Liao Yiwu, author of The Corpse Walker and one of China’s “most exciting and most censored writers” is making his first U.S. appearance tomorrow night.
In and of itself, this is pretty cool—The Corpse Walker is a damn fine book, and he’s going to be appearing with Philip Gourevitch and Salman Rushdie—but the event has been made even more memorable since Liao Yiwu escaped from China to German this summer.
Here’s an email he sent out back in April:
Friends: I originally planned to leave for the United States on April 4 in order to make a publicity tour for my book God is Red which will be published in English translation by Harper Collins and for my book The Corpse Walker which was published by Random House. Unexpectedly, on March 28th, the police issued an order forbidding me to leave China. I had originally planned to travel to San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington and other cities and to give lectures, readings and musical performances at Harvard, Yale and other universities as well as participate in the New York Literary Festival where I was to make a speech and perform, and to have a dialogue with writers from around the world on the theme “Contemporary Writer and Bearing Witness to History”. Now all this has been canceled. My new book is also going to be published in Australia. My plan to travel from the United States to Australia has also been canceled. Ever since my return from Germany last year, I have been closely monitored. The police have “invited me to drink tea” many times. My writing has been repeatedly interrupted. I have once again been forbidden to travel abroad for national security reasons. Over the last ten or so years I have strived to get the right to travel abroad 16 times. I succeeded once and failed 15 times. Thank you all for your concern for me over the years. Liao Yiwu
So if you’re in the NY area, you should definitely check this out. It’s taking place tomorrow, September 13th at 8pm at the Tishman Auditorium at the New School (66 W. 12th St., between 5th and 6th Aves). Tickets are $20 or $15 for PEN Members and students. More information—including a link to buy tickets—is available here.
As reported by the New York Post, for this year’s PEN World Voices Festival, Salman Rushdie selected 10 “American Classics” that will be placed in each of the visiting writer’s rooms.
Which I suppose is nice . . . Although it seems like there would’ve been a way to make this book selection a bit more diverse . . . I mean, it is the World Voices Festival after all . . . And it’s not like the rest of the world isn’t already flooded with American Classics (and Not-So Classics) . . . And if there’s one thing we’re not lacking in the world, it’s people recommending American books . . . I should withhold judgement until I see the list, but my cynical self is assuming that these 10 books will not surprise and impress any of the guests . . . Would be more interesting if each author picked out 10 books from their country that were then disseminated throughout the rooms . . . Sure, some of these would only be available in German or French or Spanish or whatever, but that sort of exchange seems to be sort of the overall point of the festival . . .
Despite Sara Kramer’s most passionate campaigning for J.G. Farrell’s Siege of Krishnapur, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children once again has received the “Booker of Bookers”:
For the second time, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie has been judged the best ever winner of the Booker prize. The Best of Booker award, which has been announced at the London literature festival this afternoon, marks the prize’s 40th anniversary. A similar contest – the Booker of Bookers – was held in 1993 to coincide with its 25th birthday, and came to the same conclusion. [. . .]
Midnight’s Children is a teeming fable of postcolonial India, told in magical-realist fashion by a telepathic hero born at the stroke of midnight on the day the country became independent. First published in 1981, it was met with little immediate excitement. It was an unexpected winner, but went on to garner critical and popular acclaim around the world. The novel’s popularity, very unusually for a literary award, is what has secured the prize, having been picked from the shortlist by an online public vote that drew just over 7,800 votes. The shortlist itself was selected by a panel of judges – the biographer, novelist and critic Victoria Glendinning; writer and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, and John Mullan, professor of English at University College London. (Via The Guardian)
In case you’re wondering, here’s the short list;
The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (1995)
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988)
Disgrace JM Coetzee (1999)
The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (1974)
The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell (1973)
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)
As some of you may have noticed, there’s been an overwhelming response to the Umberto Eco/Salman Rushdie event taking place here on May 1st from 6-8pm. In fact, we had over 1,000 people register to attend in the first five days after this was announced—completely selling out the UR Alumni and Advancement auditorium . . .
Since there are still a lot of people interested in attending—especially UR staff, faculty, and students—we’ve made special arrangements to simulcast the event in Hubble Auditorium in Hutchinson Hall.
This too is free and open to the public, and once again, you have to register online (by clicking the banner at the top of this page or clicking here). And I strongly encourage anyone interested in attending in doing this asap. The auditorium seats 500, but based on how fast we sold out the first auditorium, I wouldn’t be surprised if this fills up as well . . .
If you have any questions/concerns please e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.
We’ve been planning this for the past few months (basically ever since the NYSCA sponsorted Facing Pages retreat last October), but we’re really pleased to finally be able to publicly announce that on May 1st, Open Letter will be hosting a PEN World Voices event here in Rochester featuring Umberto Eco and Salman Rushdie.
This event—the first official PEN World Voices Festival event to take place outside of New York City—will take place from 6-8pm at the University of Rochester Advancement and Alumni Center, 300 E. River Road.
The event is free and open to the public, but we do have a limited number of seats, so all attendees must register via the link below. Simply click through, fill out the necessary info and print your confirmation page, which you’ll need to bring the night of the event.
I don’t think I really need to explain who Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco are, but if you’re interested, more info about each are available on this press release.
In terms of Rushdie, what I’m most excited about is this new edition of Shame, which is a Rushdie novel I haven’t read, but one that was recommended to me by both Edwin Frank of NYRB and Joanna Scott. Also, his new book— The Enchantress of Florence —will be out in June, was recently excerpted in the New Yorker and discussed at N+1
Umberto Eco—who may well give his reading in Italian, which I think would be really cool—has a very impressive website with information about all his books, interviews, articles about his work, etc. I’m very interested in reading his latest book Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism, which Publishers Weekly describes as such: “He delves deeply into such subjects as Mideastern and European politics, myth, prejudice, globalization, The Da Vinci Code, magical thinking, rhetoric, religion, intelligent design and Harry Potter.” An excerpt is available online from Harcourt.
Personally, I’m really excited to be involved in such a great event, with such great authors, and I have to thank Caro Llewellyn from PEN for making this all possible.
PEN announced the first event of the 2008 PEN World Voices Festival. There isn’t any news about other participants, or events, yet, but we’ll keep you posted.
The Three Musketeers Reunited:
Umberto Eco, Salman Rushdie and Mario Vargas Llosa
When: Friday, May 2
bq. Where: 92nd St. Y: New York City
bq. What time: 7:30 p.m.
PEN is excited to make the first event announcement of the 2008 World Voices Festival. The event will feature three literary heavyweights appearing at the 92nd Street Y for a special repeat performance. On October 10, 1995, London’s Royal Festival Hall hosted a historic night of readings by three of the world’s most distinguished writers: Umberto Eco from Italy, British-Indian Salman Rushdie, and Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru. At dinner afterwards, Eco anointed the trio as The Three Musketeers. Now, twelve years later, the PEN World Voices Festival, in collaboration with the Poetry Center, is proud to present The Three Musketeers together again for one unforgettable evening.
The Three Musketeers Reunited will take place on May 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
One of the first books Open Letter considered reprinting was G. V. Desani’s All About H. Hatterr until we realized that NYRB (which is becoming my theme of the day) was reprinting it.
It won’t be available until October, but there’s an interesting post from Sara on A Different Stripe about this manic, “Shandean” book that’s been praised by the likes of Salman Rushdie.
As if the Muslim community uproar over his knighting wasn’t enough, there’s more bad news for Salman Rushdie:
The prize-winning British author Salman Rushdie and his fourth wife, Padma Lakshmi, a model, actress and the host of the television show “Top Chef,” plan to divorce, Reuters reported yesterday. His spokeswoman, Jin Auh, said in a statement: “Salman Rushdie has agreed to divorce his wife, Padma Lakshmi, because of her desire to end their marriage. He asks that the media respect his privacy at this difficult time.” Mr. Rushdie, 60, and Ms. Lakshmi, some 20 years his junior, were married in 2004. They have no children. His books include the 1981 Booker Prize-winning novel, “Midnight’s Children.” He was knighted two weeks ago, touching off demonstrations among some Muslims who regard his 1988 novel, “The Satanic Verses,” as blasphemous. It led the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme religious leader, to pronounce a fatwa, or religious edict, that called for his death. (from New York Times)
The latest development in what may be the scariest and most disturbing book-related story of the century, Pakistan has told Britain that by knighting Salman Rushdie, Britain may have violated a UN resolution aimed at diffusing tensions between religious groups. (Full story available from the Guardian.)
This is on the heels of effigy burnings, public protests, chants of “Kill him!,” and this statement from Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs, who was reported as saying about Rushdie that:
If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologises and withdraws the “sir” title.
There’s nothing intelligent or witty I can say about any of this.
This past Saturday, Salman Rushdie was knighted for services to the field of literature at the Queen’s birthday honours list, setting off a slew of protests and leading to Pakistani MPs urging Britain to withdraw Rushdie’s knighthood.
MPs said the honour was an insult to the religious sentiments of Muslims. In the eastern city of Multan, hardline Muslim students burned effigies of the Queen and Rushdie, chanting “Kill Him! Kill Him!”
In case you don’t remember, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s assassination following the publication of The Satanic Verses. Five people were killed in riots in Islamabad when this book was first published.
And on a personal note, I remember our local Hampton Square Mall in Esssexville, Michigan (a real hotbed of literature) being evacuated because of a bomb scare at the B. Dalton.
I thought this had all gone away—Rushdie hasn’t been in hiding for years, and at last year’s PEN World Voices festival he read the offending section of The Satanic Verses in public for the first time since the fatwa was issued.
Hopefully the furor will die out quickly, but in the meantime, there are two articles in the Guardian with more info. The first about how the Rushdie honour insults Islam and an update about anger spreading, which includes a great quote from the spokesman from the Islamic Society of Britain:
“Most of the people of our generation don’t even remember the protests. It’s irrelevant to our generation. Anyone can get a knighthood. So what?”
UPDATE: I guess this story isn’t going away that quickly . . . here’s a new article from the Guardian in which a Pakistani government official states that Rushdie’s honor “justifies suicide attacks.”
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