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May 18
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Talk: Maylis de Kerangal and Jessica Moore ONLINE EVENT The Center for Fiction 15 Lafayette Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11217

The Ties That Bind: Weathering Crises in a Globalized World

Even in a highly connected, globalized world, some conflicts seem truly unprecedented. Whether ecological, economic, or even divine in nature, these disasters cause collisions between modernity and culture that threaten time-worn traditions. The latest fiction by Yamen ManaiJordi Nopca, and Kawai Strong Washburn follows characters whose lives sit on the precipice of great change as they weather the aftershocks of events initiated far and away.

In Manai’s The Ardent Swarm, a North African beekeeper leaves isolation to seek answers in a strange city, only to be catapulted into the throes of the Arab Spring. A Catalonian author, Nopca writes about the divided city of Barcelona, where a disillusioned generation grappling with an economic crisis moves toward secession, in the wake of underemployment and austerity. In Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors, a family is pushed to reflect on their heritage and the demands of survival after divine intervention wrecks the sugarcane industry where they have labored for generations in Hawai’i. This event will be moderated by PEN America’s senior director of literary programs Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf.


Yamen Manai was born in 1980 in Tunis and currently lives in Paris. Both a writer and an engineer, he explores the intersections of past, present, tradition, and technology, in his prose. In The Ardent Swarm (Amazon Crossing, 2021), his first book to be translated into English, he celebrates Tunisia’s rich oral culture, a tradition abounding in wry, often fatalistic humor. He has published three novels with the Tunisia-based Éditions Elyzad—a deliberate choice to ensure that his books are accessible to Tunisian readers: La Marche de l’incertitude (2010), awarded Tunisia’s prestigious Prix Comar d’Or; La Sérénade d’Ibrahim Santos (2011); and L’Amas ardent (2017), which earned both the Prix Comar d’Or and the Prix des Cinq Continents, a literary prize recognizing exceptional Francophone literature.

Jordi Nopca is the author of two novels and the short story collection Come On Up (Bellevue Literary Press, 2015). Named a “Young Catalan Writer to Watch” by Culture Trip, his books have received the Proa and Documenta Prizes. Nopca is also an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Time Out Barcelona and Words Without Borders. Born in Barcelona in 1983, he is editor of the newspaper Ara and its literary supplement Ara LlegimCome On Up is his first book of fiction to appear in English.

Kawai Strong Washburn was born and raised on the Hāmākua coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i. His first novel, Sharks in the Time of Saviors (MCD, 2020), won the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel and was listed as a notable/best book of the year by The New York TimesThe GuardianThe Boston Globe; Amazon; O, The Oprah MagazineKirkus ReviewsBBC Culture, and Barnes and Noble, among others. Today, he lives with his wife and daughters in Minneapolis.

Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf is PEN America’s senior director of literary programs. She oversees curation, production, audience building, and strategy for a range of programs and initiatives honoring literary excellence, featuring American and international authors and artists. Formerly, she was the manager of public programs at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, and produced a year-round schedule of panel discussions, performances, film screening, and symposia spanning the history and culture of the global Black experience.

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