Thursday, December 3, 2009

Godine Authors in “PEN America”

The new issue of PEN America landed on my desk the other week with its surreal collaged cover and enticing topic: “Make Believe.” While I always enjoy finding new writers in translation between the covers of PEN’s semi-annual journal, I was especially pleased to recognize in the contents of Issue #11 two names of our very own: Damion Searls and Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. Searls is the translator of a new volume of poems and prose by Rainer Maria Rilke, The Inner Sky: Poems, Notes, Dreams, due out early next year from Godine, and Le Clézio is of course the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize and author of the recently published Desert, as well as The Prospector (Godine, 1993, 2008).

In response to a question from PEN to imagine a book one wished had been written, Searls considers the eighty-eight plays by Aeschylus lost in the fire that destroyed the Library of Alexandria, all the books Walter Benjamin did not live to write, and a thousand-page mystical Jewish treatise on the aleph, among others. The brilliant thing about this question of PEN’s is the creative challenge it lays down for the author, after all, in dreams begin responsibilities…

And if you missed Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s last-minute appearance at the 2009 PEN World Voices Festival in New York last year, you’ll be happy to know Issue #11 includes a transcript of Le Clézio’s public conversation with Adam Gopnik at the Festival — enjoyable reading covering topics from Creolization, to the bibliophilic delights of the Larousse dictionary, to living a life of action versus one of contemplation. Thank you PEN for yet another vital contribution to the world of letters.

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