Sunday, April 6, 2014

Venice at the Crossroads

Caryl Phillips reads from his work in the Santa Margherita Auditorium of Ca' Foscari
In the three and half years I've lived here I've somehow managed to miss each year's edition of Incroci di Civilità (Crossroads of Civilization), the International Festival of Literature in Venice, prior to this latest one, which concluded yesterday evening. Since its inception in 2009 the series has featured major writers from around the world, including Michael Ondaatje, Roberto Calasso, Kiran Desai, Yves Bonnefoy, Adonis, Jeannette Winterson, and Nobel Prize Winners Orhan Pamuk and VS Naipaul.

The events are free to the public, though one must make an online reservation in advance to be assured of a ticket. And in almost every case it's a very good idea to make your reservation--which is quite easy to do online--as soon the festival website begins taking them. Each of the three events I attended this past weekend--the American writer and critic Daniel Mendelsohn on Friday night; the American poet, playwright and novelist Rita Dove, and the English novelist, playwright and essayist Caryl Phillips on Saturday-- consisted primarily of substantial and lengthy discussions with the authors. Each of the authors I saw were excellent, their interviewers all did a good job, and each program lasted for at least 90 minutes (much longer than most of the American literary events I'm used to).

You can see a complete program for this year's festival, and a full archive of programs from each previous year, at:

If you plan on being in Venice in early spring of next year, it's a site worth bookmarking and keeping in mind. And perhaps for some people it may be even worth a trip in itself.

Rita Dove in conversation with Sally Michael and Duccio Basosi
Daniel Mendelsohn in conversation with Pietro del Soldà in the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi
Caryl Phillips in conversation with Maureen Freely and Annalisa Oboe

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