Shaun Randol founded The Mantle in 2009. Today he is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher. You can email him at shaun [at] themantle.net. Shaun is the co-editor of Gambit: Newer African Writing. He is also a member of the PEN American Center and serves on the boards of Nomadic Press, the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, and Africa Book Link.
Rue de Paris, Temps de Pluie (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte
[Read part one of this dispatch here.]
I had intended on discovering the literary scene in the Caribbean with only a slight side trip for the briefest of philosophy discussions, but the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray when one encounters Frédéric Gros.
I found myself on a windy and rainy evening at the Westbeth Center for the Arts, a massive warren of beautiful apartments crammed full of writers, dancers, visual artists, actors, poets, and other artistic folks. For what the PEN World Voices Festival deemed a Literary Safari, several of these creative-types opened their apartments and hosted visiting writers in mini-salons, where the scribes read for fifteen minutes and answered questions for another fifteen, and then whoosh!
Paul Berman reads at PEN World Voices Festival's opening night as Salman Rushdie and Judith Butler look on (© Beowulf Sheehan/PEN American Center)
[Read part one of this dispatch.]
Since the 1960s, Noam Chomsky has been a formidable critic of U.S. foreign policy; many (most?) of his ideas highly unwelcome in corporate media. Though the decades march on, his biting critique remains sharp, his political philosophy unwavering. In this interview, Chomsky discusses self-censorship and names the political crises intellectuals and activists should be acting on now.
Something is being lost in our age of physical and metaphorical din. Political leaders, pundits, activists, journalists, intellectuals, and ordinary citizens are engaging in shouting matches in all forms of media, including social media platforms. The most radical act one can take at this moment, says George Prochnik, is to engage in a patient, reflective retreat from all the noise. A more empathetic society may emerge from the quiet.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Stefan Zweig was the most widely read and translated writer in the world. More than that, he was a facilitator, connecting a veritable who's who of high culture in Vienna and Europe at large. A fierce advocate of individual expression and humanism, Zweig was a cultural force. And yet, he surrendered to the disconnectedness brought on by forced exile, committing suicide alongside his second wife. What can we learn from his rise and fall?