PEN round-up: Don DeLillo, World Voices, Mexican journalists, and more

As we put the finishing touches on the fall issue, the PEN office is bustling.

Today, the 2010 PEN Literary Award winners were announced. Among them, Don DeLillo, who answered questions from PEN (via fax) on the occasion:
PEN: Thanks to e-books, blogs, and social media, writers are arguably using new technology as never before. Stories are written using Twitter, novels as text messages, and there seems to be a reemergence of serial narratives. Do you think technology will have a considerable influence on fiction? Do you think it already has?

DeLillo: The question is whether the enormous force of technology, and its insistence on speeding up time and compacting space, will reduce the human need for narrative—narrative in the traditional sense. Novels will become user-generated. An individual will not only tap a button that gives him a novel designed to his particular tastes, needs, and moods, but he’ll also be able to design his own novel, very possibly with him as main character. The world is becoming increasingly customized, altered to individual specifications. This shrinking context will necessarily change the language that people speak, write, and read. Here’s a stray question (or a metaphysical leap): Will language have the same depth and richness in electronic form that it can reach on the printed page? Does the beauty and variability of our language depend to an important degree on the medium that carries the words? Does poetry need paper?
To celebrate DeLillo’s award, our fall issue will include his 1983 short story “Human Moments in World War III,” the beginning of which you can read on PEN.org. For the rest, pre-order your copy of the issue (or subscribe!).

And, if you’re in New York, join us for the 2010 PEN Literary Awards ceremony on October 13.

News of this year’s winners followed just a day after PEN announced its new Director of the World Voices Festival and Public Programs, László Jakab Orsós, who joins PEN from the Hungarian Cultural Center. Jakab is also an accomplished journalist and screenwriter. You can read more about him here. The 2011 World Voices Festival will be held from April 25 to May 1.

Lastly, a trio of announcements from the Freedom to Write department: Liao Yiwu (discussed previously on the blog) has finally been permitted to travel outside China; PEN writers urged the U.N. to abandon efforts to legally prohibit the defamation of religion; and several writers from Mexico and the United States (including DeLillo) will gather next month to discuss and call attention to the violent suppression of journalists in America’s neighbor to the south. Please join us if you can.

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