PEN World Voices Returns With Focus on Mexico
The PEN World Voices Festival has announced the schedule for its 12th annual program, from April 25 through May 1. This year the festival — begun after Sept. 11, 2001, to celebrate international literature — will include a focus on the culture and social issues of Mexico. The playwright and essayist Sabina Berman is organizing the Mexican program with the festival’s director, Laszlo Jakab Orsos.
Colm Toibin, the festival’s chairman, said in an email interview: “In the English-speaking world, as readers and writers, we always have reason to be excited and nourished by Mexican writers. Just say the names — Juan Rulfo, Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, Elena Poniatowska. It is urgent and important that we hear from contemporary Mexican writers now that our societies and literary cultures are so close in some ways and so oddly distant in others.”
Also in an email interview, Mr. Orsos said, “Our neighbor Mexico is flooded by a sea of preconceived notions.”
“It’s a country with a story in which the U.S. is the other protagonist,” he continued, “and we need to understand this narrative in its entirety.”
Participants in the Mexico program will include Carmen Boullosa, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Lydia Cacho, Yuri Herrera and Valeria Luiselli.
In addition to the focus on Mexico, the festival will include a panel on the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante; a conversation between the Russian crime novelist Boris Akunin and Walter Mosley; a discussion of expatriate life with Kwame Anthony Appiah, Marlon James, Jamaica Kincaid, Ms. Luiselli and Colum McCann; and other events.
As usual, some of the goings-on will take an unorthodox form. At “I Wish to Say,” at Bryant Park on April 26, the artist Sheryl Oring and a group of 100 authors will ask passers-by to dictate postcards to this year’s presidential candidates.