Salman Rushdie

The author talks about the PEN World Voices Festival and what he's working on now.

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The Sixth Annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature begins April 26. TONY caught up with the fest’s chair, Sir Salman Rushdie, to talk about this year’s highlights, as well as his own writing projects.

At last year’s PEN WV festival, you said that you’d always felt it would take five years for the festival to settle into NYC’s arts calendar. How do you feel going into the sixth year?
I’m feeling good. The festival is flourishing, and I think we may have our strongest program ever this year.

Are there any authors or events you’re particularly excited to see?
Toni Morrison with Marlene van Niekerk, the discussion about war writing with Philip Gourevitch and others, Sherman Alexie’s Arthur Miller Lecture, and the big opening-night reading at the 92nd Street Y on the Wednesday.

The paucity of English translations of world literature seems to be one of the key focuses of the PEN WV Festival. Why do you make this a focus, and why would it benefit Americans to read more outside their culture?
It’s actually a great moment in world literature—with so many extraordinary writers doing wonderful work—and it would immensely enrich the reading experience of Americans if these works were made more easily available.

What are the aims of the festival, besides encouraging a more international understanding of literature? What do you hope PEN WV will accomplish in the next six years?
The point was, and still is, to create a forum in which the world’s best literary voices can speak to American readers and engage in dialogue with American writers.

You have a new book coming out in the U.S. in November, Luka and the Fire of Life. Can you tell us a little about it?
It’s another novel in the vein of Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written because my younger son Milan demanded it. This time it’s Haroun’s younger brother Luka’s turn for an adventure.

After Emory University opened your archives a couple weeks ago, you announced your next book will be your memoir. Have you started it yet? Can you talk a little about that, and when can we hope to see it?
I’ve started thinking about it, but I’ve learned from long experience not to forecast when a book will be finished. It will be a couple of years yet. I’m not that fast a writer.

PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature will take place at various venues Apr 26 through May 2. See pen.org/festival for details.

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