18 March 10 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

They’ve just announced the official line-up for this year’s PEN World Voices Festival. If you want the whole run-down, click here.

One of our authors, Quim Monzó, is attending this year. And in addition to the event he’s doing here in Rochester with his translator Mary Ann Newman on April 26th, he’s got several events lined up in New York as well: on the 29th with Colm Tóibín, Roxanna Robinson, and Darryl Pinckney; on the 30th with Robert Coover; and on May 1st with Peter Schneider and Jean-Philippe Toussaint. Mary Ann Newman will also be discussing Quim’s work at the National Book Critics Circle Conversation on the April 30th.

Click here for more details on Quim’s events on the PEN World Voices website.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to spend a few hours figuring out which events (besides Quim’s, of course) I’m going to attend. Hope to see you there!

10 July 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In my opinion at least, was the “Tribute to Robert Walser,” the audiofile of which is now available online

A number of audiofiles from this year’s festival—including the Town Hall Readings, the Mia Farrow and Bernard-Henri Levy discussion on Darfur, and the Celebration of New Voices from China now available at the PEN website.

3 May 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Post-Rusdie/Eco—and post a few celebration drinks—I caught a 6am flight down to New York to attend the rest of the PEN World Voices Festival. (And meet with reviewers and bookstores about our first list, but that’s boring, um, business.)

E.J. and I made it to three events yesterday, and have a ton lined up for today.

The first thing we went to was “Bookforum—Political Engagement” which was a conversation between Elias Khoury (whose Yalo we reviewed on the site a few months back) and Nuruddin Farah moderated by Albert Mobilio. As always, Albert did a spectacular job keeping the conversation going, exploring the festival theme of “Public Lives/Private Lives” and the political nature of novels.

One of the best moments was when Farah talked about why he decided to write in English instead of one of the other languages he knows. He claimed it was because the Italian Olivetti typewriters broke down way more frequently than the English Royal ones . . .

The second event was “Crossing Borders,” which we went to to see Goncalo Tavares—who of course wasn’t there—along with Lieve Joris, Ana Castillo, and Daniel Kehlmann. This event was OK. Lila Azam Zanganeh moderated and was as charming and thoughtful as usual, and I think Joris could be particularly interesting on a different panel. Perhaps one that explored more deeply the connections between non-fiction and novels, truth and fiction, and public narrations and private lives.

I wasn’t all that impressed with Kehlmann, which is my main beef with this event. I know his Measuring the World didn’t impress a lot of reviewers here in the States (although it sold hundreds of thousands of copies in Germany) and in the section he read, the use of the words “hoot” and “gaping” were a bit awkward. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but came off as someone who’s really young, and not very well-read. More of a literary star for his starpower than for his actual writing. (The comment he made about how reviewers in America thought his 250-page was too short was ludicrous.) Kehlmann does have a new book is coming out this fall, which honestly sounds pretty promising . . .

Finally, there was a wonderful reception at the Instituto Cervantes where Eduardo Lago and Mario Vargas Llosa welcomed everyone to the festival, and basically any and everyone connected to international literature hung out drinking Absinthe martinis in the IC’s beautiful courtyard. In addition to the events themselves, one of the best aspects of this festival is that it allows all these people—agents, publishers, cultural representatives, translators, and, of course, authors—to connect in a relaxed, celebratory setting.

Today we’re trying to make it to “Private Lives, Public Lives, Other Lives, New Lives” with Ingo Schulze and Eliot Weinberger, “Olympic Voices” with Chinese authors and Dedi Felman, the special “Tribute to Robert Walser” and the “Believer Magazine event” before the Romanian poet reading at KGB, the German dance party (hell yes), and the Hungarian Cultural Center shin-dig. Assuming we make it through alive, we’ll post more tomorrow . . .

3 May 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

Well, after a couple days of silence, we’re back with a mini-report from the fourth annual PEN World Voices Festival in New York City.

Mainly New York City, that is. On Thursday, University of Rochester/Open Letter hosted one of the first festival events to take place outside of NYC when we had a special reading and conversation with Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco. Both read wonderfully, and the conversation with Joanna Scott was one of the best Festival moments of all time. (I swear. And when the video from this event is available, I’ll post about it and you can see for yourself.)

It started with Eco talking about the list of the “twelve stupidest questions” he’d been asked while on tour and his “twelve stupid answers.” For example, to the question “Why did you name your book The Name of the Rose?” he’d respond “Because Pinocchio was copyrighted.”

All three authors were charming, funny, brilliant, and had a chemistry that really made the whole thing incredibly enjoyable to all. (If anyone that was there has any pics you’d like to share, e-mail them to me and I can get a couple online.) I’m proud to have been a part of this, to have the chance to hang out with both authors, and to see so many happy attendees.

(As a sidenote, Rushdie looked at our list of first titles and picked out Rubem Fonseca’s The Taker and Other Stories. I guess they know one another . . . Not to put the cart before the horse, but we’re hoping to bring him to the states sometime this fall . . .)

Overall, it was a wonderful event, and everyone involved—especially Caro Llewellyn and UR’s Conference and Events, and Deans Lennie, Olmsted, and DiPiero—all deserve a ton of thanks.

....
Berlin
Berlin by Aleš Šteger
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .

Read More >

The Gun
The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura
Reviewed by Will Eells

Like any good potboiler worth its salt, Fuminori Nakamura’s The Gun wastes no time setting up its premise: “Last night, I found a gun. Or you could say I stole it, I’m not really sure. I’ve never seen something so. . .

Read More >

This Place Holds No Fear
This Place Holds No Fear by Monika Held
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Heiner Resseck, the protagonist in Monika Held’s thought-provoking, first novel, This Place Holds No Fear, intentionally re-lives his past every hour of every day. His memories are his treasures, more dear than the present or future. What wonderful past eclipses. . .

Read More >

The Room
The Room by Jonas Karlsson
Reviewed by Peter Biello

If you’ve ever worked in a corporate office, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “Perception is reality.” To Björn, the office worker who narrates Jonas Karlsson’s novel The Room, the reality is simple: there’s a door near the bathroom that leads. . .

Read More >

Thérèse and Isabelle
Thérèse and Isabelle by Violette Leduc
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

I recently listened to Three Percent Podcast #99, which had guest speaker Julia Berner-Tobin from Feminist Press. In addition to the usual amusement of finally hearing both sides of the podcast (normally I just hear parts of Chad’s side. . .

Read More >

On the Edge
On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes
Reviewed by Jeremy Garber

Let’s not deceive ourselves, man is nothing very special. In fact, there are so many of us that our governments don’t know what to do with us at all. Six billion humans on the planet and only six or seven. . .

Read More >

Rambling Jack
Rambling Jack by Micheál Ó Conghaile
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
“A novel. Novella, I guess.”
“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
“Sorta. It’s a duel language book, so really, only about… 50 pages total.”
“50 pages?”
“Including illustrations.”
“And this—what. . .

Read More >