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PEN World Voices Festival 2011

PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature is being held April 25 - May 1pen-Heaney, 2011 at The Standard, New York, the 92nd Street Y and several other venues around New York City.

More than 100 writers from 40 nations convene in New York City to celebrate the power of the writer’s voice as a bold and vital element of public discourse. The program features panel discussions, one-on-one conversations, readings, performances, and much more.

Among the writers who are expected to attend are:

  • Malcolm Gladwell, Canada
  • Zha Jianying, China
  • Andrea Levy, England
  • Salman Rushdie, England (India)
  • Yael Hedaya, Israel
  • Kyung-Sook Shin, Korea
  • Ian Buruma, Netherlands
  • Giaconda Belli, Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaragua
  • Wole Soyinka, Nigeria
  • Vladimir Sorokin, Russia
  • Elif Shafak, Turkey
  • Hanif Kureishi, UK
  • Harold Bloom, Deborah Eisenberg, Jonathan Franzen, Yusef Komunyakaa, Toni Morrison, Cynthia Ozick, Wallace Shawn, Irvine Welsh, Edmund White, USApen-ALevy

Live-Action Painting
At The Plaza of The Standard, New York, New York artist Molly Crabapple will paint a seven-frame series that demonstrates one of the many ways we can experience the strength and versatility of the written word.

Stand-up Critics
At the beginning of each Festival event, a stand-up critic takes the stage to introduce five titles of his/her own choice that are important to world literature. The list of must-reads include: 1) a contemporary American novel 2) a translated book 3) a classic 4) a small indie-press title 5) a surprise.

Stand-up critics include:

  • Eric Banks (former editor at Bookforum)
  • Jane Ciabattari (contributor at Bookforum,, Daily Beast, LA Times)
  • Rigoberto Gonzalez (Guggenheim fellow)
  • Lev Grossman (Time book critic)
  • Laura Miller (Salon critic)
  • Roxana Robinson (critic, author)

The Writer‛s Imagination and the Imagination of the State: Writers Respond to What‛s Gone Wrong and How to Fix Things

In 1986, Norman Mailer, PEN American Center’s then-president, organized a conference titled The Writer’s Imagination and the Imagination of the State. In it he asserted that not only did writers use their imaginations naturally to speak to one another across national boundaries, but that governments, too, were capable of using their visions to improve the world‛s troubles.

To mark the 25th anniversary of this event, the PEN World Voices Festival is holding a Working Day to revisit similar questions while addressing urgent issues facing writer-intellectuals in 2011.pen-Gladwell

This workshop begins with a panel discussion, including keynote addresses, followed by five breakout sessions. Each addresses topics related to how writers can respond to current predicaments and help find peaceful solutions.

The breakout sessions are:

  • Education, Knowledge, Learning
  • New Orleans
  • De-Gentrify New York and Give Her Back to The World
  • The Publishing Revolution Is Here
  • Solitude and Community

At the end of the day, participants will release a joint manifesto, drafted by one and signed by all -- the first of its kind in the Festival’s history.

Other panels include:

  • The Sixth Annual Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture: Wole Soyinka
  • How to Start a Revolution (in the Library): Authors Defect from Corporate Publishing
  • Revolutionaries in the Arab World
  • Writing In a Majority/Minority Cultural Context: Local Identity vs. a Broader Nation
  • China in Two Acts
  • Getting Everything Right: The Real Literacies that Young Adults Need
  • Brainwave, The Dreamers
  • American Exile: The Prison Industry

Celluloid Literature: Film Series of International Literary Documentaries
Films are screened each day, including:

World Premiere:
Westbeth: Home of the Arts
prod. Jesper Bundgaard, Per Henriksen, George Cominskie
In the late 1960s, Westbeth, the legendary housing and workspace for artists and their families, was created in Greenwich Village. The film explores how the world’s largest artists’ community impacts its residents, and why such communities are important creative and social networks. The producers as well as artists Karen Santry and Stephen Hall will be in attendance to introduce and discuss the film.

The Guestbook Project: Facing the Stranger in Divided Cities
Mitrovica (dir. Petra Belkovic)
Derry (dir. Martin Melarkey)

The Guestbook Project, a series of seminars, documentaries and artistic encounters, has grown into a global experiment in cross-cultural communication, taking place in classrooms and divided communities.

The short films arising out of the Mitrovica (Kosovo) and Derry (Northern Ireland) Guestbook Projects are accompanied by a panel discussion on “Imagining the Stranger,” which address notions of hospitality and hostility, violence and reconciliation, and the roles of the citizen and the stranger.

Philosopher and Guestbook Project director Richard Kearney, as well as both film directors, will be in attendance to introduce and discuss the films. In collaboration with Culture Ireland.

US Premiere:
Seamus Heaney: Out of the Marvellous
dir. Charlie McCarthy
In an unprecedented collaboration with Ireland’s crown jewel, the Irish Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, this documentary examines the central relationships in Heaney’s life and offers a candid and intimate portrait of the man and the artist. The director and the producer, Clíona Ní Bhuachalla, will be in attendance to introduce and discuss the film.

José y Pilar
dir. Miguel Gonçalves Mendes
Charting the final years of Nobel prize winner José Saramago, this documentary follows the aging Portuguese writer as he struggles with the completion of his last novel, globetrots all over the world for lectures and book readings with his companion Pilar del Río (wife, agent, nurse), and muses about life, literature, and inevitable death.

Kara Bogaz / The Black Mouth
dir. Alexsander Razoemnyj (1935)
A product of the Soviet propaganda machine, with a screenplay by celebrated Russian writer Konstantin Paustovsky, the film dramatizes the Soviet effort to convert the Turkmen people of Kara Bogaz Bay to communism by providing them with drinking water. It was banned on a technicality and only recently recovered from the Moscow film archives by Dutch journalist Frank Westerman, who will be in attendance to introduce and discuss the film.

The Erotic Man
dir. Jørgen Leth
The powerful and shocking cinematic essay about eros, aging and loss, is the most radical and personal work of experimental documentarian Jørgen Leth.

For more information, go to

PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature
April 25 - May 1, 2011

The Standard Hotel, New York
848 Washington St.
New York City

92nd Street Y, Unterberg Poetry Center
1395 Lexington Ave.
New York City

Instituto Cervantes New York
211–215 East 49th St.
New York City

plus 18 other venues around Manhattan and Brooklyn

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