Opening night of the 2008 World Voices Festival
Salman Rushdie is President of PEN American Center. He opened and closed tonight's event. His closing comments were especially amusing. He said he was the punctuation at the end of the evening - the human embodiement of a full stop (period for those who speak American). His novels include Midnight’s Children, Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, and Shalimar the Clown.
Michael Ondaatje is the author of many works of fiction, poetry, and memoir, including The English Patient, which won the Booker Prize in 1992, Running in the Family, and Coming Through Slaughter. His most recent work is Divisadero, a novel.
Evelyn Schlag is an award-winning author of several volumes of prose fiction, a book of essays on literature and medicine which reflects her interest in Katherine Mansfield, and five collections of poetry.
Rian Malan is a South African author, journalist, and songwriter of Afrikaner descent. The author of the best-selling My Traitor's Heart, he has served as a contributing editor to Rolling Stone and Esquire, and has written articles for Time, The Spectator, and The Observer, among others.
Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. Her second novel, Shipping News, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Award for Fiction, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. She is the author of two other novels: Postcards, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, and Accordion Crimes. She has also written two collections of short stories, Heart Songs and Other Stories and Close Range. Her short story “Brokeback Mountain” was adapted into an award-winning motion picture. A new collection of short stories, Fine Just the Way It Is, will be published in 2008. Proulx was the only writer this evening not to read from her own work. Instead she read a wonderful piece from Irish writer Aidan Higgins' Langrishe, Go Down.
Péter Esterházy is the author of A Little Hungarian Pornography, She Loves Me, and Celestial Harmonies. His reading, from Celestial Harmonies, was my favorite of the evening. Due to my location to the side of the stage in order to get pictures, I didn't realize that a translation was being projected behind each speaker. But even so, I thoroughly enjoyed Esterházy's reading despite not understanding a word of Hungarian. The force of his personality shone through and transfixed me.
Coral Bracho has published eight books of poetry, including El ser que va a morir (1982). Her poems have appeared in translation in American Poetry Review, Bomb, Conjunctions, and The Nation, and her new book, Firefly Under The Tongue: Selected Poems, is available from New Directions.
A.B. Yehoshua was born in 1936 in Jerusalem and today lives in Haifa. His novels include A Journey to the End of the Millennium, The Lover, and A Woman in Jerusalem. Best known as a novelist and playwright, A.B. Yehoshua is among the most internationally recognized Israeli authors .
Francine Prose is the author of 20 books, including A Changed Man, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel, a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent book is Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. She prefaced her reading by saying that apparently Wal-Mart has decided to carry her latest book because they heard that it was 'not really like a Francine Prose book'.
Among Ian McEwan's many literary honors, he has been awarded the Somerset Maugham Award for First Love, Last Rites and the Whitbread Prize for The Child in Time. In 1998, he received the Booker Prize for Amsterdam. He has also received the WH Smith Literary Award and National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award for Atonement, as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Saturday. His recent books also include Saturday and On Chesil Beach. He has recently been working on an opera with the composer Michael Berkeley. McEwan gave a very entertaining reading about his trip to the Arctic with other artists and a group of scientists. As a geologist, I could completely relate to his description of the boot room on the voyage.