Pittsburgh International Literary Festival

The Pittsburgh International Literary Festival (LitFest) is a 10 day event that considers themes of migration, identity, and displacement with an emphasis on works in translation.

It brings authors, translators, and other artists together for bilingual readings, conversations about the craft of translation, and conversations on intersection of translation and important social justice topics. Such topics include such as BIPOC representation in the ranks of translators, linguistic inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community, and the politics of publishing, among other topics. 

This inaugural year, the festival will take place on our virtual programming channel, allowing us to feature artists and performances from around the globe.

Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article announcing the Festival.

See below for a full list of FREE events and registration links.

A complete calendar can be downloaded here.

Image credit: Matt High
Graphic Design: Aaron Henderson

WEDNESDAY, May 12, 7:00 PM EDT
We Crossed the River
Run time: 60 minutes

A multi-media concert, WE CROSSED THE RIVER examines detention camps at the US/Mexico border through raw testimonios of child detainees. Collected by Dominican-American novelist Angie Cruz, the testimonios form lyrics and inspire new music compositions and a text-based video projections. WE CROSSED THE RIVER aims to incite a deeper compassion by placing the eye-witness accounts of victims in an artistic setting. Collaborators are an all-Pittsburgh group including Angie Cruz; composer Eric Moe; video artist Aaron Henderson; and stage director Cynthia Croot.

Language: Spanish and English
Format: Pre-recorded concert and live artist talkback
Partners: Music on the Edge & The University of Pittsburgh

THURSDAY, May 13, 7:00 PM
El.Ella.Elle. Translation, pronouns, and inclusion in Argentina

Run time: 60 minutes

Can translation be a tool for equal rights and inclusion? Tradoctas, an Argentinian translation collective, discusses the translation of ubiquitous Spanish gender pronouns and their work to incorporate inclusive language across Argentina. This program spotlights Tradoctas’ work inside the Argentinian government, particularly the update of health care laws to use mostly indirect non-binary language—a crucial milestone for inclusion across the country.
Panel moderated by Mary Jayne McCullough, CEO of Global Wordsmiths Pittsburgh.

Language: Spanish
Format: Recorded conversation with English subtitles; viewed virtually
Partners: Global Wordsmiths

FRIDAY, May 14, 7:00 PM
Representation and Translation

Run time: 75 minutes

Literary translation catapulted to the international stage because of the recent controversy surrounding Dutch translator for US inaugural poet Amanda Gorman. Questions around identity & the permission to translate zoomed into focus. But is this the wrong question?
Instead, shouldn’t we question the scarcity of Black translators and translators of color? Or talk about dismantling patterns that make it harder for translators of color to access opportunities? How can City of Asylum and other US literary organizations foster a translation community that reflects the diversity of our world? Join a panel of translators as they share their thoughts on these questions and others.
Featuring translators Jeremy Tiang; Aaron Robertson; Bruna Dantas Lobato; Anton Hur; Paige Ayinah Morris

Languages: Mandarin, Italian, Korean, Portuguese
Format: Live conversation in English; viewed virtually
Partners: Words Without Borders

SATURDAY, May 15, 5:30 PM
Rosa Alcalá & Kitchen Table Translation Issue

Run time: 60 minutes
Presented in partnership with Aster(ix) Journal 
*Please note special start time* 

Aster(ix) is a transnational feminist literary arts journal committed to social justice and translation, placing women of color at the center of the conversation co-founded by poet Adriana E. Ramírez and novelist Angie Cruz. In this program Rosa Alcalá will read from her translation of Cecilia Vicuña: New & Selected Poems (1966–2015) and will talk with Adriana about her relationship with Vicuña’s oeuvre, as well as her contribution to Aster(ix)’s Kitchen Table Translation Issue.

Language: English with some Spanish with interpretation
Format: Live conversation; viewed virtually

SATURDAY, May 15, 8:00 PM*
International Perspectives from Autumn House Press

Run time: 60 minutes
Presented in partnership with Autumn House Press
*Please note special start time* 

Autumn House Press is a nonprofit publisher whose mission is to publish and promote poetry and other fine literature. The press believes literature is an affirmation of the deep and elemental range of our human experience, and our need for it is as crucial now as it ever has been. In this program, AHP will present three of their writers—a poet, a short story writer, and a memoirist—to discuss how their writing addresses and engages with themes of immigration and multiculturalism. The remarks will be followed by readings from each. Featuring artists Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Michael X. Wang, and Dickson Lam.

Language: English 
Format: Pre-recorded readings in English; viewed virtually

SUNDAY, May 16, 2:00 PM
Scholastique Mukasonga

Run time: 60 minutes

Rwandan author Scholastique Mukasonga discusses her collection of autobiographical stories, which summon phantom memories of a glorious Rwanda and radiate the fierce ache of a survivor of an obliterating history. Scholastique also discusses the challenges and creative opportunities writing memoir in exile. Featured novels include Igufu and A Barefoot Woman, translated from French by Jordan Stump. Scholastique is joined by Johns Hopkins professor of world literatures, Jeanne-Marie Jackson.

Language: French
Format: Artist live from France with English interpretation; viewed virtually
Partner: Archipelago Books

SUNDAY, May 16, 5:00 PM
Ilan Stavans
Run time: 60 minutes

For twenty years, Ilan Stavans has been translating poetry from Spanish, Yiddish, Hebrew, French, Portuguese, Russian, German, Georgian, and other languages. His versions of Borges, Neruda, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and dozens of others have become classics. His newest volume Selected Translations, published by UPitt Press, includes translations of more than forty poets all over the world and is testimony to a life dedicated to the pursuit of beauty through poetry in different languages. Moderated by poet/editor Matthew Zapruder.

Language: Multiple
Format: Live conversation in English; viewed virtually
Partner: University of Pittsburgh Press

SUNDAY, May 16, 6:30 PM
Publishing in Pittsburgh: Katabasis & Eulalia Books

Run time: 60 minutes

Eulalia Books is a Pittsburgh-based independent publisher of literary translations. They publish work that has never before appeared in English translation, with a special emphasis on work from Latin America. Katabasis, translated by Olivia Lott, is their newest publication. Written by poet Lucía Estrada, Katabasis is the first collection from a Colombian translated to English and was named by Pen America as one of the top 5 works in translation in 2020. In this program Olivia will read from her translation of Katabasis and will talk with Michelle Gil-Monterro, Executive Director of Eulalia Book, about discovering the Katabasis manuscript in a street market in Colombia, as well as Michelle’s experiences starting a small, independent translation press in Pittsburgh. 

Language: Spanish
Format: Live conversation in English; viewed virtually
Partner: Eulalia Books

MONDAY, May 17, 7:00 PM
Language vs. the Publishing Industry
Run time: 75 minutes

How does Publishing dictate what languages are furthered and which are forgotten? What happens when the dialect you speak at home is not what you see reflected in books? What is the role of literary translation in creating recognition for languages that are dismissed as dialects or disruptions? What will it take to translate the canonical literature of smaller countries into English?

Our expert panel grapples with these questions and shares their literary work and their efforts to use translation to combat the erasure of culture.
Feat: poets & translators Frank Báez, Adalber Salas Hernandez, and Rajiv Mohabir, moderated by poet Sony Ton-Aime, Literary Director of Chautauqua Institution

Languages: Spanish and Guyanese Creole
Format: Live conversation in English; viewed virtually
Partner: Chautauqua Institution

TUESDAY, May 18, 8:00 PM
*please note the special start time
Mieko Kawakami with translators Sam Bett and David Boyd

Run time: 60 minutes
Mixing wry humor and riveting emotional depth, Mieko Kawakami is one of Japan’s most important and best-selling contemporary writers. Mieko’s first novel to be published in English, Breast and Eggs, was rated one of Time Magazine’s 10 best books of 2020. The novel is a radical and intimate portrait of contemporary working class womanhood in Japan, recounting the heartbreaking journeys of three women in a society where the odds are stacked against them.

Mieko joins us live from Japan, in conversation with her translators, to discuss Breast and Eggs and celebrate the launch of her newest, highly anticipated English release, Heaven.
LitFest 2021 marks the novel’s debut event—an evening not to be missed!

Language: Japanese
Format: Artist live from Japan with English interpretation; viewed virtually
Partner: Europa Editions

WEDNESDAY, May 19, 7:00 PM
Viet Thanh Nguyen

Run time: 60 minutes

Vietnamese-American novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses The Committed, his much-anticipated sequel to his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Sympathizer.
This newest novel is fierce in tone, capacious, witty, sharp, and deeply researched. The Committed marks not just a sequel to its groundbreaking predecessor, but a sum total accumulation of a life devoted to Vietnamese American history and scholarship. It asks questions central to Vietnamese everywhere—and to our very species: How do we live in the wake of seismic loss and betrayal?

Language: English
Format: Live conversation; viewed virtually

THURSDAY, May 20, 7:00 PM
Olga Tokarczuk & Jennifer Croft

Run time: 60 minutes

Nobel Prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk joins us from Poland to discuss her award winning book Flights as well as her forthcoming “magnum opus” The Book of Jacob. The program concludes with a live conversation with Olga’s translator Jennifer Croft, winner of the Man Booker International Prize for Flights to discuss her work with Olga—including the 7-year journey to get Flights published in the US. Jennifer will also discuss her translation of Argentinian authors and the ways her own writing is influenced by the voices she translates.

Languages: Polish
Format: Pre-recorded conversation in Polish with English subtitles + live conversation in English; viewed virtually

FRIDAY, May 21, 7:00 PM
Forrest Gander & Coral Bracho

Run time: 60 minutes

Pulitzer-prize winning poet and translator Forrest Gander and Mexican poet Coral Bracho celebrate the forthcoming English release of Bracho’s collection It Must Be a Misunderstanding. Coral Bracho is credited with changing the course of contemporary Mexican poetry and remains one of her country’s most influential poets. This newest release, the second Gander/Bracho translation, charts a different course: part poetry collection and part memoir, focusing on the journey through Bracho’s mother’s Alzheimers. Forrest and Coral join us live for a bilingual reading and discussion centered on translating something as deeply personal as a mother’s illness.

Language: Spanish
Format: Live conversation in English; viewed virtually
Partner: University of Pittsburgh Center for Bioethics & Health Law

Ways to Watch

All programs for LitFest are streamed Crowdcast. See the event listings above for access and free registration.

We recommend using a laptop or desktop with the Chrome browser. If you’d like to use a mobile device we recommend downloading the Crowdcast app.

All programs are streamed and can be watched at any time.
Missed a program? Don’t worry—all programs will remain on demand and accessible on Crowdcast page.

All programs will be captioned and made available in accessible format 7 days after their original air date.

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