PEN World Voices Festival



For one week each spring, the PEN World Voices Festival showcases the work of more than 50 international writers from across the globe in conversations, readings, performances, demonstrating that literature is more than just pages bound in a book. Chaired by Salman Rushdie, the theme of the 2013 World Voices Festival is Bravery and it will take place from Monday, April 29 through Sunday, May 5. It will feature such luminaries as Eduardo Galeano, Sapphire, Fran Lebowitz, along with writers from Palestine, Burma, and South Africa, to name just a few.

An opening night reading will set the tone, with Ursula Krechel of Germany, A. Igoni Barrett of Nigeria, and the Cambodian-American novelist Vaddey Ratner, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide, reading from works of their own about the notion of bravery. Other writers scheduled to participate in later events include Pierre Michon from France, Claudio Magris from Italy, Eduardo Galeano from Uruguay, and three American writers with roots in the former Yugoslavia: Aleksandar Hemon, Charles Simic, and Téa Obreht.

As is usually the case, PEN has scheduled events that focus on literary creation in societies that have experienced political stresses. Haiti and South Africa are two of the countries that will have dedicated events, and for the first time ever, the festival has organized a panel on Palestinian literature, moderated by the philosopher and critic Judith Butler.

A panel called “Bravery in Poetry” is also planned, on May 2, with well-known literary figures talking about poets whose writing they think exemplifies courage, and then reading from that poet’s work. Paul Auster is scheduled to talk about George Oppen, who moved to Mexico during the McCarthy period, while Mary Karr will speak about Zbigniew Herbert, the Polish poet who resisted both Nazi and Communist rule. Other speakers include Edward Hirsch, who will talk about Joseph Brodsky, the Russian-born poet who migrated to the United States after persecution by the Soviet authorities, winning the Nobel Prize in 1987 and becoming United States poet laureate in 1991.

In recent years, the festival has sought to broaden its appeal with less-formal events, or “series that will engage audiences with literature in new and active ways,” as PEN calls them. On May 4, a panel of New York City taxi drivers will read original writing created at a series of workshops, and a “literary safari” on May 3 will allow audiences to wander from apartment to apartment in the Westbeth artists’ community for readings by residents and other writers.

Visit for the full schedule of events.

PEN American Center

588 Broadway

(between Prince and West Houston Streets)

New York, NY 10012


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About this organization

PEN American Center

The center is the U.S. branch of the world‚ oldest international literary and human rights organization. Its World Voices Festival of International Literature in New York features scores of panel discussions and readings that bring together international authors and public audiences.