Sofi Oksanen, Christos Tsiolkas, and Tommy Wieringa
Where: First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Channing Way at Dana, Berkeley, CA
PEN WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL OF INTERNATIONAL LITERATURE
BERKELEY SATELLITE EVENT presented by Berkeley Arts & Letters, The Believer, and the Center for the Art of Translation
SOFI OKSANEN, TOMMY WIERINGA, and CHRISTOS TSILOKAS
in conversation with Oscar Villalon
PEN American Center brings international writers of distinction together in New York City every April, for four glorious days of vibrant talks and readings. This year, PEN expands its World Voices programming into various other areas of the US – and we’re thrilled that Berkeley is one of those places.
Three young writers – one from Finland, one from the Netherlands, one from Australia – will talk about their work and their lives with critic and writer Oscar Villalon and will read from their current work. This evening is an opportunity to hear new voices, to discover literature from other countries and cultures, and to celebrate the written word in all of its voices.
Sofi Oksanen, author of PURGE
Soon to be published in twenty-five languages, Sofi Oksanen’s award-winning novel Purge is a breathtakingly suspenseful tale of two women dogged by their own shameful pasts and the dark, unspoken history that binds them. When Aliide Truu, an older woman living alone in the Estonian countryside, finds a disheveled girl huddled in her front yard, she suppresses her misgivings and offers her shelter. Zara is a young sex-trafficking victim on the run from her captors, but a photo she carries with her soon makes it clear that her arrival at Aliide’s home is no coincidence. Survivors both, Aliide and Zara engage in a complex arithmetic of suspicion and revelation to distill each other’s motives; gradually, their stories emerge, the culmination of a tragic family drama of rivalry, lust, and loss that played out during the worst years of Estonia’s Soviet occupation. Purge is a fiercely compelling and damning novel about the corrosive effects of shame, and of life in a time and place where to survive is to be implicated.
Sofi Oksanen is a thirty-three year old novelist and playwright of Finnish-Estonian descent. She is the author of the novels Stalin’s Cows (2003), Baby Jane (2005), and most recently, Purge (2008), set in wartime 1940’s Estonia during the Soviet occupation, and in the same country in the 90’s as it grapples with the realities of a new Europe. Purge — -the first book to win both of Finland’s top literary awards, the Finlandia and the Runeberg, and a #1 bestseller — -marks her English language debut. The novel is based on her acclaimed and controversial play of the same name, originally staged at the National Theater in Helsinki in 2007. In 2009, Oksanen was named Estonia’s “Person of the Year.” She lives in Helsinki.
Tommy Wieringa, author of JOE SPEEDBOAT
In Joe Speedboat — a sparkling coming-of-age novel that “recalls The World According to Garp” (NRC Handelsblad ) and has sold over 300,000 copies in Holland — the inhabitants of a sleepy rural town are shaken awake by the arrival of a kinetic young visionary, the eponymous Joe. After a violent farming accident plunges him into a coma for six months, young Frankie Hermans wakes up to discover that he’s paralyzed and mute. Bound to a wheelchair, Frankie struggles to adjust to a life where he must rely on family and friends to complete even the simplest tasks. The only body part he can control is his right arm, which he uses obsessively to record all the details of daily life in his town. But when he meets Joe Speedboat — a boy who blazed into town like a meteor while Frankie slept — everything changes. Joe is a centrifugal force with the touch of a magician and the spirit of a daredevil, and he alone sees the potential strength in Frankie’s handicaps. With Joe’s help, Frankie’s good arm will be used for more that just writing: as a champion arm-wrestler, Frankie will be powerful enough to win back his friends, and maybe even woo P. J., the corkscrew-haired girl who has them all in a tailspin. Alive and exuberant with the profundities of adolescence, Joe Speedboat is the supersonic story of an unlikely alliance and a lightning-quick dash to grow up.
Tommy Wieringa was born in 1967 and grew up in the Netherlands and in the tropics. He is the author of two previous novels, one of which won Holland’s Halewijn Prize and was nominated for the AKO Literature Prize. This is his first novel to be published in English.
Christos Tsilolkas, author of THE SLAP
THE SLAP is Australian mega-sensation Christos Tsiolkas’s first novel to be published in the US. The titular altercation occurs at a barbecue among friends, adults in their 30s and 40s trying to manage the demands of marital life, small children, loyalty, work, and of course the friendships that have tied them together for more than a decade. Told from the points of view of 8 people who were all present at the barbecue, Tsiolkas’ story creates a remarkable and gripping portrait of love, sex, marriage, suburban ennui, and what it is to be in the middle class in modern Australia. Each character’s voice and story will resonate with readers of thoughtful fiction about modern society and the way we live today —indeed, THE SLAP has now been sold in 11 countries and has now sold more than 100,000 copies in Australia. Much like Jonathan Franzen and Tom Perrotta, Tsiolkas is unafraid of exposing the deep conflicts that so often lay beneath seemingly happy and committed marriages. As they reassess their values, expectations, desires, and dreams, his characters burst off the page.
Christos Tsiolkas is an award-winning novelist, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter. His fiction has won numerous prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers Award, The Age Fiction Prize, and the Melbourne Best Writing Award. THE SLAP is his first book published in the US.
Book critic and writer OSCAR VILLALON is the former book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and the host and moderator of this program.
$12 advance (Brown Paper Tickets or 800-838-3006), $15 door