University of Rochester

University of Rochester's Reading the World Conversation Series Presents Jan Kjaerstad and Mark Binelli

April 14, 2009

Noted authors Jan Kjaerstad and Mark Binelli will read from their highly praised fiction at 6 p.m., April 30 at the Interfaith Chapel located on the University of Rochester's River Campus. The free event, hosted by Open Letter, the University's literature in translation press, is made possible through the Humanities Project's Reading the World Conversation Series and PEN America's World Voices Festival.

Kjaerstad was propelled to fame in his native Norway with the "Jonas Wergland Trilogy" which includes The Conqueror and The Discoverer, both published by Open Letter ( "These books present three different viewpoints on the rise and fall of a television producer named Jonas Wergeland—think Ken Burns meets Terry Gross—and three different explanations for his wife's mysterious death," says Chad Post, director of Open Letter. "They are absolute masterpieces of storytelling that rather than answering 'who did it' address the more salient question of 'how did he become the person who did it?,' " adds Post.

Mark Binelli is the author of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, a novel that reimagines two famous anarchists as slapstick comedians. A contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine, Binelli also writes on topics ranging from the glacial melting on Greenland to "Kid Cannabis," the chubby pizza-delivery boy from Idaho who became a drug kingpin. The two authors will read briefly from their books and discuss their experiences writing for different audiences and languages.

Open Letter, founded in 2007, is part of a broader initiative at the University for studies of literature in translation. The press publishes 12 titles a year, making available to English readers a mix of modern and contemporary classics—innovative and influential works of literature from around the world.

The Reading the World Conversation Series brings together resources from Open Letter, the Literary Translation Program, the Departments of English, Modern Languages and Cultures, Anthropology, and others to create a series of unique events involving world-renowned authors and translators along with UR faculty and students. The series is funded through the Humanities Project, nine projects which feature lectures, films, symposia, courses, conferences, readings, panels, and exhibitions that highlight interdepartmental works by University faculty in the humanities. For more information about the Humanities Project and its programs, please visit