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To be honest, there are a number of reasons I have been reluctant in posting all of my reactions to this year’s PEN Festival (thankfully, as the email explained—“Live” is a relative term). For starters, there’s the caliber of the present company. That level of intimidation carried me through the first event—Kronos Quartet: Exit Strategies. I thought, “How did I end up here?” Not for lack of interest—that was clear. But, still—I thought—why on earth are they trusting me to cover this event? That was still very much unclear.

In an effort to rationalize the experience, I decided that it was because PEN is not just for authors—rather, it’s for authors and readers. And well, I’m a reader, so that must be it. Then the event started and it really didn’t matter.

I had no idea what to expect at first—how is a quartet going to collaborate with a bunch of authors? As the Kronos Quartet began playing, Rula Jebreal started things off for the authors. Are they really going to just sit on stage and talk over each other? But at some point during Jebreal’s reading, I realized I hadn’t taken a breathe in about 5 minutes. The musicians and authors didn’t talk, or play, over each other at all. It was the perfect complement. For the things that the authors couldn’t show us, the music described the scenes to the point that it almost took on the role of the characters.

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penamerican:

Marjane Satrapi in conversation with New Yorker art editor Francoise Mouly.

The PEN World Voices Festival event included a screening of Satrapi’s new film Poulet aux Prunes (Chicken with Plums), based on the graphic novel of the same name.

Co-sponsored by The Museum of Modern Art

Image © Susan Horgan / PEN American Center