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!
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.
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 . . .
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.
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .