The World Voices Festival organized by Pen American Center took place April 30-May 4th in New York City. Over 200 authors descended upon Big Apple to participate in literary events held in cultural centers all over town.
The theme of the festival this year was Public Lives/Private Lives. The forums included topics such as “Celebrating Poetry in translation”, “New Directions in Spanish Language Literature”, “Writing Genocide”, “Contemporary Poetry from the Middle-East, Asia and Beyond”, “Writing Sex and Sexuality”. The participating authors were from all the continents, including developing countries whose language of expression is NOT English and translation services were readily available.
Once again Armenians were missing from such a major world literary meeting. Last year, Eric Boghosian, one of many local Armenian-American authors, participated in an event, but he was absent this year.
As Levon Ananyan of the Writers' Union of Armenia organizes another gathering of Armenian authors for next July, we can ask ourselves why such a gathering in Yerevan. Is it for some back patting? Belly button analysis? Perhaps it would have been a better cultural gesture to send a few authors from Armenia and some others from the Diaspora to participate in world festivals such as the one organized by PEN.
Last year Chouchanik Thamrazian, a graduate student in France, participated in the Rotterdam International poetry festival. But in general Armenians are absent from the international scene. As a result, we are seldom translated, read and, yes, inexistent.
At New York’s Town Hall on April 30, the first major event of this season, Salman Rushdie, chair of the PEN World Voices festival, introduced the evening’s authors, and mentioned the empty chair on stage representing authors who couldn’t attend the festival because of imprisonment or fear of persecution.
Maybe it also represents those who are held back from their countries for lack of initiative and xenophobia.
Audio clips and full of the 2008 PEN World Voices festival details are available by clicking