Free the Word!

The British equivalent to the PEN World Voices Festival, the Free the Word! festival kicks off on Thursday night with a discussion on the main stage of Shakespeare’s Globe featuring Nadine Gordimer, Tariq Ali, Samir El-youssef and Tahmima Anam.

Put on by International PEN, the festival runs through Sunday and features a number of great events with authors (and translators) from all over the world. (You can download a pdf version of the complete brochure by clicking here.)

Thanks to the fact that this takes place just before the London Book Fair (wouldn’t World Voices make a great public addition to BookExpo? Just saying, just saying . . .) I’ll be able to attend a few of these events and will do my best to blog about them. Here are some of the panels that caught my eye:

Telling Secret Lives on Friday, April 17th at 7:30pm

Azar Nafisi (author of Reading Lolita in Tehran) will participate, as will Lee Stringer, but I’m most interested to hear from Wen Huang, who translated Liao Yiwu’s The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up. He also translated Woman from Shanghai: Tales of Survival from a Chinese Labor Camp Yang Xianhui, a series of fictionalized interviews with female survivors of the Gansu “reeducation” camp.1

Hell on Earth on Saturday, April 18th at 6:00pm

Lydia Cacho, Christian Jungersen and Carolin Emcke will discuss their recent works, each of which is concerned with human rights and presents information that is hard to listen to and impossible to ignore.

International Futures on Saturday, April 18th at 7:45pm

From the Free the Word! website: A sold-out event last year, ‘International Futures’ is back to celebrate the eminent writers of tomorrow. Kamila Shamsie, the acclaimed author of numerous novels including her latest, Burnt Shadows, talks on the subject of heaven and earth with some of the brightest contemporary international voices whose work already heralds stellar international futures: Bertrand Besigye (Norway), Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe) and Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih (India).

Should be a fantastic festival, filled with interesting events (many of which aren’t listed here). And on a basic level, it’s great to see the PEN World Voices idea spreading to another part of the world, creating new opportunities for readers to hear about international literature.

1 While it’s on my mind, c’mon Random House, how hard is it to include Wen’s name in your online catalog and on the Amazon entries for these two books? Pretty shameful considering the fact that Wen is doing most of the publicity for these titles . . .

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