PEN Pals: Literary Celebration Promotes Multiculturalism


A few years ago, newly christened Next Young Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer briefly put PEN—and less briefly, himself—in the spotlight when he somewhat clumsily thanked the organization for honoring him, then promptly returned its $70,000 gift. It was just-let-me-starve artistic snobbery straight out of the Jonathan Franzen playbook, but it stuck: Everything was remunerated. Which left just one burning question: What would PEN do with the money? Now we know. Turns out the folks at PEN decided to throw a little party. And invite every author in the world. Ever. This week’s PEN World Voices Festival features 125 writers from 43 countries participating in all manner of readings, conversations, and forums. The extravaganza—subtitle it “Extremely Comprehensive and Incredibly Multicultural”—has been conceived as a response to “increasing American cultural and political isolation.” Noting in its mission statement the disproportionately low percentage of translated texts in the U.S., it offers such events as “The Post-National Writer,” “Voices From the New Europe,” “‘Strange Times, My Dear’: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature,” and a Believer-sponsored “variety show” Wednesday night at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium. Featured literary lions include Salman Rushdie, Rick Moody, José Manuel Prieto, and Margaret Atwood, but the point is to nurture new ones. Find a full events schedule at