2011 PEN World Voices Festival, New York

The PEN American Center has just announced the dates for this year’s PEN World Voices Festival: April 25 – May 1, 2011. The festival is now in its seventh year, and has grown quite a bit since it was founded by Esther Allen and Michael Roberts back in 2005, working together with then-PEN President Salman Rushdie. This year’s festival will be taking place largely downtown, with many events on and near the wonderful High Line park and the Standard Hotel, though you can also expect to see events at other regular PWV venues like the 92nd St. Y on the Upper East Side. This year’s Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture will be delivered by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, who is a riveting speaker – it should be fantastic. Some of the other big-name writers who will be appearing in this year’s festival include Deborah Eisenberg, Wallace Shawn, Hanif Kureishi, Harold Bloom, Malcolm Gladwell, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Cynthia Ozick, Edmund White and Vladimir Sorokin. There will also be a large number of foreignwriters you may never have heard of before but will love – a major goal of the festival is to introduce local audiences to the best of the new writing being produced internationally. Last year, for example, I heard a reading by Sofi Oksanen, a young Finnish writer I’d never heard of, and I liked what she read so much that I went out and got her novel Purge and then wound up reviewing it for German radio. You can catch a glimpse of her in the video above at minute 1:01.

Literary translation has always been a major focus of the festival as well, and this year’s PWV will feature the now-traditional Translation Slam at the Bowery Poetry Club – always a raucous, standing-room-only affair – as well as two other events that are still in the planning stages: a panel on translator rights that is to feature a lawyer who specializes in contract and copyright law in conversation with several well-known translators (I’ll be moderating this one), and one on America as seen from abroad, featuring foreign authors who also translate American literature into their own languages. Should be interesting. For updates on the festival over the next two months, check the website of the PEN American Center, where tickets for the ticketed events should go on sale soon, or join the mailing list. Many of the events, as always, will be free.

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