PEN on Twitter

1
Jane Ciabattari: A Clockwork Orange atop The StandardHybridity is the keyword for this year’s PEN World Voices Festival. Take words, music, new visual and digital forms, theater, photography, puppets, add tension—and all arrows point toward the creation of something new. The possibilities seemed endless at Monday night’s festival opener as dozens of writers from Russia, Germany, France, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain, Denmark, Israel, Bosnia Herzegovina, Colombia, and other countries gathered at the top of the Standard Hotel overlooking the Highline. As this year’s festival program puts it, “There are many ways to tell a story.”
Anthony Burgess showed the world in A Clockwork Orange, published 50 years ago, that you could tell a story by creating a hybrid language—Nadsat, a Russian-influenced English with touches of Cockney and the King James bible, spoken by the Alex narrator and his “three droogs.”  
But how could this opening night offering, a 35-minute cabaret production of the US premiere of A Clockwork Operetta, based on recently found Burgess lyrics set to music by Kevin Malone, compete with so many distractions?
Just a few:
The view, the view the view. Gawking seems the only option when entering the glittering bar once known as the Boom Boom Room, which offers 360 degrees: Skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan, lights aglow on the cool night, the Hudson River and other traffic far below. All from eighteen floors up, floor to ceiling windows (including restrooms). 
Trays of champagne flutes. A fire pit in one corner. The golden columns swirling overhead, the golden bar. The golden crowd.
PEN World Voices chair Salman Rushdie giving an impassioned defense of his recently departed friend Christopher Hitchens. Novelist A.M. Homes describing her commute to Princeton. All those writers, plus editors (Jen McDonald from the New York Times Book Review, Michael Reynolds from Europa Editions,Victor Navasky of The Nation, Joy Stocke and Kim Nagy of Wild River Review, to name a few within three feet of me). (Thanks, Joy, for the photo of the Clockwork performance above.)
But when festival director Jakab Orsos, his face etched by projections from new media artist Onome Ekeh, gave his introduction, the crowd quieted and waited. 
Soprano Emily Howard as Alex, backed by the Ebb Trio with Kronos Quartet violist Hank Dutt, blew the roof off. She was—appropriately—raucous, raspy, spellbinding. 
As Clockwork Operetta’s star soprano  stood, still accepting accolades from the crowd more than an hour after the performance, I voiced my wonderment to Malone, the operetta’s composer, at how she was able to pull the dispersed crowd to her, despite all those other diverting possibilities.
He wasn’t surprised. “Emily is fearless,” he said. Jane Ciabattari: A Clockwork Orange atop The StandardHybridity is the keyword for this year’s PEN World Voices Festival. Take words, music, new visual and digital forms, theater, photography, puppets, add tension—and all arrows point toward the creation of something new. The possibilities seemed endless at Monday night’s festival opener as dozens of writers from Russia, Germany, France, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain, Denmark, Israel, Bosnia Herzegovina, Colombia, and other countries gathered at the top of the Standard Hotel overlooking the Highline. As this year’s festival program puts it, “There are many ways to tell a story.”
Anthony Burgess showed the world in A Clockwork Orange, published 50 years ago, that you could tell a story by creating a hybrid language—Nadsat, a Russian-influenced English with touches of Cockney and the King James bible, spoken by the Alex narrator and his “three droogs.”  
But how could this opening night offering, a 35-minute cabaret production of the US premiere of A Clockwork Operetta, based on recently found Burgess lyrics set to music by Kevin Malone, compete with so many distractions?
Just a few:
The view, the view the view. Gawking seems the only option when entering the glittering bar once known as the Boom Boom Room, which offers 360 degrees: Skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan, lights aglow on the cool night, the Hudson River and other traffic far below. All from eighteen floors up, floor to ceiling windows (including restrooms). 
Trays of champagne flutes. A fire pit in one corner. The golden columns swirling overhead, the golden bar. The golden crowd.
PEN World Voices chair Salman Rushdie giving an impassioned defense of his recently departed friend Christopher Hitchens. Novelist A.M. Homes describing her commute to Princeton. All those writers, plus editors (Jen McDonald from the New York Times Book Review, Michael Reynolds from Europa Editions,Victor Navasky of The Nation, Joy Stocke and Kim Nagy of Wild River Review, to name a few within three feet of me). (Thanks, Joy, for the photo of the Clockwork performance above.)
But when festival director Jakab Orsos, his face etched by projections from new media artist Onome Ekeh, gave his introduction, the crowd quieted and waited. 
Soprano Emily Howard as Alex, backed by the Ebb Trio with Kronos Quartet violist Hank Dutt, blew the roof off. She was—appropriately—raucous, raspy, spellbinding. 
As Clockwork Operetta’s star soprano  stood, still accepting accolades from the crowd more than an hour after the performance, I voiced my wonderment to Malone, the operetta’s composer, at how she was able to pull the dispersed crowd to her, despite all those other diverting possibilities.
He wasn’t surprised. “Emily is fearless,” he said.

Jane Ciabattari: A Clockwork Orange atop The Standard

Hybridity is the keyword for this year’s PEN World Voices Festival. Take words, music, new visual and digital forms, theater, photography, puppets, add tension—and all arrows point toward the creation of something new. The possibilities seemed endless at Monday night’s festival opener as dozens of writers from Russia, Germany, France, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain, Denmark, Israel, Bosnia Herzegovina, Colombia, and other countries gathered at the top of the Standard Hotel overlooking the Highline. As this year’s festival program puts it, “There are many ways to tell a story.”

Anthony Burgess showed the world in A Clockwork Orange, published 50 years ago, that you could tell a story by creating a hybrid language—Nadsat, a Russian-influenced English with touches of Cockney and the King James bible, spoken by the Alex narrator and his “three droogs.”  

But how could this opening night offering, a 35-minute cabaret production of the US premiere of A Clockwork Operetta, based on recently found Burgess lyrics set to music by Kevin Malone, compete with so many distractions?

Just a few:

The view, the view the view. Gawking seems the only option when entering the glittering bar once known as the Boom Boom Room, which offers 360 degrees: Skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan, lights aglow on the cool night, the Hudson River and other traffic far below. All from eighteen floors up, floor to ceiling windows (including restrooms).

Trays of champagne flutes. A fire pit in one corner. The golden columns swirling overhead, the golden bar. The golden crowd.

PEN World Voices chair Salman Rushdie giving an impassioned defense of his recently departed friend Christopher Hitchens. Novelist A.M. Homes describing her commute to Princeton. All those writers, plus editors (Jen McDonald from the New York Times Book Review, Michael Reynolds from Europa Editions,Victor Navasky of The Nation, Joy Stocke and Kim Nagy of Wild River Review, to name a few within three feet of me). (Thanks, Joy, for the photo of the Clockwork performance above.)

But when festival director Jakab Orsos, his face etched by projections from new media artist Onome Ekeh, gave his introduction, the crowd quieted and waited.

Soprano Emily Howard as Alex, backed by the Ebb Trio with Kronos Quartet violist Hank Dutt, blew the roof off. She was—appropriately—raucous, raspy, spellbinding.

As Clockwork Operetta’s star soprano  stood, still accepting accolades from the crowd more than an hour after the performance, I voiced my wonderment to Malone, the operetta’s composer, at how she was able to pull the dispersed crowd to her, despite all those other diverting possibilities.

He wasn’t surprised. “Emily is fearless,” he said.

8
Rushdie Brings PEN Festival to Close - NYTimes.com
7

image

The following post was written by PEN World Voices correspondent Sean Kevin Campbell.

This is how the Opening Night Reading to PEN’s World Voices Festival of International Literature in The Great Hall of The Cooper Union started on Monday: Salman Rushdie walked on stage and said super eloquent things like, “The other meaning of courage is real artistic risk… When we try and find new ways of saying things.”

Then, a belligerent man with an anti-government sign yelled out, “You were for the war in Iraq!” He holds up his smartphone, “I have it right here in front of me! A war based on lies that killed a million people!” This guy was annoying everyone at the event.

Rushdie’s calm, English-accented response: “The only lies being told here are by you, sir. As president of this organization, I led this organization against that war, so you can shut the fuck up. It doesn’t matter how you shout, sir. It doesn’t make what you say correct. That is the technique of the bully throughout history—to try and shout other people down.”

With those words, and Rushdie’s cold-eyed stare hardened by assassination attempts and emboldened with knighthood, the man shut the fuck up. We continued on with the reading. It was an intense night, but in a good way. Here are some highlights.

Ignoni Barrett, read from his forthcoming collection, Love is Power, or Something Like That on what a writer says about trying to encapsulate love with words: “You will never be able to write anything of this importance to anyone.”

We learned that Jamaica Kincaid fell in love with The Devil when she was seven. True story. From her reading of Paradise Lost: “The mind itself can make a hell of heaven, or a heaven of hell… reign is worth ambition though in hell: better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”

Earl Lovelace used to be a movie star! JK, he was just an extra that was commanded to die on cue: “When I was a kid, I composed my dying like a poem. There was poetry in my dying… I was the center of my own dying… Now here I was, a grown man, in a real movie, and I was dying like a fool—like an ass!”

We were taken home by comedian and cabbie, John McDonagh, with a poem condensing 20 years of cab driving in NYC: “New Yorkers used to yell at each other. Now they tweet! … Watch out for the red-light cameras!  Don’t go in the bus lanes! Stay out of the bike lanes! What the fuck has happened to my city!?”

1

image

The following post was written by PEN World Voices correspondent Marina Araujo.

I’m a Brazilian fascinated with American poetry and literature, and thrilled with PEN Festival, the literary crowd in New York and the political engagement of the Center. I’ll be posting here comments in English, but also in Portuguese, so that the Brazilian public can get a better idea of PEN’s work. More than ever, Brazil and the United States must build solid bridges to connect their shared experiences in the realms of politics and literature.  Our blooming literary scene will surely benefit from that, and we have the urgency to refine our political reflection regarding our own past of censorship and torture. Today, our ethical debate involves the discussion of memory and justice for those involved in the military dictatorship in Brazil. To build a dialogue in this environment that celebrates diversity is the ideal path to greater democratic experiences.

 

Salman Rushdie abriu os trabalhos do PEN World Voices na segunda-feira . O festival celebra a literatura internacional e coloca em debate os tópicos de tortura, liberdade de expressão e infrações aos direitos humanos em várias partes do mundo. Apropriadamente toma como sede Nova York. Os atentados de 11 de setembro que mudaram a configuração política mundial têm aqui um impacto ainda mais profundo; foram pouco absorvidos e confusamente intelectualizados pelos moradores, com suas próprias tragédias pessoais.

“Uma das razões pela qual o festival nasceu em 2005”, disse Rushdie em seu discurso de abertura, foi o momento político em que os Estados Unidos se encontrava. Era “o primeiro ano do segundo mandato de quatro anos do presidente Bush” e o país era “muito diferente.” A “guerra ao terror” potencializou as infrações à liberdade de expressão e direitos humanos dentro dos Estados Unidos.  Um dos objetivos do PEN era ser “critico do comportamento americano dentro e fora do país”. Um bom exemplo de como isso vem tomando forma foi a leitura dramática da conversa entre David Frakt e Darrel Vanderveld respectivamente advogado de defesa e ex-promotor de Mohammed Jawad, prisioneiro paquistanês em Guantánamo, acusado de atacar um soldado americano com uma granada no Afeganistão em 2002. Levado para a prisão com 16 anos, passou lá sete anos, sob pesada tortura que o levou a uma tentativa de suicídio, Jawad foi liberado apenas em 2009.

 As leituras do festival tiveram o colorido de sotaques dos mais diversos cantos do mundo.  O escritor russo Mikhail Shishkin criticou a vida de privações democráticas na URSS e a escritora cambojana Vaddey Ratner compartilhou o relato da sua infância em meio à Guerra Civil em 1975, por exemplo.  Em meio à leitura dos aclamados escritores Earl Lovelace (Trinidad e Tobago), Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua) e Ignoni Barret (Nigéria), o desejo de coragem de Rushdie ecoou forte na noite: “para mim o outro significado de coragem é apenas o honesto risco artístico, o risco de quando tentamos achar novas maneiras de dizer as coisas, e eu acho que queremos celebrar este tipo de criatividade artística”. A leitura que Jamaica Kincaid fez de “Paraíso Perdido”, de John Milton foi a mais bela homenagem à sagrada arte da literatura e de seus riscos. Mas a noite proporcionou a sensação de que a tensão gerada pela justaposição de política e literatura tem o poder de criar infinitas possibilidades estéticas. É sempre este o caso na América Latina. Ninguém mais apropriado que Eduardo Galeano, que fará parte do festival, para tratar destas minúcias artísticas em contextos políticos tensos. 

Na América Latina, convivemos com a experiência de inúmeras infrações aos direitos humanos no passado recente. Nossas ditaduras são uma experiência de memória e de ação púbica que estamos construindo e aprendendo a lidar. Hoje, trazer à justiça os crimes das ditaduras é a nossa batalha ética, e as ações do PEN indicam um bom caminho. Um recente relatório do “Reporters without Borders” aponta que a centralização da mídia no Brasil compromete a independência de relatos diversos no cenário político atual, e que a tradição oligárquica coronelista do país têm consequências sérias no jogo midiático atual.

Nada mais urgente que fazer valer o clamor de Rushdie, que é também a razão de existência do festival. No mundo pós 11 de setembro, ele diz, “algo havia acontecido com a relação da América com o resto do mundo. Havia uma espécie de ruptura na comunicação.” O Festival tenta, há nove anos “reconstruir esta ponte, e comprometer-se com um debate” com o resto do mundo. O Brasil, com uma imprensa cuja estrutura pouco mudou desde a ditadura militar, e cuja parcela artística e intelectual, bem como a opinião pública, está hoje em aberta luta contra o esquecimento dos crimes deste regime, quer urgentemente que estas pontes se solidifiquem. A festa do festival é a nossa festa, e a bravura latino-americana é a bravura da literatura.

 

5

 The following post was written by PEN World Voices correspondent Molly Rose Quinn. 

Monday evening’s Opening Night reading at Cooper Union was an impassioned sampling of what will play out through the week’s events and workshops. The nearly fifteen participants delivered a bold, varying portrait of bravery, intuiting the politics of literature and the literature of politics.

László Jakab Orsó, World Voices director, ignited the evening with his remarks on bravery in literature, declaring the week “the only literary festival to address political agenda alongside literary life.” To do so, he stated, is an act of bravery, but one required in order to “live a richer life.” Orsó introduction was followed by a few comments from Salman Rushdie, the festival’s founder and former PEN president. Rushdie described the festival’s origins, which he presented as “an opportunity for the voices of the world to come to New York to speak to America, and for America to speak back.”

The event consisted of four segments of readings, each diversely curated, interspersed with a group of drummers, hosted by Baratunde Thurston, formerly of The Onion  and author of the best-selling memoir How to Be Black. Thurston was a passionate and humorous guide for the evening. The writing selections themselves were missives of interiority and exteriority, heralding cultural context and political agenda up against the personal life. The performance drew out the many layers of genre and discourse which characterize PEN’s mission and practice. The global exploration included drama, poetry, fiction, memoir, translation, and comedy, with readings from A. Igoni Barrett, David Frakt, Joy Harjo, Jamaica Kincaid, Ursula Krechel, Earl Lovelace, Vaddey Ratner, Mikhail Shishkin, and Najwan Darwish. The evening was most remarkable in its diversity, of literary tradition, political thought, and international reach.

Vaddey Ratner read a quietly resolute but mournful excerpt from her novel In the Shadow of the Banyan. Joy Harjo both sang and read poetry from the formidable voice of the Native American Renaissance. Jamaica Kincaid shared her desire to read Milton in place of her own work. Earl Lovelace offered a playful but penetrating tale of his childhood interpretations of war and violence, wryly remarking, “Even when I was a kid playing stick-em-up, dying was the center of my performance, I died a poet.”

A highlight for many seemed to be David Frakt, Air Force officer and defense lawyer for Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Jawad. Frakt’s presentation was a question-and-answer style dialogue between himself and prosecutor-turned-Public Defender Darrel Vandeveld (who regretfully could not attend but whose part was read by Baratunde Thurston), with an unnamed questioning voice, read by
Jakab Orsó. Weaving together performative dialogue and political commentary, Frakt’s dramatized polyvocal exercise gave weight to the critical nature of the week’s discursive possibilities.

The presentations concluded with the surprise addition of John McDonough, a long time participant in the Taxi Drivers’ Workshop (which will host their own event on Saturday). McDonough’s humorous, sentimental poem was a fitting conclusion as a representation of New York life and literature in nontraditional places.

3

The following post was written by PEN World Voices correspondent Dan Sheehan

Friday evening’s are built for electric moments. In those post-work, pre-dawn hours we generally search for something a little bit special to blow apart the background murmur of the quotidian that soundtracks our soul-eroding weekday lives (apologies to any professional actors, astronauts, or athletes for the unfair generalisation). Mostly this involves adding the word ‘binge’ to any normal social activity: Binge-eating, binge-drinking, binge-box-set watching, binge-chit chat; it doesn’t really matter what your idle poison is. Come Friday, it’s time to indulge. 

So it was, I have decided, in that collective spirit of wanton excess that the PEN World Voices Festival served up an extra-meaty chunk of literary, free expressiony goodness at The Times Center on Friday with a sold-out conversation between Anglo-Indian heavyweight novelist Salman Rushdie, New York Times journalist Patricia Cohen, and, via-skype from his house/prison in China, the dissident artist, Ai Weiwei. Yes, we truly are edging ever-closer to that Promised Land of hover cars and time machines.

Read More