Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A broad, global literary world

Originally printed May 2, 2011.

Denizens of our local City of Literature have two opportunities today to learn more about the broader literary word. Three international writers -- Canadian novelist David Bezmozgis, French writer Herve Le Tellier and Korean novelist Kyung-Sook Shin -- will be in town today as part of the PEN World Voices Festival Tour.

At 2 p.m. in the Iowa City Public Library, there will be a panel discussion with all three authors moderated by Downing Thomas, University of Iowa associate provost and dean of International Programs.

"This is an exciting group of strong voices in contemporary literature," wrote Thomas in an email Friday. "The three novels we will be discussing share common traits in their meditation on generational change, cultural shifts associated with history and migration, and love and belonging."

At 7 p.m. in Prairie Lights, Bezmozgis will read from "The Free World," Le Tellier from his "Enough About Love" and Shin from her "Please Look After Mom."

Especially for Shin -- who will be relying on UI assistant professor Jiyeon Kang to serve as translator -- the day's events will provide an interesting showcase how international writers gets translated for American audiences.

Sponsored by the PEN American Center, the tour is bringing 13 up-and-coming international writers in 12 cities over the next three days. Locally, the events are co-sponsored by and working with Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and Prairie Lights. But the list of included cities puts Iowa City in the same company as Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at

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