which published his works for more than 20 years, will release Farhi’s latest novel, My End is My Beginning, later this year.

Farhi is survived by his partner, Elaine Freed, his stepdaughter, Rachel Sievers, and granddaughter Zara. His funeral will be held in Brighton next week. A memorial service will also be held in London in the coming months.