International Literary Festival Sweeps through NYC

By Genevieve Long Belmaker for The Epoch Times

NEW YORK—Literary luminaries and their admirers gathered in New York City all last week for a series of events, lectures, and presentations. It was the seventh year that the PEN World Voices Festival has brought poets, authors, and writers together.

The festival schedule boasted a wide array of lectures, discussions, and gatherings of all sizes.

Some of the events, including opening night events on New Yorks’ waterfront, feature world-famous authors and poets. Among them were Gioconda Belli, Iva Bittová, Mircea Cartarescu, Deborah Eisenberg, Evan Fallenberg, Malcolm Gladwell, Hanif Kureishi, Andrea Levy, Agi Mishol, Amélie Nothomb, Salman Rushdie, Wallace Shawn, Vladimir Sorokin, and Zha Jianying.

According to PEN, the festival included over 100 writers from 40 countries who came to New York City “to celebrate the power of the writer’s voice as a bold and vital element of public discourse.” Part of PEN’s mission, and running themes throughout the festival, include freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

During a talk on April 26 entitled “Solidarity with the Hungarian Theatre,” the discussion centered around the state of Hungarian theater and the performing arts industry at large. Featured speakers included Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó and Romanian-born Hungarian philosopher and essayist, G.M. Tamas.

During the discussion, Mundruczó repeatedly stated that the funding for the Hungarian filmmaking industry, which used to be largely state-subsidized, has dried up following recent sweeping changes in the government.

“The funding [for arts] was broken not because of government, but because it was corrupt,” said Mundruczó, who was speaking within the context of the political changes in Hungary. The country signed a new constitution yesterday.

G.M. Tamas, who is known for taking provocative positions on sensitive issues in his essays and writing, added that on top of Hungary’s new constitution, there is a controlling media law document that is over 200 pages long. He said it controls multiple aspects related to freedom of speech, from the dramatic arts to the media. Tamas warned that beyond that, there are also problems with the new constitution.

At another April 26, event Russian poets Igor Belov and Ksenia Shcherbino were joined by pianist Svetlana Smolina. Smolina performed selections from Russian composers—including some favorites from Rachmaninoff—in between poetry readings in Russian by Belov and Shcherbino.