Jhumpa Lahiri on PEN’s World Voices. Interview by Suzanne Dottino, KGBBarLit. SD: One of PEN’s principle missions is to defend free expression, something that’s not only relevant but also crucial in today’s global state of affairs. “Faith and Reason” is a provocative theme for PEN International New Voices Festival. What’s to be learned in its exploration and perhaps more practically speaking, what impact can writers truly have to make inroads in cultures where free speech has never been valued? What can literature do to ensure that that freedom isn’t eroded in others?
JL: The fundamental impact any writer can have on the world is to write honestly and well. And in order to aspire to write in such a way, the writer must be able to express himself or herself in an absolutely uncensored, unhindered environment, and to obey no authority other than what the work demands. This is true in any culture, and for all literary traditions.