Bookplanet: Pen World Voices in NYC
Highlights of PEN World Voices: the New York Festival of International Literature.
Saturday April 16:
Confronting the Worst: Writing and Catastrophe. Svetlana Alexievich, François Bizot, Carolin Emcke, Philip Gourevitch, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Elena Poniatowska; moderated by Susie Linfield. Some of the best writers have documented extremities of human suffering, including war, torture, genocide, and famine. What is the writer's role as documentarian, scourge to conscience and action, and moral witness? How has that role been affected by changing technologies, particularly photo- and video-journalism and the Internet?
Sunday April 17:
Crossing Borders: Universal Themes in Children's Literature. Cornelia Funke, Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton, Pat Mora, Kyoko Mori, Salman Rushdie; moderated by Lois Lowry. All books reflect the impact of their authors' emotional and cultural worlds, but which themes and stories are universal in children’s books?
Literature and Power. Bernard-Henri Lévy, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Francine Prose, Shashi Tharoor, Oksana Zabuzhko; moderated by John Ralston Saul. Festival participants engage for the first time with a theme certain to recur throughout the week: the writer’s vexed relation to political power. Can literature mitigate the pressures of ideology and nationalism, or is it destined to be their servant and apologist?
International Noir with Jakob Arjouni, Natsuo Kirino, Carlo Lucarelli, Luc Sante, Paco Ignacio Taibo; moderated by Robert Polito. From Dashiell Hammett through Chester Himes, Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, and on to James Ellroy and Walter Mosley, crime novels inscribed a black-mirror 20th-century America far more dishonest and bloody than the country of official chronicles. But much as once all politics famously were local, from now on most crimes will be global.
Monday April 18:
The Power of the Pen: Does Writing Change Anything? The New Yorker hosts an evening of readings by Margaret Atwood, Nuruddin Farah, Jonathan Franzen, Ha Jin, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, and others; introduced by David Remnick.
Tuesday April 19:
Writers and Iraq, presented by The New York Review of Books. The occupation of Iraq has polarized opinion in this country and created rifts between America and many other countries. They have also engaged writers around the world as few other international issues have done since the Vietnam War. How have writers in the U.S. and abroad perceived the war and assessed its consequences? A panel moderated by NYR Co-Editor Robert Silvers, with Mark Danner, Kanan Makiya, Dunya Mikhail, and Pankaj Mishra.
Africa and the World: The Writer’s Role. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka joins writers from Africa and beyond in a reading and discussion about African literature considered in both a local and global context.
Wednesday April 20:
A Believer Nighttime Event. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Katja Lange-Müller, Minae Mizumura, Rick Moody, Patrick Roth, etc; hosted by Jonathan Ames. A literary “variety show” presented by The Believer—a monthly books and culture magazine published by McSweeney’s. In addition to screening a film by artist Shirin Neshat, Rick Moody will moderate a conversation called “Translating America,” and surprise guests will add international music and art to the Festival mix.
Thursday April 21:
“Strange Times, My Dear”: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature. Azar Nafisi joins editors Nahid Mozaffari and Ahmad Karimi Hakkak, and publisher Richard Seaver, in presenting selections of contemporary Iranian poetry and fiction in celebration of the Anthology’s publication. This book was published despite U.S. Treasury Department regulations restricting the publication of materials from countries under US trade embargo.
The Way We Love Now. Antoine Audouard, Meir Shalev, Hanif Kureishi, Natsuo Kirino, Peter Stamm; moderated by Wayne Koestenbaum. Eroticism, intimacy, amorousness: how does “sex”—that ancient game—function in the contemporary world? What new or old paradigms dominate modern love? How, in our different cultures and social contexts, does eroticism bewilder, enchain, and embolden its practitioners and victims?
Friday April 22:
Writing in a Different Language. Kader Abdolah, Shan Sa, Elif Shafak, Andreï Makine, Minae Mizumura, Ngugi wa Thiong'o; moderated by Elizabeth Klosty-Beaujour. Many writers—Joseph Conrad, Vladimir Nabokov, Samuel Beckett—have chosen to write in a language that was not their first, but this seems to be happening more frequently now than ever before.
Conversation: Michael Ondaatje and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, introduced by Peter Carey.
Czeslaw Milosz and the Conscience of Literature. Bei Dao, Robert Faggen, Durs Grünbein, Robert Hass, Edward Hirsch, Eva Hoffman, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Azar Nafisi, Tomas Venclova, Leon Wieseltier, Adam Zagajewski. At the end of a week much engaged with the subject of the writer’s struggle to assert humane values in a “Ruined World,” the first PEN World Voices concludes with a tribute to the great Polish Nobel laureate who died last August.
More details here.