Mark Your Calendars: A Preliminary PEN Festival Schedule


As I’m sure all of you know and are currently marking your calendars for, the PEN World Voice Festival starts this week, on Monday, April 26th. Luckily for me (since I still have evening classes on Monday and Tuesday until next week), things don’t really get started until Wednesday. There are well over 50 events, so I will hardly try to draw your attention to all of the ones that look interesting and worthwhile. But here are some highlighted readings and panels that I am going to do my best to get to–let me know if you’ll be there! (Also–just an observation, but it seems like there are more ticketed events this year than there were in years previous. Has anyone else noticed this?)

Thursday, April 29

5:30 – 6:30 PM: That’s Not What I Meant!

Swiss author Peter Stamm and the poet who translates his work, Michael Hoffman, talk about the challenges of translation.

7:00 – 8:30 PM: A Gathering of Voices

Conveniently located in the same place as the translation panel, this event features children’s authors David Almond (whose book Skellig I’m going to try very hard to read before Thursday), Janne Teller (whose book Nothing I will also try very hard to read before Thursday), Francisco X. Stork (whose book Marcelo and the Real World I have luckily already read and therefore won’t be in a pinch to read in three days–thanks, Leigh!), and Ed Young. All four authors will discuss their books and their own cultural influences.

Friday, April 30

1:00 – 2:00 PM: The Poetry of Edward Hopper

So I’ll be going to a lunch time event on Friday, although there are several that look interesting, so I’m not sure which one will win out. This event features Catalan poet Ernest Farres, who recently wrote a book of poems based on the paintings of one of my all time favorite painters.


1:00 – 2:30 PM: Incognito: Writers and their Aliases

I actually don’t know the work of any of the panelists, but it’s a very interesting topic for discussion–the importance and/or benefits of remaining anonymous as an author.

3:30 – 4:30 PM: Quim Monzo in Conversation with Robert Coover

Catalan author Quim Monzo’s book Gasoline has recently been released by Open Letter Press, and not only does the novel sound really interesting, Monzo is also an accomplished translator himself. (His credits include J.D. Salinger, Dorothy Parker, and Ray Bradbury.) Sure to be a very good discussion.

5:00 – 6:00 PM: David Almond and Sofi Oksanen in Conversation with Rakesh Satyal

This one I have to attend. Sofi Oksanen–whose haunting book Purge just won the Nordic Prize for Literature (and which I’ll be reviewing shortly)–talks with David Almond about the benefits of writing young characters, particularly when writing about traumatic events. 

8:00 – 9:30 PM: The Translation Slam (Ticketed Event)

An on-the-spot translator’s ‘duel.’ Participants this year will spontaneously translate from German and Hebrew.

Saturday, May 1 (Derby Day!)

1:00 – 3:00 PM: New European Fiction (Ticketed Event)

Readings and discussions based on the recent release of the first installment of the Best European Fiction series.

1:00 – 2:00 PM (Note Major Time Change): Patti Smith and Jonathan Lethem in Conversation (Ticketed Event)

I’m not sure if I will actually be able to handle listening to these two (equally respectable, but equally ego-endowed) artists try and talk around one another. But hey, it’s Patti. And my neighbor. So, you know, maybe. I’m sure that this will be one straight hour of awesome and ridiculous things being said with straight faces.

Sunday, May 2

2:30 – 4:00: Two Worlds (Ticketed Event)

Authors who now live in the US, but who were born in other countries, talk about the influence of American fiction in their own writing, as well as the differences between trends in contemporary American Fiction and that of their native countries.

5:00 – 6:30 PM: Black Sheep & Exploding Turbans

In the wake of the publication of a series of satirical cartoons about the prophet Mohammed in Denmark, several European authors come together to discuss Europe’s struggle to reconcile with its growing Muslim minority community.

6:30 – 8:00 PM: Sherman Alexie: The 6th Annual Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture

Alexie will be giving a speech entitled “I, writer: The artistic, political and economic responsibilities of writers in the digital age,” which will certainly be worth attending. Alexie is interesting both as an author for teens and adults, and his take on what it means to be a writer as the landscape of the publishing and literary world changes should be engaging on many levels.





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