Highlights from the PEN World Voices Schedule

April 2, 2009 | 3 min read

Readings and panel discussions generally serve as excuses to go see our favorite writers in person. By contrast, the great virtue of the PEN World Voices Festival is the range of discoveries it affords. Now in its fifth year, the festival brings writers from all over the globe to Manhattan for a series of mostly free and brilliantly curated events. Without the PEN festival, I wouldn’t have gotten to know and admire the work of writers including Péter Esterházy, Alain Mabanckou, Tatyana Tolstaya, and Horacio Castellanos Moya.

That said, plotting a path through the packed schedule gets a little more difficult each year. Fiendish counter-programming, the imperative to avoid cover charges, and the difficulty of traveling, say 55 city blocks in under 10 minutes in the rain (true story) require that festival-goers muster some strategy. If you’re going to be in New York between April 29 and May 3 (for, say, The Millions’ Walking Tour of Independent Bookstores) I can offer you the following tips for navigating PEN World Voices: Town Hall = long; Joe’s Pub = fun; Austrian Cultural Forum = cramped; NYRB = expensive.

Perhaps more productively, here are some highlights from this year’s schedule, free unless otherwise noted:

April 29

  • Anagrama: Celebrating 40 Years of Independent Publishing in Spain

    with Francisco Goldman, A.M. Homes, Siri Hustvedt, Daniel Sada, and Enrique Vila-Matas; moderated by Jorge Herralde
    6-7:30 p.m., Instituto Cervantes New York, 211-215 East 49th Street

April 30

  • Tendencies in Spanish Language Literature

    with Bernardo Atxaga, Javier Calvo, Santiago Roncagliolo, and Enrique Vila-Matas; moderated by Barbara Epler
    4 p.m.-5:30 p.m., Instituto Cervantes New York, 211-215 East 49th Street

  • Language in New Forms: The Work of Andrey Platonov

    with T.J. Clark, Wendy Lesser, Michael Ondaatje, and Francine Prose
    6-7:30 p.m., Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue

  • Kafka in America

    with Louis Begley, Norbert Gstrein, Mark Harman, Lynne Tillman, and Colm Tóibín; moderated by Jonathan Taylor
    6:30-8 p.m., Austrian Cultural Forum, 11 East 52nd Street (reservations required)

  • The New York Review of Books: The Economic Crisis and How to Deal With It

    with Senator Bill Bradley, Niall Ferguson, Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, George Soros, and Robin Wells; moderated by Jeff Madrick and introduced by Robert Silvers
    7:30 p.m., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, 1000 Fifth Avenue; enter for the event at Fifth Avenue and 83rd Street ($25/$20 PEN members/Metropolitan Museum of Art members and New York Review of Books subscribers)

  • DEFIANCE: The Spirit of ’89

    with Eszter Babarczy, Jose Dalisay, Nick Flynn, Sergio Ramírez, Hwang Sok-Yong, János Térey, and Paul Verhaeghen
    9 p.m., Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street ($15/$10 PEN & ACLU members)

May 1

  • Left/Right Literature: The Politics of Taking Up the Pen

    with Nadeem Aslam, Norbert Gstrein, Mariken Jongman, Khet Mar, and Domenico Starnone
    1-2:30 p.m., Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue

  • The Language of Fear: A PEN Journal Event

    with Guillermo Fadanelli, Wayne Koestenbaum, Colum McCann, Kathrin Röggla, and Anya Ulinich; moderated by Jeffrey Lependorf
    6-7:30 p.m., Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue

  • Four/Négy

    with Eszter Babarczy, Zsófia Bán, László Garaczi, and János Térey
    6:30-7:30 p.m., Deutsches Haus, 42 Washington Mews

  • Armin Petras: We Are Camera

    7:30 p.m., Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue

May 2

  • Mark Z. Danielewski and Rick Moody in Conversation

    1-2 p.m., The French Institute, Alliance Française: Florence Gould Hall: 55 East 59th Street

  • Where Truth Lies: A Conversation on the Art of Fiction

    with Marlon James, Jan Kjærstad, Horacio Castellanos Moya, and Roxana Robinson; moderated by Noreen Tomassi
    1 p.m., location TBA

  • Writers Who Are Translators

    with Brian Evenson, Forrest Gander, Cole Swensen, and Paul Verhaeghen; moderated by Martin Riker
    3 p.m., FIAF, Tinker Auditorium, 55 East 59th Street

  • Conversation: Pétér Nádas and Daniel Mendelsohn

    3-4 p.m., Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue

  • The PEN Cabaret

    with Laurie Anderson, Carrie Brownstein, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Steve Connell, David Conrad, Mark Z. Danielewski, James Franco, Peter Hirsch, Nick Laird, Walter Mosley, Parker Posey, Lou Reed, Sekou, and Sean Wilsey
    7:30 p.m., FIAF, Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street ($30/$25 FIAF/PEN members/students)

May 3

  • The Pan-European Picnic Redux

    1 p.m., venue TBA

  • Faith & Fiction

    with Nadeem Aslam, Brian Evenson, Jan Kjærstad, and Rick Moody; moderated by Albert Mobilio
    1 p.m., powerHouse Arena, 37 Main Street, Brooklyn

  • Conversation: Richard Ford and Nam Le

    2-3 p.m., The Morgan Library & Museum, Gilder Lehrman Hall, 225 Madison Avenue

is the author of City on Fire and A Field Guide to the North American Family. In 2017, he was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.

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