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Stage Spotlight: International

The following is a guest post by Marie Arana, literary director for the Library of Congress National Book Festival.

There’s nothing as convincing as success! So when the National Book Festival opened the International Stage last year, featured some of the Spanish-speaking world’s most prominent writers, and found the hall packed for every session, we decided to expand the stage’s frontiers and invite writers from all around the world.

From noon until 8 p.m. on Festival day, the hall will feature a whirlwind literary tour of Europe and Latin America, all of it in English. The stage will open with a resonant tribute to perhaps the greatest writer of the Holocaust, Primo Levi. Sponsored by the Italian Embassy, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Primo Levi Center, and featuring a conversation between Ann Goldstein, translator of the newly released Complete Works of Primo Levi, and Adam Gopnik, renowned cultural critic for the New Yorker, the program promises to be an enthralling discussion about this powerful writer, who survived Auschwitz and died in 1987.

From there, the International Stage will sail from port to port, stopping in Spain, Uruguay, Sweden, Morocco, Mexico and Latvia.

Spain is represented by the hugely popular novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón, whose “Shadow of the Wind” has sold millions of copies worldwide in many languages. Ruiz Zafón has written young adult novels (“Marina”) as well as thrillers in his signature, bookish style (“The Prisoner of Heaven”); in the process, he has produced a veritable cornucopia of best-selling works. Brought to you by the Embassy of Spain, he will be interviewed by Gwen Kirkpatrick of Georgetown University.

From Uruguay, we present Roberto Canessa, whose harrowing survival of a plane crash in the Andes in the ’70s became the famous book and movie “Alive.” Canessa has just released “I Had to Survive,” a passionate first-person account of the experience and how it inspired him to dedicate his career to saving lives. He is one of the most successful and sought-after pediatric cardiologists in Latin America. Canessa will be interviewed by NPR host Ted Robbins.

Jonas Hassen Khemiri–the dynamic young novelist, winner of Sweden’s most prestigious awards and a literary sensation throughout Europe–will talk about his hair-raising mystery, “Everything I Don’t Remember.” Khemiri’s novels and plays are highly original, his prose imaginative. He is considered one of the most important Swedish writers of his generation. He will be introduced by the cultural attaché of Sweden, Linda Zachrison, whose embassy is sponsoring the event.

Speaking for Morocco is the American writer Laila Lalami, who was born and raised in Rabat, educated in Great Britain, and settled in California. Lalami’s recent novel, “The Moor’s Account,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won the Arab American Book Award as well as the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. She will talk about her work in conversation with NPR’s roving correspondent, Bilal Qureshi.

From Mexico–and sponsored by the Mexican Cultural Institute–we will hear from two of that country’s most celebrated writers: Alberto Ruy Sánchez and Álvaro Enrigue. Ruy Sánchez is a poet, novelist and essayist who will speak about his long career, not only as a writer but as a traveler and founding publisher of Latin America’s leading Arts Magazine, Artes de Mexico. Enrigue will talk about his newly translated novel, the prize-winning “Sudden Death,” a wonderfully eccentric story about a tennis rivalry between the 16th-century artist Caravaggio and his contemporary, the poet Francisco de Quevedo.

Finally, we’re proud to present the pre-eminent literary figure in Latvia, Nora Ikstena, a writer who captures her country in daring fiction and has become a cultural force throughout Eastern Europe. Ikstena will appear in conversation with her English translator, Margita Gailitis, and in interview with the Library of Congress’s John Van Oudenaren, who, among other things, is the head of the Library’s World Digital Library.

We hope you’ll want to join us in this wide-ranging expedition that will–as great journeys do–open your eyes to new perspectives and enable you to better understand your own. All aboard! The ship leaves very, very soon.

The 2017 Library of Congress National Book Festival, which is free for everyone, will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday, Sept. 2. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You too can support the festival by making a gift now.

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