March 27 – Apr 03, 2008 Edition

Pen World Voices
Festival Features
New Events, Authors

NEW YORK CITY (March 20, 2008)—The event schedule and author line-up for the fourth annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature were announced today on Cunard’s Queen Mary II docked in Red Hook, Brooklyn, by PEN American Center President Francine Prose and Festival Director Caro Llewellyn. A translation slam, cabaret night, old-fashioned storytelling with The Moth, and new media presentations are all on offer as part of the 2008 Festival, which will take place in New York City April 29 through May 4. Umberto Eco, Ian McEwan, Joyce Carol Oates, Roberto Saviano, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jeffrey Eugenides, Michael Ondaatje, Salman Rushdie, philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, dancer Bill T. Jones, and actress Mia Farrow are among the participants.

 The PEN World Voices launch event was hosted by Cunard, a major Festival sponsor.  Other major sponsors of this week-long feast of cross-cultural encounters designed to contribute to an expanded world view are Bloomberg, Borders Book Group, The Kaplen Foundation, LJK Literary Management, the National Endowment for the Arts, Random House, Inc., Rodale, and The Roger Smith Hotel.

 The 2008 Festival schedule—announced today by the PEN American Center and available in full at—will feature over 100 of the world’s most gifted writers in 82 events around New York City and in the newly-added satellite cities of Albany, Rochester and Boston. Over 50 international writers will take part, in addition to 77 Americans, ranging from some of the most distinguished names in literature to some of the freshest new voices.

 Some of the anchoring events of this year’s Festival are: The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, which will be delivered by Italian writer and philosopher Umberto Eco. His talk will be followed by an on-stage interview with Joyce Carol Oates. A star-studded literary reading featuring Annie Proulx, Michael Ondaatje, A.B. Yehoshua, Peter Esterhazy, Ian McEwan and Francine Prose. The Three Musketeers United, which is a night of readings by Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco and Mario Vargas Llosa twelve years after they first appeared together on-stage at London’s Royal Festival Hall. “Crisis Darfur,” a conversation about efforts to end genocide in the region between actress Mia Farrow and French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy. An evening of old-fashioned storytelling with modern themes from The Moth, hosted by author and comedian Andy Borowitz. The return of last year’s wildly popular PEN Cabaret—this year taking place at Webster Hall—with all new performers including dancer Bill T. Jones, who will perform a piece inspired by the poems of Dylan Thomas, and singer-songwriter Erika Stucky. An event presented by The Believer, hosted by writer-actor Michael Ian Black, featuring a panel of Scandinavian authors, and including a Vladmaster performance (in which audience members are given Viewmasters and discs for their own narrative adventure). A “translation slam” with renowned translators Michael F. Moore, Michael Reynolds and Linda Gabouriau, where they test their linguistic mettle against each other in a battle to the translation death. A program of literary short films and documentaries curated by Ram Devineni and co-presented by the DVD magazine Rattapallax—a Festival first. Three programs staged specifically for high school students (teachers are encouraged to register their classes to attend) exploring freedom, family, society, and literature with a variety of authors.  

In addition to the events taking place in New York City and its boroughs, programs with Festival authors have also been scheduled in partnership with arts groups in Albany, Rochester and Boston. These are:

At the University of Albany’s Uptown campus, a program exploring literature, politics, exile and home, featuring Nuruddin Farah (Somalia), Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador), and Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe). Moderated by New York State Writers Institute Director David Faulkner. A reading and on-stage discussion between Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco at the University of Rochester. An international discussion at Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA, with Somali author Farah and Saudi Arabian novelist Yousef Al Mohaimeed, moderated by bestselling author Uzodinma Iweala.  

The PEN World Voices Festival brings together live audiences of more than 11,000 and extends its reach even further through Internet, video and radio broadcasts. This year, books by participating authors will be sold at all Festival events, and in most cases the authors will be available afterwards to sign them. 

Public Lives/Private Lives is the Festival’s theme for 2008. Events will examine where we draw the lines between our private and public selves; how we express identity in the face of cultural differences, political oppression, and war; when we must tell private stories for the public good; and what we consider private in an age of unfettered media and the Internet.  All of the writers in this year’s Festival will mine this rich theme in a variety of literary conversations, panels, readings, and performances. 

At the heart of the PEN American Center’s mission is its year-round work in defense of writers and freedom of expression around the world. This year, PEN is conducting an international campaign to win the release of the more than three dozen writers and journalists in Chinese prisons before the Olympic Games open in Beijing, roughly 100 days after the Festival begins. In conjunction with this campaign—and as a reminder that the silencing of writers in one country robs the entire world of their voices—there will be an empty chair onstage, dedicated to a writer currently in prison in China, at each of this year’s Festival programs. 

For a full schedule of Festival events and a complete list of participating authors, please visit