Writers from around the globe will gather in New York for cross-cultural exchange and debate during the 12th annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature on April 25 through May 1.
One of the world’s largest literary festivals, and the only one of its kind with a human rights focus, the Festival catalyzes conversations among writers, artists, thought-leaders, and the broader public on a variety of timely cultural and social topics.
The Festival, entitled Renegotiating the Narratives, will explore Mexico’s rich culture and burning social issues through a series of events that invite audiences to rethink widely accepted narratives on topics such as national identity, the border, migration, as well as systematic corruption and free expression in today’s Mexico. Insights will be provided from some of Mexico’s leading thinkers and authors, including Carmen Boullosa, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Lydia Cacho, Yuri Herrera, Sabina Berman, and Elena Poniatowska, who will come together with an extraordinary roster of international and American literary and cultural figures. Sabina Berman, noted playwright and essayist, will co-curate the Mexican program alongside Festival Director László Jakab Orsós.
The Festival will open with a reading of new and original works written for the occassion by Boris Akunin, Anne Enright, Cristina Rivera-Garza, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Marlon James, Paul Muldoon, Olga Tokarczuk, and Juan Villoro, who will share their views about the human craving for mind-altering drugs, the desire to escape reality, and the mythologies and cultural narratives that fuel the multibillion-dollar drug industry.
Events will also include an exploration of the breadth and beauty of Mexican landscapes with literary artists; a conversation about the uncompromising role women writers play within the Mexican cultural ecology; and a multimedia crash course on contemporary Mexican poetry. At a salon-style gathering at the Queens Museum, writers and artists will mingle with guests over drinks as hosts lead a discussion on the sociopolitical issues affecting the Mexico-U.S. border. A number of emerging Mexican writers will make appearances throughout the Festival, including novelist Valeria Luiselli, author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh, and human rights journalist Marcela Turati.
Centered on but not limited to Mexico-themed programming, the Festival will offer an eclectic lineup of events from Lower Manhattan to Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The popular “Literary Quest,” which invites audiences inside individuals’ homes for intimate readings, will return to Westbeth Artists Housing and will also launch a new edition at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
Additional highlights of the week-long Festival include a conversation between Festival Founder Salman Rushdie and Barbara Goldsmith; a panel on Italian literary sensation Elena Ferrante; a conversation between poet Elizabeth Alexander and journalist Maria Hinojosa, punctuated by audience-triggered “extreme action” movement developed by action architect Elizabeth Streb; venerated Russian crime fiction writer Boris Akunin in dialogue with Walter Mosley, and a discussion of expatriate life with Kwame Anthony Appiah, Marlon James, Jamaica Kincaid, Valeria Luiselli, and Colum McCann.
Performances will include poetry readings, a series of new plays by renowned dramatists from eight nations, concerts, and a late-night cabaret. The Festival also extends its relationship with the visual arts this year, as Colm Tóibín hosts a conversation with Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco, French visual artist Sophie Calle joins an interdisciplinary discussion of melancholy at the Rubin Museum, and the Festival’s visual identity features original artwork by Elena Climent.
Founded by Salman Rushdie in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 with the aim of broadening channels of dialogue between the U.S. and the world, PEN World Voices is the only international literary festival in the world with a human rights focus. It attracts the world’s best-known writers and has garnered broad global acclaim as one of the world’s premier literary events. Since its founding 12 years ago, PEN World Voices has presented more than 1,500 writers and artists from 118 countries, speaking 56 languages.