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PEN World Voices: Voyage & Voyeur: Travel and Travel Writing

April 29, 2007

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What place does travel writing have in an age of instant news and pictures? Are there truths that only language can convey? What is the relationship of a travel writer to his or her subject? Alain de Botton, Ma Jian, and IIija Trojanow will discuss using words to capture the feeling of a place for their readers at home and around the world. Paul Holdengräber will moderate.

This event is co-sponsored by PEN American Center in association with PEN World Voices, The New York Festival of International Literature.

About Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton was born in Switzerland and moved with his family to England when he was eight years old. De Botton has written about literature in How Proust Can Change Your Life, relationships in On Love, social hierarchy in Status Anxiety, and going abroad in The Art of Travel. In his most recent book, The Architecture of Happiness, de Botton asks what a beautiful building does, and discusses ways in which our environment affects our identity. De Botton regularly contributes to English newspapers such as The Independent and helps to run the production company Seneca Productions. He lives in London where he is Director of the Graduate Philosophy Program at London University.

  

About Ma Jian

Ma Jian was born in Qingdao, China. He worked as a photographer for a petrochemical plant later moving to Beijing, where he joined the No Name Art Group and worked as a photojournalist for a state-run magazine. At 30, he was targeted in a government campaign against "spiritual pollution," which drove him to give up his job and travel for three years across China?a journey described in his book Red Dust, which won the 2002 Thomas Cook Award for Travel Writing. After the Chinese government banned his books in 1987, he moved to Hong Kong. Ten years later, he moved to London, where he now lives. He has written nine books, including novels, short-story collections, and essays, and has been published in 14 languages. His translated fiction includes The Noodle Maker and Stick Out Your Tongue.

About Ilija Trojanow

Ilija Trojanow was born in Bulgaria. In 1971, his family gained political asylum in Germany and a year later moved to Kenya. In 1989, he founded the Marino Publishing House, which specialized in African literature. His books include In Afrika: Mythos und Alltag Ostafrikas, and Guardians of the Soil: Meeting Zimbabwe Elders with Chenjerai Hove. In 1998, Trojanow moved to Bombay. He wrote reportages and essays for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, among other newspapers. More recent books include Along the Ganges: To the Inner Shores of India and the novel Der Weltensammler. For this most recent book, he was awarded the 2006 Leipzig Book Fair Prize for fiction, the 2007 Berlin Literature Prize, and was short-listed for the 2006 German Book Prize. Ilija Trojanow lives in Cape Town.

About Paul Holdengräber

Paul Holdengräber is the Director of Public Programs now known as "LIVE from the NYPL" for The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library.