ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 —
Behind the Scenes with
Director Jakab Orsos
Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
WRR: The key word in PEN World Voices Festival is VOICE, and your theme this year is “on Africa”. How does PEN American Center provide a true platform for underrepresented countries to connect and be heard in community?
This year the Festival takes a new curatorial approach as we start focusing on regions or countries while the Festival maintains its usual broad international framework. The first in this series is sub-Saharan Africa. The reason we’ve decided to highlight Africa this year is not that the region would be “underrepresented” but simply because they’re very interesting works being done in different regions of Africa. The approach of these works, the lucidity and freshness of them is so inspiring and relevant that it`d be a mistake for a Festival director not to recognize it.
WRR: How do you view your role in facilitating that?
The Festival in its eleven years history traditionally juxtaposes better and lesser known authors so our audience can get a wider scope of international literature while provided the chance to recognize synchronicities, differences among various cultures and authors.
My role in this process to always refresh the approach when it comes to literature in fact always re-question what constitutes literature.
WRR: Tell us about working with the dynamic award-winning Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as co-curator of PEN, who is also giving the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Speech this year on the closing night of the Festival. (Any teasers on what she’ll be speaking about?)
Very early on the project I decided that I needed a co-curator as I was certain that living in New York one simply can’t see certain layers of African culture. Working with Chimamanda Adichie was an important learning curve. In our emails, and phone conversations we constantly questioned and re-questioned the usual stereotypes about the continent so much so that very early in our conversation we just decided not to deal with them at all as these stereotypes are always false and hindering sight, so we just focused on what seemed to relevant in different countries of Africa in trems of names, works, issues, movements. We drafted list and revisited this list again and again trying to create something what provides the best terms possible take on contemporary Africa.
Chimamanda’s uncompromising view, intelligence and sense of humor will have a huge impact on this year` programming.
WRR: In past years, there has been pressure to increase the number of international contributors who don’t speak English as a first language. How do you respond to that question? What percentage of this year’s festival participants fall into this category?
This is an ongoing effort. I would say we`re trying to focus on languages and works which deserve more attention, but we heavily rely on English translations. In fact it`s quite essential to have a translation to be able to successfully present a work. Time to time we do feature author`s whose work haven`t been translated yet in the hope that Festival participation will shed light on their works and they`ll find a publisher.
WRR: You’ve been devoted to the arts and literature for decades as an internationally recognized curator of events as well as a writer and scriptwriter. You also founded Hungary’s leading contemporary literary journal. Do you remember the first literary event in your life that sent chills up your spine? Tell us about it.
Every year the day before New Year`s Eve the literary journal I co-funded in Hungary has held reading/intellectual variety shows that I conceived and hosted. The very first of this event was sold out evening in popular alternative theater in Budapest. Hosting and running a show in front of hundreds of people was a decisive experiment: it was clear that such an enterprise is a huge responsibility and, of course, can provide ecstatic satisfaction.
WRR: There is direct crossover between writing and international activism at the Festival in the tradition of PEN International to “dispel national, ethnic, and racial tensions and promote understanding among all peoples.” How have you seen conversations born at PEN World Voices Festival lead to change in different areas of the world?
The Festival traditionally facilitates dialogues about sensitive social/political issues as part of a larger narrative of any relevant art. Our events of course are not providing ultimate solutions rather trying to trigger extended dialogues which then, hopefully, can lead to profound changes.
In 2006, Kimberly Nagy founded Wild River Review with Joy E. Stocke; and in 2009, they founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC. With more than twenty years in the field of publishing, Nagy specializes in market outreach and digital media strategies as well as crafting timeless articles and interviews. She edits many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
Kimberly Nagy is a poet, professional writer, and dedicated reader who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers, including Academy-Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, MacArthur Genius Award-winning Edwidge Danticat, historian James McPherson, playwright Emily Mann, biologist and novelist, Sunetra Gupta and philosopher Alain de Botton.
Nagy is an author, editor and professional storyteller. She received her BA in history at Rider University where she was influenced by professors who stressed works of literature alongside dates and historical facts–as well as the importance of including the perspectives of women and minorities in the historical record. During a period in which she fell in love with writing and research, Nagy wrote an award-winning paper about the suppression of free speech during World War I, and which featured early 20th century feminist and civil rights leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
Nagy continued her graduate studies at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she studied with Dr. Karen Kupperman, an expert in early contact between Native Americans and the first European settlers. Nagy wrote her Masters thesis, focusing on the work of the first woman to be accepted into the Connecticut Historical Society as well as literary descriptions of Native Americans in Connecticut during the 19th century. Nagy has extensive background and interest in anthropological, oral history and cultural research.
After graduate school, Nagy applied her academic expertise to a career in publishing, in which she worked for two of the world’s foremost publishers—Princeton University Press and W.W. Norton—as well as at Thomson, Institutional Investor Magazine, Routledge UK, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Kimberly Nagy in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
ARTS – FILM REVIEWS
ARTS – MUSIC
ARTS – PHOTOGRAPHY
The Triple Goddess Trials: Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
The Triple Goddess Trials: Introduction
The Triple Goddess Trials – Meeting Virginia Woolf at the Strand
The Triple Goddess Trials: Me and Medusa
The Triple Goddess Trials: Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
The Triple Goddess Trials: Goddess of Milk and Honey
The Triple Goddess Trials: Kali’s Ancient Love Song
ASHLEY – Renee Ashley: A Voice Answering a Voice
BELLI – Giocanda Belli – The Page is My Home
BOLL – Pamela Tanner Boll: Dangerous Women: An Interview with Academy Award Winner Pamela Tanner Boll
DANTICAT – Create Dangerously- A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat
CHARBONNEAU – A Cruise Along the Inside Track: With Le Mobile’s Sound Recording Legend Guy Charbonneau
de BOTTON – The Art of Connection: A Conversation with Alain de Botton
GUPTA – Suneptra Gupta – The Elements of Style: The Novelist and Biologist Discusses Metaphor and Science
HANDAL – Nathalie Handal – Love and Strange Horses
KHWAJA – Waqas Khwaja: What a Difference a Word Makes
MAURO: New World Monkeys: An Interview with Nancy Mauro
MORGANSing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It: An Interview with Bertha Morgan
MOSS – Practical Mystic–Robert Moss: On Book Families, Jung and How Dreams Can Save Your Soul
OGLINE – BEN FRANKLIN.COM: Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Space Traveler
PALYA – Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs
SCHIMMEL – Moonlight Science: A Conversation with Molecular Biologist and Entrepreneur, Paul Schimmel
SHORS – Journey into the Male & Female Brain: An Interview with Tracey Shors
von MOLTKE and SIMMS – Dorothy von Moltke and Cliff Simms: Why Independent Bookstores Matter, Part I
WARD – On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part One, and
On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part Two
WILKES – Labor of Love: An Interview With Architect Kevin Wilkes
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library at 100: From the Stacks to the Streets
Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation
That Email Changed My Life: Rolex Arts Initiative. Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative
First Editions / Second Thoughts — Defending Writers: PEN and Christie’s Raise One Million Dollars to Support Freedom of Expression
ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 — Behind the Scenes with Director Jakab Orsos: Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Page is My Home: Giaconda Belli – Nicaraguan Poet, Writer and Public Intellectual
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
The Power of Conversation: David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer – The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture
NEW FROM WILD RIVER BOOKS – Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library
Wild River Books Announces the Stoutsburg Cemetery Project: The Untold Stories of an African American Burial Ground in New Jersey
Wild River Books: Surprise Encounters by Scott McVay
Wild River Review and Minerva’s Bed & Breakfast Presents – “BITTER” Writing in a Weekend: How to Write About the Things We Can’t Change
ALLEN – Quarks, Parks, and Science in Everyday Life: Filmmaker Chris Allen’s Documentary Where Art Meets Science in a Vacant Lot
HOLT – Rush Holt: An Interview with Rush Holt
MANN – Boundless Theater: An Interview with Emily Mann
Keeping Time: A Conversation with Historian James McPherson