African authors are few and far between at this year's PEN World Voices Festival — but the festival does offer a rare opportunity to hear Ben Okri, the Nigerian-born author of The Famished Road, which won the Booker Prize in 1991.
Years ago I had the chance to hear Okri at MIT. He was a captivating speaker, and at a time when some authors seem to despair at the idea of competing with movies and television, he argued that writers should concentrate on conveying our inner lives — something that the big and little screens can do in only the most approximate way.
I plan to be in the audience when Ben Okri is interviewed by Anderson Tepper, but there are two more chances to see and hear him: the PEN Cabaret and a session on blogs, Twitter, and the Kindle.
As always, there is much more to take in at the festival than one person can reasonably handle, and many of the events are free. Some of the other sessions I plan to catch are the Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo on being kidnapped by the Taliban, Patti Smith with Jonathan Lethem, Toni Morrison with Marlene van Niekerk, and the final Freedom to Write lecture with Sherman Alexie. See you there!