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Some of the Things We’re Excited About For the Upcoming PEN World Voices Festival #PWVFEST

By Bud Parr

We are as always excited about the upcoming PEN World Voices Festival, to be held this year from Monday, April 26th, to Sunday May 2nd.

Notably this year the festival will travel to six other cities around the United States.

Sure to be an important discussion, the festival will begin with Lorraine Adams, Alex Epstein, Andrea Levy, and Norman Rush discussing "Women, Sex and Fiction" with Claire Messud on the Monday night of the festival.

The theme, "I Come From There" will resonate especially during a two-day program of rehearsed readings with Arab playwrights. The origins of this program is from a 2007 program with the British Council and the Royal Court Theatre:

Emerging playwrights from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia travelled to Damascus to work with playwrights April De Angelis and David Greig, and Royal Court Associate Director International Elyse Dodgson, starting a journey that has spanned 18 months and workshops in three different countries. Together, these writers have been developing new plays exploring and reflecting contemporary life in their countries, through workshops in Damascus, Tunis and Cairo.

In November 2008, some of these writers were invited to London to present their work at the Royal Court Theatre as staged readings in specially commissioned translations. In January and February 2009, further readings took place in Arabic in Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia. Five of these writers have now been invited to New York to present this work at the Martin E. Segal Theater, City University of New York. These readings will be accompanied by panel discussions with the writers and the artists involved in the project.

We're also looking forward to a discussion on the future of literary magazines, both here and abroad, as well as a panel on the future of journalism and, coming full circle, a discussion on "Blogs, Twitter, the Kindle: The Future of Reading."

Of course, it's important not to forget PEN's origins as a human rights organization. This year again, an empty seat will be placed on the stage to signify "one of our colleagues currently in prison somewhere in the world." There will be discussions of "War and the Novel" and "Writing Inside Writing Outside" about the challenges of writing from and about the invisible world behind prison walls, and "Black Sheep and Exploding Turbans" on intolerance as Europe comes to terms with its Muslim minority.

Sherman Alexie's "Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture" will be on "I, writer: the artistic, political and economic responsibilities of writers in the digital age."

As usual there will be the PEN Cabaret and other fun events to balance out the more serious and some terrific events of interest to translators, particularly Edith Grossman's master class on translation.

More details on all of these events can be found at the PEN Website at and do come to the Words Without Borders discussion of "The Essay" Saturday evening, from 5:30 to 6:30pm at The Scandinavia House with our Editorial Director Susan Harris moderating a discussion between Quim Monzó, Peter Schneider, and Jean-Philippe Toussaint. Here's the description of that event:

Almost all modern essays are written in prose, but works in verse such as Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man also contribute to the form’s rich history. Brevity is often a defining principle, but the opposite holds true as well, with examples such as John Locke’s voluminous An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. These writers, all of them accomplished essayists, discuss the form — its great history, its restraints, freedoms, and challenges.

See you at the Festival! Check back here often for more coverage during the month of April

Published Mar 18, 2010   Copyright 2010 Bud Parr

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