April 27 to May 3, 2009

New York City, March 25, 2009—Salman Rushdie and  PEN American Center today announce the program for the Fifth Annual World PEN Voices Festival of International Literature taking place this year Monday, April 27 through Sunday, May 3.

Salman Rushdie says, “I’m hugely proud to chair this celebration of international literature, now in its fifth year and flourishing despite tough times in publishing and beyond. When it seems everything else is shutting down and closing up shop, the writers, editors, poets and playwrights of PEN are opening their arms again to welcome their colleagues from around the globe to New York City. We cannot begin to understand and appreciate the world if we do not read its literature and now, more than ever, PEN’s role in providing a platform for global literary discussion is vital.”

John Makinson, chairman and CEO of Penguin Group, comments, “The breathtaking scope of the 2009 World Voices Festival is a defiant response to economic adversity, and so it should be.  Freedom of expression is an absolute value and all of us—writers and readers, publishers and retailers—need to give it our vocal support in any climate. Penguin and PEN are natural partners. We share a global outlook, common values and a determination to showcase the world’s greatest writing. We are delighted, and honored, to be the premier sponsor of this year’s festival.”
Bringing together 160 established and emerging writers from 40 countries for conversations, panels, readings, and performances for one week in New York City, the PEN World Voices Festival is a truly international literary cultural exchange. Evolution/Revolution is this year’s Festival theme with events that consider how the world changes and how we change. 2009 is a year to mark significant anniversaries—from Galileo’s telescope (1609) to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), from the Cuban Revolution (1959) to the collapse of Communism across Eastern Europe (1989) and Tiananmen Square (1989)—and in this year’s Festival, writers from every hemisphere will consider the many meanings of change, in science and religion, art and politics, language, music and, of course, literature.

2009 Festival Highlights include:

• Evolution/Revolution Opening Night with internationally acclaimed writers reading in their original languages as their words are projected on screens behind them in English with Muriel Barbery (France), Narcís Comadira (Spain/Catalonia), Jose Dalisay (Philippines), Edwidge Danticat (US/Haiti), Péter Nádas (Hungary), Sergio Ramírez (Nicaragua), Salman Rushdie (India/US), and Raja Shehadeh (Palestine).

• Economic Crisis and How to Deal with It with the world’s leading economic minds including Paul Krugman, George Soros, Senator Bill Bradley, Niall Ferguson, Nouriel Roubini, and Robin Wells.

• The Fourth Annual Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture by Egyptian writer, activist, and one of the leading cultural and political voices of our times, Nawal El Saadawi.  Previous lectures have been delivered by Orhan Pamuk, David Grossman and Umberto Eco.

• Conversations between some of the most intriguing and creative writers at work today: Muriel Barbery and Adam Gopnik; Mark Z. Danielewski and Rick Moody; Enrique Vila-Matas and Paul Auster; David Grossman and Leonard Lopate; Péter Nádas and Daniel Mendelsohn; and Richard Ford and Nam Le.

• The enormously popular PEN Cabaret, promising to be epic, with performances by music legends and cultural icons Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, readings by Walter Mosley, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Mark Z. Danielewski, and Nick Laird, an adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s New York piece from State by State featuring Parker Posey, James Franco, Peter Hirsch, Carrie Brownstein, and Sean Wilsey…and more!

• Three back-to-back sessions with the most innovative and cutting-edge graphic artists on the planet including Neil Gaiman, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Adrian Tomine, Shaun Tan, David Polonsky, and Emmanuel Guibert (attend all 3 events for $25!)

• A celebration of the 20th anniversary of the original Pan-European Picnic when Austria and Hungary symbolically opened their border for a few hours and hundreds of East Germans flooded into Austria while guards stood idly by and history was made. This extraordinary open-air event at DUMBO’s Empire Fulton Ferry Park will feature the three essentials: music, food, and literature.

• Celebrations of the lives and work of playwright Harold Pinter, Sudanese author Tayeb Salih, Cuba’s Reinaldo Arenas, and the Mallorcan poet Blai Bonet.

• Defiance: The Spirit of ’89 is an evening to celebrate the power of one person standing against tyranny — as iconically demonstrated by one unidentified man facing down a column of tanks at Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989—with Eszter Babarczy, Jose Dalisay, Nick Flynn, Sergio Ramírez, Hwang Sok-yong, János Térey, and Paul Verhaeghen.

•  A night of unabashed, old-fashioned storytelling from The Moth with Salwa Al Neimi, Jonathan Ames, Petina Gappah, László Garaczi, and Salman Rushdie.

•  A star-studded Around the Globe adventure at the 92nd St Y featuring Bernardo Atxaga (Spain), Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe), Mariken Jongman (Netherlands), Michael Ondaatje (Sri Lanka/Canada), Daniel Sada (Mexico), Hwang Sok-yong (Korea), Antonio Tabucchi (Italy), and Colm Tóibín (Ireland).

• Jazz: The Revolution of Beat—Four American writers, including legendary jazz critic Gary Giddins and American poet Bill Zavatsky, explore the birth and life of jazz and how it relates to the written word, with musical accompaniment by the Diane Moser Quintet.

• Henry Hudson at 400 Years: Amsterdam and New York City with Dutch authors Ian Buruma and Geert Mak joining US novelist Russell Shorto to celebrate and discuss the Dutch Influence on America and New York and vice versa.

PEN American Center is the largest of the 141 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. International PEN was founded in 1921 to dispel national, ethnic, and racial hatreds and to promote understanding among all countries. PEN American Center, founded a year later, works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. The fifth annual World Voices Festival for International Literature is chaired by Salman Rushdie and directed by Caro Llewellyn. 

The PEN World Voices Festival is made possible by the generous support of many co-sponsors, partner organizations, cultural agencies, and individual donors.  The Premier Sponsor for this year’s Festival is The Penguin Group, and Sponsors are Bloomberg, Borders, The Kaplen Foundation, LJK Literary Management, National Endowment for the Arts, Random House, Rodale and The Roger Smith Hotel.

Internationally acclaimed writer Michael Ondaatje, participating this year in his third World Voices Festival, considers the event “a great celebration as well as an essential discovery of writers around the world.” Join him and 159 other remarkable participants in New York City at the 2009 PEN World Voices Festival, April 27–May 3.

For a full schedule of Festival events and a complete list of participating authors, please go to www.pen.org/worldvoices

Some events require paid tickets and/or reservations and are likely to sell out. To order tickets, click here.

Free events are seated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Kimberly Burns, kb@kimberlyburnspr.com, (212) 226-0981