When the Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, it was yet another victory for PEN, the world’s oldest literary and human rights organization, which had been campaigning for months, alongside others, to persuade the Nobel committee. This dedication to pursuing freedom of expression around the globe is what draws big-name authors every year to the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, the largest event of its kind in North America. The seventh annual festival brings together 150 writers (including Jonathan Franzen, Lynne Tillman, and Colum McCann) from 40 nations for a week of insightful panel discussions and readings. This year, many events will take place on and around the High Line, beginning with tonight’s kick-off celebration at the gorgeous Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. The evening will include a fashion show of literary T-shirts, words by authors and actors, such as festival chair Salman Rushdie, Malcolm Gladwell, and everyone’s favorite couple, Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg, as well as a special appearance by renowned Czech violinist-vocalist Iva Bittová.

Mon., April 25, 7:30 p.m., 2011