A Weeklong Series of Readings, Debates, Performances, and Workshop Celebrates Writers Who Have Taken Artistic and Political Risks

Participants include Adonis, Boris Akunin, Martin Amis, Lydia Davis, Timothy Garton Ash, Ivan Klíma, Adam Michnik, Paul Muldoon, Shirin Neshat, Luc Sante,  Tracy K. Smith, and Colm Tóibín


New York, NY, March 4, 2014 – More than 100 writers from 30 nations will gather in New York City to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 28-May 4.  The 2014 Festival takes its inspiration from a long line of writers who have dared to step out on the edge, risking their positions, careers, and sometimes their lives to speak out against the status quo.  Founded in 2005 by Salman Rushdie as a means to encourage cross-cultural dialogue, the Festival promotes meaningful conversation between authors, thought-leaders, and New Yorkers on issues central to individual rights and freedoms.  Participants in this year’s Festival include Adonis, Boris Akunin, Martin Amis, Sebastian Barry, Lydia Davis, Timothy Garton Ash, A.M. Homes, Ivan Klíma, László Krasznahorkai, Adam Michnik, Paul Muldoon, Shirin Neshat, Luc Sante, Colm Tóibín, Sjón, and Tracy K. Smith. 

“Many of the finest writers in the world, the ones whose voices speak most eloquently to us, are also, all too often, the most exposed and vulnerable, because they are so prominently visible,” said Festival Chairman Salman Rushdie. “Yet these are the voices we must listen to, the voices that show us how the world joins up.”

“The late Kurt Vonnegut, a former PEN member, once said that he wanted to stand as close to the edge as he could without going over, because from that perspective he could see things he couldn’t see from the center,” said Festival Director Laszlo Jakab Orsos.  “This year, we dedicate the Festival to those brave enough to raise their voices from this precarious place, as we celebrate our colleagues and fellow citizens working to inspire change.”

In that spirit, the 2014 Festival kicks off with an opening night event at New York’s historic Town Hall featuring works exploring a variety of social and political issues important to writers and artists around the globe. The Festival continues with the Master Class conversation series featuring Boris Akunin, one of Russia’s most widely-read authors, and a driving force in the anti-Putin protests; Czech writer Ivan Klíma, whose fiction and plays were long banned by his country’s communist rulers; and Adonis, an acclaimed poet who spent a year in prison in his native Syria.  Additional events during the week-long Festival include debates on 21st century surveillance practices, the use of food as a political weapon, and the role of the public intellectual; a forum marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall; a screening of the documentary “1971,” chronicling newly-revealed  details of the robbery that exposed illegal domestic spying by the FBI; and a documentary installation by Lebanese artists Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh, known for their avant-garde works addressing their country’s war-torn history. 

Returning are some of the series and events that have come to define the annual Festival.  The popular “Literary Safari” at Westbeth Center for the Arts is back, as are the Festival’s intimate small-group workshops that bring the public into close dialogue with invited writers including Tracy K. Smith, Francine Prose, Sarah McNally, and Gado.  Sex columnist Dan Savage will curate the “Obsession” series, featuring late-night conversations with writers on a series of personal topics.  And, honoring PEN’s commitment to emerging writers, migrant farm and construction workers from upstate New York will present stories and poems developed in writing workshops led by poet Mark Nowak.  

“The work of PEN America Center is to defend the right of free expression and advocate for the humane treatment of the bravest in our societies who use the written word to question the world around them,” said PEN America Center Executive Director Suzanne Nossel.  “The PEN World Voices Festival, on its 10th anniversary, salutes the work we see from writers around the globe every day—from China to Russia to Egypt—and celebrates the transformations the written word can make possible.”

2014 PEN World Voices Festival highlights include:

  • On the Edge: The Festival kicks off with an event featuring performances and readings by socially-conscious writers and artists from around the world including Adonis (Syria), Yahya Hassan (Palestine/Denmark), Sofi Oksannon (Finland), and Colm Tóibín (Ireland), as well as a special video presentation by political cartoonist and puppeteer Gado (Kenya), at Town Hall. (April 28)
  • Master/Class:  This conversation series provides insight into the creative process by which a writer puts pen to paper.  Participants include Adonis (April 29), Ivan Klíma (May 1), and Boris Akunin (May 2), at The Public Theater; and László Krasznahorkai with Colm Tóibín (May 4), at the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium at The Cooper Union.
  • Dylan Live:  PEN pays tribute to Dylan Thomas with an event featuring a fusion of Welsh and English spoken word, jazz, vinyl, beat poetry and hip hop. Paul Muldoon and several other poets, musicias, and academics will look back at Dylan’s time in Greenwich Village in the 1950’s where he recorded his first poetry to vinyl, at the Auditorium at The New School (May 2).
  • Interview Magazine: The Re-Interview:  Interview Magazine and PEN present a one-night only experiment in the fluctuations of identity. Martin Amis will be re-interviewed with the original questions posed to him by the magazine three decades ago. He will be asked to answer these questions again today and critique his earlier responses, at The Auditorium at The New School (May 3).
  • Broken Dreams in Two Acts:  PEN brings together a panel of artistic and academic voices including Timothy Garton Ash, Ivan Klima, Maximi Leo and Adam Michnik, to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin War.  The discussion will focus on the rebuilding of Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union since the wall fell in 1989, at SubCulture (May 3)
  • Processional Arts Workshop, the official pageant puppeteers of New York’s Halloween parade, invites Festival audiences to take part in a Procession of Confessions, a parade of puppets, masks, audio recordings and live video reflecting the current fears of government overreach.  Participants can sign up for workshops to help create Cyclopean surveillance figures, costumes, digital portrait masks, and signage revealing their own incriminating data for display along the procession route.
  • 33 RPM and a Few Seconds:  Acclaimed Lebanese theater artists Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh, known for their experimental and controversial works, reconstruct the final moments of a life after a young Lebanese man’s suicide in this semi-documentary installation, at the Asia Society. Co-presented by the PEN World Voices Festival and Performance Space 122, in association with the Asia Society. (April 29 & 30). 
  • Global Food: Over the Edge:  A debate moderated by Frederick Kaufman and featuring Lester Brown, Marion Nestle, and Robert Paarlberg will give wide-ranging perspectives on the use of food as a global weapon exploring the growth of agribusiness versus small farms, the future of biotech crops, and the influence of climate change and Wall Street on the global food market, at The Auditorium at The New School (May 1).
  • 1971:  PEN American Center continues its work to shine a light on intrusive government surveillance with a screening of Johanna Hamilton’s documentary, “1971,” about a group of radicals who broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania and leaked files on the agency’s illegal surveillance of law-abiding Americans. Betty Medsger, whose recent book The Burglary looks at the 1971 robbery, will join the filmmaker and two of the men involved in the incident for a post-screening discussion, at the NYU Cantor Center (April 30)
  • In Conversation:  Renowned author and Festival founder Salman Rushdie will discuss the importance of freedom of expression with Timothy Garton Ash, a scholar and tireless advocate for free speech and the advancement of literature, at The Public Theater (May 4)
  • A Literary Safari: For the fourth year, Festival audiences are invited to wander the halls of Westbeth, the city’s oldest and largest artists’ community, in search of cozy, apartment-based literary readings by Kevin Barry, Christopher Farley, Justin Go, Frédéric Gros, Gabrielle Selz, Wesley Stace, and Linn Ullmann, among others.  The evening concludes with a closing night party in Westbeth’s legendary gallery. (April 29)
  • Poets from the Workers Justice Center, Kingston, NY:  In the Festival’s tradition of giving the microphone to first-time writers, migrant farm and construction workers from upstate New York will present publicly for the first time their stories and poems generated during a series of writing workshops led by poet Mark Nowak, at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School. (May 3)
  • Obsession:  The late-night conversation series returns to The Standard, East Village, exploring the ideas that keep writers awake at night followed by a discussion with an expert on his or her obsession. Writers and their obsessions include Emily Bazelon on Childhood Demons (May 1), Dan Savage on Plaques and Trophies (May 2), and Masha Gessen on Citizen-Victims (May 3).
  • In Conversation:  Esteemed author Lydia Davis will talk with accomplished Syrian poet and writer Osama Alomar about his recent collection of short stories, “Fullblood Arabian,” at the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium at The Cooper Union.  (May 4) 
  • Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture:  Named for playwright Arthur Miller, an ardent advocate for a writer’s right to freedom of expression, the annual lecture is a hallmark of the Festival. The speaker giving the closing night speech will be announced in the coming weeks.


Tickets go on sale March 18; additional programming details will be announced in the coming weeks.  For more information, visit www.pen.org/worldvoices



Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is a fellowship of writers dedicated to defending freedom of expression and persecuted writers and journalists, advancing literature and literary translation, and fostering international literary exchange. It is the largest and most active of the 145 chapters in 101 countries that comprise PEN International (founded in 1921). 


For more information, please contact:
Jenny Lerner

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