Earlier this spring, Salman Rushdie bemoaned America’s “paucity” of translated works, but the PEN World Voices Festival’s headline reading featured writers from Hungary, India, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Canada. Most of the headliners focused on raw and violent significance of the theme: “Evolution/Revolution.
Péter Nádas read about a political execution, Sergio Ramírez pondered murder in Nicaragua, and Rushdie studied a fictional Islamic guerrilla training camp. Raja Shehadeh held the Cooper Union crowd in rapt attention with a tense meeting between a Palestinian and a pot-smoking Israeli soldier in the West Bank. “This beautiful day and your gun don’t go together,” the main character tells the soldier, initiating a suspenseful conversation beside an idyllic river.
Author Edwidge Danticat (pictured) studied a different kind of culture clash. She read the Haitian poem “Tourist” by Felix Morisseau-Leroy, which opened with these powerful words: “Don’t take my picture, tourist / I’m too ugly / Too dirty / Too skinny / Don’t take my picture, white man.”
(For more PEN Fest coverage, check out these book trailer tips.)