PEN World Voices Festival Returns With Eye on Africa
The PEN World Voices Festival has announced the schedule for its 11th annual incarnation, from May 4 to 10.
This year the festival — conceived after Sept. 11, 2001, to celebrate international literature — will include a special focus on the contemporary literary culture of Africa and its diaspora. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian-born writer whose novel “Americanah” won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, is organizing the African program with the festival’s director, Laszlo Jakab Orsos. Ms. Adichie will also deliver the festival’s prestigious closing-night lecture, named for Arthur Miller.
Colm Toibin, who is serving as chairman of the festival for the first time this year — a position he took over from Salman Rushdie — said in an email interview that “there is a great deal happening culturally in Africa that we don’t know about. Africa is also a big place, and there are large differences between Kenya and Nigeria, Somalia and South Africa.”
The festival begins at the Great Hall, Cooper Union, on May 4, with “The Future Is Now,” at which Tom Stoppard, Aminatta Forna, Mona Eltahawy and Yahya Hassan will read commissioned pieces imagining what global culture and society might look like in 2050.
On May 6, at the Sheen Center’s Loretto Auditorium, writers, musicians and other artists will read original meditations and prayers. Participants include Edwidge Danticat, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Rachel Kushner, Mr. Toibin and Nico Muhly.
The festival will also include panels on the African diaspora, the future of Africa’s queer communities, and poetry scenes around the continent.
This year’s participants also include Michael Ondaatje, Tracy K. Smith, Teju Cole, Luc Sante, Richard Flanagan, Alain Mabanckou, Achille Mbembe, Sigrid Nunez and Craig Seligman.
“Part of the task of the festival is to recognize that not experiencing the full range of the world’s culture, living in a narrow culture, is a form of censorship,” Mr. Toibin said. “Thus the task is to bring in writers who deserve to be better known, to move eloquent voices to the very center.”