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PEN American Center

The PEN Ten

The PEN Ten is PEN America's biweekly interview series curated by Lauren Cerand.

August 12, 14

My lifelong hero—ever since I was a boy—is Thomas Paine, the American Revolutionary and radical-democratic pamphleteer. I would love to be identified with his words, words such as “The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth” and “We have it...Read More  »

July 21, 14

As an interpreter I’m a bit of a stage mother, pushing the writer or director for whom I’m interpreting to jump into the conversation (Forza! Dai! Sfondi! I whisper). The authors I translate are like house-guests. I don’t let them sleep with me:...Read More  »

July 9, 14

I wish American writers in general were less anti-intellectual, more interested in the interior life and exterior systems of power. I don't come from a subculture that had much in the way of an intellectual tradition at all. My people believed...Read More  »

June 24, 14

When you've lived and worked in places where writing can get you killed, where the act of telling the truth can take down powers, it's hard to have anything but soaring notions of what writers can and should aspire to do. Read More  »

June 17, 14

The translator ... bears an enormous responsibility, not just in relation to the source text, but in representing a foreign culture. Translations can create or strengthen stereotypes of foreign literatures. Or translations can compel us to see them...Read More  »

June 3, 14

Observation is posing interesting questions. Surveillance is getting specific answers. Only one of those is meant to be used against the private citizen. The line, then, depends entirely on the purpose. Read More  »

May 27, 14

Writers have a collective purpose precisely because the notion of a public intellectual has fallen out of fashion. The most interesting ideas, the most crucial philosophies, are always secrets out of range. Read More  »

May 20, 14

For me at least, the things that feel most daring to write or to say don't really sound all that earth-shattering to other people. I remember the first time I confessed in email to someone that I was afraid of having a religious conversion (like my...Read More  »

May 12, 14

What the writer does is bear witness: we tell the stories of the things that disturb us most, and we try to tell them in the way that will disturb you most. All writers do this; it’s up to them to raise issues, ask questions, and call attention to...Read More  »

April 30, 14

Artists in general are fabergé egg makers pretending to be revolutionaries. But I'm congenitally opposed to authority deployed unjustly and I'd yell about that whether I was a writer or artist or anything else. Read More  »