PEN World Voices Festival


by staff, 04/24/2012

« »
  • print

In the mid-2000s, then PEN President Salman Rushdie and his colleagues were disturbed by what they saw as a rift between the United States and the rest of the world. Americans were ignoring outside views, they felt, and the world was shutting out American voices and perspectives.

The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, back for its eighth year from April 30 through May 6, was created to encourage the exchange of ideas between the United States and other countries, and to further PEN's (the acronym stands for "poets, playwrights, essayists, editors and novelists") mission of promoting free expression and human rights. As a famously literary city, an enclave of diversity and a hotbed of creativity, New York is an ideal host for the event and has been its home from the start. (Read's interview with Rushdie—conducted in 2010—for more on the festival's origins and impact.)

In pursuit of a less lofty—but nevertheless laudable—kind of free expression, many of the week's events cost nothing to attend (on the other end of the scale is the PEN Literary Gala, which will set you back $1,000). Read on for day-by-day highlights and check for details and a full schedule. —Jonathan Zeller

Monday, April 30
Tribute to Christopher Hitchens 
6:30pm; Jerome L. Greene Performance Space; $20, $15 for PEN members and students with valid ID
Ian Buruma moderates a discussion about the life and work of the God Is Not Great author.

A Clockwork Orange Operetta (US Premiere)

10pm; The Standard; $75 for PEN members (includes drinks)
Anthony Burgess, author of the novel A Clockwork Orange, wrote lyrics for an operetta version. Composer Kevin Malone has set it to music.

Tuesday, May 1
Revolutionary Plays Since 2000: The Future of Political Theater 
2pm; Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, CUNY Graduate Center; free
Mike Daisey—whose one-man show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs generated debate first over working conditions at factories that produce Apple products and then over Daisey's merging of fact with fiction—moderates this event.

Wednesday, May 2
Lunchtime Literary Conversations: Eugène Nicole and Lila Azam Zanganeh
12:30pm; La Maison Française at New York University; free
The two novelists speak and read new work on Washington Mews, one of the City's most picturesque streets.

TimesTalks: Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood and EL Doctorow
6:30pm; TheTimesCenter; $30
The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott moderates a discussion with authors whose essays will appear in the newspaper during the week of this event.

A Reporter's Perspective on War

7pm; Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch; free
Polish writer Wojceich Jagielski shares his experiences reporting on the toll of armed conflict.

Opening Night—The Kronos Quartet: Exit Strategies

7pm; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; $30, $20 for PEN members and students with valid ID
Writers Tony Kushner, Marjane Satrapi and Rula Jebreal collaborate with the acclaimed string quartet.

Thursday, May 3
Fame and the Writer
1pm; NYU's Deutsches Haus; free, but reservations are required
European scribes talk about the ups and downs of life under the microscope.

Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis and Poulet aux Prunes (Chicken with Plums) 

4:30pm and 8pm; The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); $12, $10 for seniors, $8 for students with valid ID
At two separate events, MoMA screens Satrapi's first film, Persepolis, and her new movie, Poulet aux Prunes. The filmmaker will participate in a discussion after the second screening.

The New Censorship

6pm; Bowery Poetry Club; free
Authors talk about the implications of proposed antipiracy legislation.

Translation Slam

8pm; Bowery Poetry Club; $10, $5 for PEN members and students with valid ID
Laurie Sheck headlines what PEN bills as a "duel to the translation death." It's bound to be interesting.

Friday, May 4
John Cage: How to Get Started 
11am–9pm; Symphony Space; $15–$30, $12–$25 for PEN and Symphony Space members, $10–17 for students with valid ID
This collaborative improvisational-performance event unites audience members with notable authors, weaving their spontaneous monologues into one unique work of art. Visit for details.

Go the F**k to Sleep: A Translation Event

6pm; Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, Cooper Union; $10, $8 for PEN members and students with valid ID
Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortés wrote a "kids' book" that's more for exasperated parents, with an appropriately salty title. This panel explores the challenge of translating expletives.

A Literary Safari
6:30pm; Westbeth Center for the Arts; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
Devoid of wild animals, this event instead gives participants a look at Westbeth Center for the Arts Housing, the long-running NYC artist community. Festivities include readings and cocktails.

In Conversation: Ludmila Ulitskaya

8pm; Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, Cooper Union; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
The author reads passages from her long correspondence with Russian oligarch and political prisoner Mikhail Khordorkovsky and talks about current political conditions in the country.

Saturday, May 5
Life in the Panopticon: Thoughts on Freedom in an Era of Pervasive Surveillance
1pm; Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, Cooper Union; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
Representatives from the Cato Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, discuss the challenges posed by modern surveillance technology.

In Conversation: Brian Selznick
3pm; The School of Writing at The New School; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
The author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret talks about what separates books for children from adult literature.

Steve Bell Goes to America

5pm; The School of Writing at The New School; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
The British political cartoonist, who spent three decades picking apart his own countries' leaders, takes on the 2012 US presidential election.

Dialogue Series: Tony Kushner on Politics as Story, with Paul Auster

6pm; Tishman Auditorium, The New School; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
The Pulitzer Prize–winning Angels in America author shares his thoughts about writing on politics.

Sunday, May 6
A Place Out of Time: Gregor von Rezzori's Bukovina Trilogy
1pm; Museum of Jewish Heritage; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
Active writers examine the work of the late Gregor von Rezzori.

Occupy a New Debate

1pm; Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, Cooper Union; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
The founders of Occupy! Gazette talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement and the conversation surrounding it.

In Conversation: Stéphane Hessel and Edgar Morin, with Laurie Anderson

3pm; Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, Cooper Union; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
Stéphane Hessel—who endured the horror of a Nazi concentration camp—and philosopher Edgar Morin discuss Le chemin de l'espérance, their new work.

Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture: Salman Rushdie

5pm; Cooper Union, Great Hall; $15, $10 for PEN members and students with valid ID
Rushdie shares his thoughts on censorship, and then novelist Gary Shteyngart manages a free-flowing Q&A session.

related venues/(9)

  1. 1
    The Standard
    848 Washington St
    Manhattan – Meatpacking District
    NY 10014
  2. 2
    242 W. 41st St.
    Manhattan – Times Square
    NY 10018
  3. 3
    Brooklyn Public Liibrary, Central Branch
    Grand Army Plaza
    Brooklyn – Prospect Heights
    NY 11238
  1. 4
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10028
  2. 5
    The Museum of Modern Art - MoMA
    11 W. 53rd St.
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10019
  3. 6
    Bowery Poetry Club
    308 Bowery
    Manhattan – East Village
    NY 10012
  1. 7
    Tishman Auditorium
    66 W 12th St
    Manhattan – Greenwich Village
    NY 10011
  2. 8
    Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
    36 Battery Pl.
    Manhattan – Battery Park City
    NY 10280
  3. 9
    Cooper Union, Great Hall
    7 E 7th St
    Manhattan – East Village
    NY 10003

check-in date

check-out date