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Babel's Back

Clockwise from top left: V.S. Naipaul, Edwidge Danticat, Chris Abani, Maxine Hong Kingston

Acclaimed literary series opens with V.S. Naipaul

Just Buffalo’s Babel Lecture Series, which showcases international authors who write in English, returns on Tuesday, October 19. This season, Babel’s fourth, opens with Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul, and follows with Maxine Hong Kingston, Edwidge Danticat, and Chris Abani.

Each of these authors has been influenced by their geographical and political surroundings. They have published literary works that seek to explore these surroundings, opening up a dialogue about place and politics.

V.S. Naipaul is from Trinidad and Tobago. A novelist and essayist, Naipaul has been awarded numerous literary prizes including the Nobel Prize in Literature. Naipaul’s personal life and literary works are controversial. He provides a narrative about the developing world to Western society yet he claims “to have a political view is to be prejudiced. I don’t have a political view.” While his supporters say that he presents a critique of left-liberals, his detractors say that he is a neo-colonial apologist. Interpretations of Naipaul’s political views aside, both his fiction and travel writing offer an unflinching portrayal of the developing world. For Naipaul’s visit, Just Buffalo recommends reading A House for Mr. Biswas. Naipaul comes to Buffalo October 19.

Maxine Hong Kingston, from the United States, is a Chinese American author who has written novels and works of nonfiction, including a memoir. Kingston was born in California and is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. She addresses issues of Chinese immigrants in the United States, gender, and ethnicity. Kingston has taken an anti-war stance in her personal life that has influenced her literary works. Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, and William Carlos Williams have influenced her in terms of literary styles and gender studies. She has received several awards for her work, including the National Book Award. For Kingston’s visit, Just Buffalo recommends reading The Woman Warrior. Kingston comes to Buffalo December 1.

Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American author. Danticat was born in Port-au-Prince and moved to Brooklyn at the age of 12. As a teenage immigrant, Danticat used literature as a way to find her own voice. She has written young adult novels, novels, and a memoir, and edited anthologies. She has received several literary awards and was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellows Program Genius grant in 2009. When writing about Haiti, she uses sumptuous detail to create a vivid image of place. She is actively involved in issues affecting Haitians and she has contributed to several documentaries about Haiti. For Danticat’s’s visit, Just Buffalo recommends reading Breath, Eyes, Memory. Danticat comes to Buffalo March 25, 2011.

Chris Abani is a Nigerian author who has written novels, plays, novellas, and poetry. The Nigerian government took his first novel, Masters of the Board, which was about a Neo-Nazi takeover of Nigeria, very seriously: He was imprisoned for six months. His involvement with a guerilla theatre group and writing a controversial play led him to be imprisoned two more times. He is currently a professor at University of California, Riverside and continues to write about his homeland. He has been awarded numerous literary awards such as the Guggenheim Fellow in Fiction in 2009. For Abani’s visit, Just Buffalo recommends reading Graceland. Abani comes to Buffalo April 15, 2011.

Each author’s visit is attended by affiliated talks and films. The first of these is Monday, October 4, at Betty’s Restaurant (370 Virginia Place) at 7pm, when there will be a group discussion of Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas. The evening includes snacks, wine, and coffee; it’s free for Just Buffalo members and Babel subscribers, $10 for anyone else. For more information and for tickets to babel, visit or call at 832-5400.

jill greenberg

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