What’s appealing about atrocity kitsch is that there is always a strong hero. There is also a record keeper, a paper trail, an old love letter, an old key, what have you. At the end of the story, somebody becomes stronger…. The nurse character is a curmudgeon and a nut, and her grandmother’s history is a fine example of what happens to ordinary people come times of atrocity. The weak scramble to survive when they’re in a pickle. Their weaknesses come to the fore, betrayal goes unpunished, people would rather forget, ordinary life continues in utilitarian apartments.
More than 160 prominent writers, scholars and human rights advocates outside mainland China have signed an open letter to President Hu Jintao asking him to release.... Liu Xiaobo—one of the driving forces behind a bold manifesto demanding democratic reforms that has received worldwide attention.
Among the writers signing the letter are three Nobel laureates in literature—the South African novelist Nadine Gordimer, the Irish poet Seamus Heaney and Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian novelist—as well as other writers who regularly champion freedom of expression, including the Italian novelist Umberto Eco and Salman Rushdie.
What: Voices Against Torture: Writers and Lawyers on the Way Forward
When: Tuesday, December 16, 2008, 6:30 pm-8:30 pm
Where: Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, NYC
- Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
- Anouar Benmalek, author of The Lovers of Algeria and co-founder of The Algerian Committee Against Torture
- Scott Horton, Professor of Law, Columbia Law School, and contributor to Harper's
- Elisa Massimino, Executive Director and C.E.O. of Human Rights First
This event is free and open to the public. If you'd like to come, please register today.
Note: you can also RSVP on Facebook.
So how should writers respond to atrocity? Next Tuesday, come discuss this subject with Dahlia Lithwick (legal correspondent for Slate), Jane Mayer (author of The Dark Side), Anouar Benmalek (author of The Lovers of Algeria), Scott Horton (law professor and contributor to Harper's), and Elisa Massimino (Executive Director of Human Rights First). “Voices Against Torture: Writers and Lawyers on the Way Forward” is hosted by PEN and ACS and will focus on the roles that lawyers and writers have played and continue to play in exposing human rights abuses and in reminding nations of their human rights responsibilities. The panel will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m and will end at 7:45 p.m., followed by a wine and cheese reception. This event is free and open to the public. If you'd like to come, please register today.
On a lighter note, PEN triumphed in a closely contested “Literary Trivia Smackdown” at the Small Press Book Fair yesterday, against litbloggers Levi Asher, Sarah Weinman, Ed Champion, and Eric Rosenfield. There was a dramatic finish, but, as Ed explains, former PEN president Arthur Miller nudged our team to victory. Clearly, Arthur Miller thinks that these litbloggers should all join PEN, and was just doing what he could to make this happen. (Unless, that is, they don't want to support free expression and writers who are imprisoned around the world.) Levi has some kind words both for us and for the Small Press Book Fair itself, which is now twenty-one years old.
Obama’s literary name-dropping grows ever more impressive. If you, too, must prepare for a meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, you can brush up on Borges and Cortázar by reading PEN America 4: Fact/Fiction, which features writing by both men, as well as PEN America 1: Classics, which features Paul Auster, Robert Stone, and others offering their thoughts on Borges. (Via A Different Stripe.)
(Photo of Borges by Diane Arbus.)