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APRIL 29, 2008

The New York State Writers Institute and PEN American Center will cosponsor a reading by three leading figures of world literature who have endured political persecution in their native lands, including Nuruddin Farah of Somalia, Horacio Castellanos Moya of El Salvador, and Chenjerai Hove of Zimbabwe, on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. The event is free and open to the public.

For the first time ever, the PEN American Center and the Writers Institute will join together to present an exciting line-up of writers from around the globe. The event will be held in association with this year’s “PEN World Voices: The New York Festival of International Literature.” The Albany reading will feature leading figures of world literature who have endured political persecution in their native lands, including Nuruddin Farah of Somalia, Horacio Castellanos Moya of El Salvador, and Chenjerai Hove of Zimbabwe.

Nuruddin FarahA perpetual candidate for the Nobel Prize, and winner of the 1998 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, Nuruddin Farah has been called “arguably the most important African novelist of the late 20th century... he is also the most astonishing, inventive, exuberant and mind-blowing” (Anderson Tepper, “Salon”).Farah is best known for two groups of novels, the “Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship” trilogy (1979-1982), about the fictional dictatorship of Major General Muhammad Siyad and its impact upon individual Somali families; and the “Blood in the Sun” trilogy, about orphans adrift in a landscape of war, economic collapse, civil unrest, and misguided nationalism. Farah is also widely praised for work that draws attention to the plight and status of women in African society. Writing in the “New York Times,” Suzanne Ruta said, “To call Farah a feminist is an understatement. He does more than champion women’s rights; his fiction is filled with minutely observed, deeply sympathetic portraits of women among themselves and with their children, and only secondarily with men.”

Born in Somalia in 1945, Farah grew up during the British and Italian colonial administrations and experienced his homeland’s rocky transition to independence. Under threat of arrest for fiction deemed critical of Somali government policy, Farah spent nearly a quarter century in exile beginning in the 1970s, but has since returned to live and teach in Mogadishu. He is an exception among major African writers in that he currently makes his home in Africa.

Horacio Castellanos MoyaHoracio Castellanos Moya
is hailed as El Salvador’s leading novelist and one of Central America’s most important contemporary writers. His novels include “The Devil in the Mirror” (2000), “The Weapon Man” (2001), “Dances with Serpents” (2002) and “Decay” (2007). Moya’s first book to appear in English will be “Senselessness” (2004, translation 2008) from New Directions Press. A novel about Guatemala’s “Mayan genocide,” the English translation earned Katherine Silver a PEN Translation Award, as well as a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. A journalist as well as a fiction writer, Moya edited the weekly newspaper “Primera Plana,” the chief independent voice in El Salvador’s political arena in the 1990s. Politically-motivated harassment and death threats eventually drove him into exile. He is currently a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh’s English Department and Center for Latin American Studies, as part of the North American Network of Cities of Asylum (formerly the International Parliament of Writers).

Chenjerai HoveChenjerai Hove
is a Zimbabwean novelist, poet, essayist and newspaper columnist. Hailed as leading figure of post-colonial literature in southern Africa, Hove is the past recipient of the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, and of the German-Afrika Award for contributions to freedom of expression. His books include the novels “Bones” (1986), “Ancestors” (1988), “Shadows” (1991), as well as “Palaver Finish” (2003), an essay collection about contemporary life in Zimbabwe. The reviewer for the “New Internationalist” said of “Palaver Finish,” “This is an impassioned polemic from a writer agonizingly aware of the catastrophic path his country is taking and doing his utmost to alter that course.” Hove is a cofounder of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, and past president of the Zimbabwe Writers Union. An outspoken critic of the policies of the government of President Robert Mugabe, Hove endured police harassment, surveillance, repeated break-ins, and seizures of his computers and computer disks throughout the 1990s. He left Zimbabwe in 2001 and currently lives in exile as the International Writers Project fellow-in-residence at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

Dedicated to promoting intercultural understanding, tolerance, and freedom of expression, the PEN American Center is the largest of the 141 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary arts organization. Last year’s participants in the PEN Festival included Chinua Achebe, Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, and Saadi Youssef, among many others. This year’s featured writers will represent more than 30 countries.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.