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WORD: Bay Area author Dave Eggers, Kiran Desai to speak at 3rd annual PEN World Voices
Edited Press Release

PEN American Center announced this year’s theme, "Home and Away," as well as the program for its third annual PEN World Voices: The New York Festival of International Literature, which will draw together 162 writers and cultural critics from 45 countries for 67 panels, lectures, tributes, readings, one-on-one conversations, and musical performances. America's only festival of international authors, World Voices will occur April 24 to 29 in various locations around New York City, including festival venues such as the Bowery Ballroom and the Morgan Library.

Israeli writer David Grossman will deliver the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture on the Festival's closing night, and other participants include Salman Rushdie, Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, Dave Eggers, Patricia Melo, Starbucks selection author Ishmeal Beah, novelist and screenwriter (Babel) Guillermo Arriaga, Booker Prize-winner Kiran Desai, Neil Gaiman, Yasmina Khadra, Saadi Youssef, Pulitzer Prize-winner Marilynne Robinson, Ma Jian, Tatyana Tolstaya, Sam Shepard, and writer/musician and downtown artist Patti Smith. For a full lineup of this year's events click here.

The Festival's theme of "Home and Away" explores the insights literature and writers bring to bear on critical topics in today's world: local versus larger attachments in a globalizing world, the conflicting claims of tribe, religion and nation, and the ultimate issue of planetary survival. "In the United States the charged question of who can call America home has ignited a national debate on immigration," said newly appointed Festival Director Caro Llewellyn, who comes to PEN from the acclaimed Sydney Writers' Festival. "We wanted to open up the discussion to include broader questions about what makes a home, and how we define ourselves in relation to it. The Festival affirms PEN's conviction that writers have an essential contribution to make to the resolution of such issues and that our national conversation can and must be enriched by a more diverse and international range of voices."

Taking "home" in its broadest possible sense, the Festival opens with a major event at Cooper Union's Great Hall bringing the writer's distinctive focus to the crisis facing the planet itself. Destruction of the Earth's natural systems touches each of us across boundaries of nationality, economics, religion, ethnicity, and language. On the evening of Tuesday, April 24, Homero Aridjis, Billy Collins, Jonathan Franzen, Moses Isegawa, Pico Iyer, Laura Restrepo, Marilynne Robinson, Roxana Robinson, Salman Rushdie, and Colson Whitehead will each read impassioned and illuminating pieces on the subject of the natural world.

Programs around the city will consider the theme of "Home and Away" from a variety of perspectives. The Festival also features several large-scale ensemble events, comprising writers from a number of nations and backgrounds. Among this year's highlights: "Town Hall Readings: Writing Home," where Don DeLillo, Nobel Prize-winner Nadine Gordimer, Steve Martin, and Salman Rushdie join other U.S. and international voices to explore the idea of home (Wednesday, April 25); "An Evening with The Moth," where one of the city's hippest literary series takes on the festival theme through storytelling by authors such as Neil Gaiman and Pico Iyer, with humorist John Hodgman as the M.C. (Thursday, April 26); "A Believer Nighttime Event," featuring a performance by Miranda July and a "Writer Speed Date Session" with four World Voices authors (Saturday, April 28); "The PEN Cabaret," bringing together musician and poet Patti Smith, playwright Sam Shepard, poet Saul Williams and other special guests at the Bowery Ballroom (Saturday, April 28).

Numerous one-on-one conversations throughout the Festival week will pair authors in intimate discussion of their craft. Among these programs are Neil Gaiman with Ivory Coast graphic novelist Marguerite Abouet, Norway's award-winning writer Per Petterson and Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson, Babel screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and Paul Auster, Dave Eggers and the subject of his new novel, Valentino Achak Deng, Kiran Desai and Vikram Chandra, and Tatyana Tolstaya and David Remnick. Events on Sunday, April 29, at the New York Public Library include a tribute to the late Polish writer and journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, a panel about sex and eroticism in today's literature, and an event examining the temptations and responsibilities of travel writing featuring British author/philosopher Alain de Botton.

Among other Festival programs taking place: a series of events for young people, featuring writers with unexpected takes on childhood themes and experiences, such as Ishmael Beah, Neil Gaiman, Uzodinma Iweala, and Markus Zusak; programs on prison writing, including an evening hosted by director and producer Sydney Pollack (Thursday, April 26); a panel examining the cultural forces that have shifted the focus of Latin American writing from Magic to "Gritty Realism" (Friday, April 27); a discussion moderated by Alice Sebold about the rise of Mediterranean noir (Friday, April 27); and several events about what's lost and gained in the translation from literature to both drama and film (and vice versa).

The Festival's closing event on Sunday, April 29-the second annual Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture (last year's speaker was Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk)-will feature Israeli writer David Grossman. The author of over a dozen widely translated works of fiction, non-fiction, and children's literature and winner of numerous international awards, Grossman has been an active supporter of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and critic of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Shortly after he joined public calls for a cease-fire in the recent Lebanese war, Grossman's son was killed while serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. Following the lecture, there will be an on-stage conversation between Grossman and Nobel Prize-winning South African author Nadine Gordimer.

"We asked David Grossman to deliver this year's lecture because he exemplifies Arthur Miller's belief in the unique power of literature to enable the moral imagination," said Festival Chair Salman Rushdie. "Both in his work-and by his personal example-he has insisted upon the responsibility of the writer to assist his community in reaching for a broad, humane and compassionate conception of citizenship. We are honored that Mr. Grossman will share his insights with us this year."

Founded in 1921, PEN is the world's oldest literary and the oldest ongoing human rights organization. Its mission remains the advancement of literature, the defense of free expression, and the promotion of international literary fellowship. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest and most active of the 141 chapters constituting International PEN. Its 3,100 distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and the advancement of human rights of such past members as W. H. Auden, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Thomas Mann, Arthur Miller, Marianne Moore, Eugene O'Neill, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck. To learn more about the PEN American Center, please visit its website.


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