Literary Mews/PEN Festival 2019

Since 2012, the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature and NYU's International Houses, including Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, Deutsches Haus at NYU, Institute of African American Affairs & Center for Black Visual Culture, La Maison Française, and the NYU Creative Writing Program, have collaborated in creating a festival within the festival: "The Literary Mews." This annual event presents free literary events in and around the cobblestone streets of NYU's storied Washington Mews. A must attend for any lover of literature.  

Friday, May 10 / 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Location: La Maison Française of NYU, 16 Washington Mews, New York, NY 10003

Terrible Truths: Confronting History and Memory

A conversation with Daniel Blaufuks, Catherine Filloux, Tanisha C. Ford, and Domenico Starnone. Moderated by Ulrich Baer.

Nations share their official narratives through anthems and textbooks, websites and monuments—but a country’s glorious public story often diverges from the events remembered by its citizens. How do countries shape their evolving histories, and how are the true tales of terrible national tragedies obscured? How can writers and artists use their skills to challenge the erasure of inconvenient histories? Join a distinguished panel of writers, artists, playwrights, and academics as they reflect on significant revelations and obfuscations from our national stories, and examine how present-day memories influence perceptions of the past. Through discussions of global human rights abuses, Holocaust perception, African-American heritage and fashion and post-war political turbulence in Italy, our illustrious guests will illuminate what happens at the intersection of a nation’s private memories and its public identity.

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Daniel Blaufuks
Daniel Blaufuks has been working on the relationship between public and private memory, one of the constant interrogations in his work. He has shown widely and works mainly in photography and video, presenting his work through books, installations, and films.

Catherine Filloux is an award-winning playwright who has been writing about human rights and social justice for twenty-five years.  In New York City, Catherine was honored with the 2017 Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre and with the 2015 Planet Activist Award.  She is a librettist for four operas, produced in the U.S., Cambodia and Vienna.

Tanisha C. Ford is an award-winning writer, cultural critic, and associate professor of Africana Studies and History at the University of Delaware. She is the author of three books: the forthcoming Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl's Love Letter to the Power of Fashion, Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful, and Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Politics of Soul. Her writing has also been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic,, Aperture, and The Root.

Domenico Starnone is the author of thirteen novels, including Via Gemito, winner of the Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary prize, and Ties, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Sunday Times and KirkusBest Book of the Year.

Ulrich Baer is University Professor at New York University and has published extensively on the representation of personal and collective trauma in literature, film, photography, and public debate. Among his books are: Remnants of Song: The Experience of Modernity in Charles Baudelaire and Paul Celan; Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma; 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11 (editor); Beggar’s Chicken: Stories from Shanghai; We Are But a Moment, and, as editor and translator, The Dark Interval: Rilke’s Letters on Loss, Grief and Transformation, and Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters on Life. His podcast, Think About It, is devoted to in-depth conversations on powerful ideas, including freedom of speech, and transformative books. What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech, Equality and Truth in the University will be published by Oxford University Press in summer 2019.

Friday, May 10 / 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Location: Deutsches Haus at NYU, 42 Washington Mews, New York, NY 10003

Reinvent and Rediscover: A View From Elsewhere

 A conversation with Pénélope Bagieu, Brian Keith Jackson, Elif Shafak, and Takis Würger. Moderated by Rebecca Falkoff.

Personal reinvention is a constant and mysterious journey. A trip overseas, a disruption in the culture of our home country, or the impact of a powerful book can shift our views. How do new discoveries and unfamiliar settings cause us to (re)examine and (re)interpret our inner narratives? Join feminist graphic novel creator Pénélope Bagieu, novelist and culture writer Brian Keith Jackson, acclaimed author Elif Shafak, and investigative journalist Takis Würger, and in a discussion about what factors propel personal reinvention, and how a view from elsewhere can disrupt, recreate, or relocate the stories of ourselves.

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Pénélope Bagieu was born in Paris to Corsican and Basque parents. The best-selling graphic novelist of Exquisite Corpse, she has published editorial illustrations throughout the French media. She blogs at, plays drums in a rock band, and watches lots of nature shows.

Brian Keith Jackson is a bestselling and prize-winning author, essayist and arts and culture writer. His novels include, "The View From Here," "Walking Through Mirrors," and "The Queen of Harlem." His art and culture writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York, The London Observer Magazine, L'Officiel, O Magazine, and Whitewall, among others, as well as exhibition catalogues for international galleries and museums.

Elif Shafak is the acclaimed author of 15 books including The Bastard of Istanbul and The Forty Rules of Love. Her work has been translated into more than 40 languages, and she regularly contributes to The New York TimesThe Guardian, and Politico. Shafak has been longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and twice for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. She has held various teaching positions in the United States and the United Kingdom, most recently at the University of Oxford. She lives in London. Her upcoming novel, My Last 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, will be published in June.

Takis Würger is a reporter working for the German news magazine Der Spiegel. He studied Human, Social, and Political Science at St. John’s College Cambridge for a year before dropping out. During this time, he boxed for the University, broke two ribs and his hand, and became a member of the Adonians, the Hawks’ Club, and the Pitt Club. Named one of Medium’s “Top 30 Journalists under 30,” alongside other accolades, Würger’s work as a journalist has taken him to Afghanistan, Libya, Mexico, and Ukraine. The Club, which won the lit.Cologne debut prize and has become a runaway bestseller in Germany, is his first novel.

Rebecca Falkoff is an Assistant Professor of Italian Studies at New York University and a Regional Faculty Fellow at the Wolf Humanities Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She recently completed her first book on contemporary hoarding discourse and its literary precursors, and is working on a new project on illegibility.