NBCC at PEN World Voices

by David Varno | May-04-2009

imagePhoto copyright © 2009 Beowulf Sheehan/PEN American Center

As a participant in this year’s PEN World Voices festival, a week-long marathon of 80 events featuring twice as many authors from over 40 countries, the NBCC held a unique role. The panel that took place this past Friday at the Scandinavian House, titled “This Critical Moment,” featured board members Eric Banks and Rigoberto Gonzalez along with past Balakian candidate Laila Lalami, Allisa Valles speaking for Kevin Prufer, and board president Jane Ciabattari serving as moderator.

Each panelist presented on select authors who were in town for World Voices to give readings and lectures, exploring their literary context as well as that of the festival’s programming.  Eric Banks discussed the latest generation of German-language literature, and commented that PEN is giving an introduction with this year’s festival to several authors who don’t yet have a wide readership in the states; Rigoberto Gonzalez talked about the three main groups of Mexican (or part-Mexican) writers, and made a plea for fiction writer Álvaro Enrigue to be more widely translated; Laila Lalami explored the many aspects of Nawal El Saadawi; and Alissa Valles discussed the new Basque canon and made the afternoon’s second plea for translation: the poetry of Bernardo Atxaga. Jane Ciabattri concluded with her “notes on Z”: a celebration of Zimbabwean short story writer Pettina Gappah. 

Full coverage of the panel, including lengthy quotes from each talk, is available on my earlier posts for Words Without Borders in two parts: Part One, Part Two. Laila Lalami comments on the panel here.

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