In 2001 Cornell's Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy (CRESP) joined the International Parliament of Writers and the Ithaca City of Asylum Project to support the arrival in Ithaca of Yi Ping, exiled Chinese poet, essayist and playwright. Earlier this year, Reza Daneshvar, an Iranian-born writer, became the Ithaca City of Asylum's second resident writer.
On Sunday, Sept. 26, a premiere of the first-ever English translations of Daneshvar's play Sandwich Deluxe will be given at 3 p.m. in the Unitarian Church in downtown Ithaca. The staged reading is part of a larger celebration titled "Voices of Freedom," in observance of Banned Books Week (Sept. 25 through Oct. 2), and it is free and open to the public.
The event will include performances by the Cornell Middle Eastern Music Ensemble and readings of original poetry by Sasha Skenderija, Cornell law library research technology coordinator. Gail Holst-Warhaft, director of the Mediterranean Initiative in Cornell's Institute for European Studies, will present her translations of the poems of Mikis Theodorakis.
The reading of Daneshvar's one-act play Sandwich Deluxe will be performed by Bruce Levitt, Cornell professor of theater, film and dance; Greg Bostwick of Ithaca College's theater faculty; and Craig McDonald of Syracuse University.
In addition to the performance of Sandwich Deluxe, a comedy, copies of Daneshvar's short story Mahboobeh and Ahl (Vista Periodista, Ithaca, 2004) will be on sale. The story, also a first English translation, is a present-day allegory about an Iranian woman and the demon that haunts her.
Born in Machad, Iran, in 1948, Daneshvar studied Persian literature at Tehran University and later taught theater. After censorship, arrest and imprisonment, he fled post-revolutionary Iran in 1982, settling in Paris. Daneshvar is the author of seven plays; four novels, including Khosro-e Khoban (published in France as Le Brave des Braves); and three short story collections, including Mahboubeh el Al, (published in France as Les Jardins de Solitude).
The Cornell Middle Eastern Music Ensemble was founded in 2001 and became part of the curriculum in the Departments of Music and Near Eastern Studies in 2002. The group is composed of Cornell students, faculty and members of the Ithaca community.
Skenderija, who was born in Bosnia, began publishing prose, poetry and criticism in Yugoslav literary journals in the late 1980s. After surviving six months during the siege of Sarajevo, he fled to Zagreb in 1992 and then to Prague. In 1999, with the help of Wayles Brown, Cornell associate professor of linguistics, Skenderija and his family moved to Ithaca. English translations of his poems have been included in the anthologies Scar on the Stone and Balkan Vision. His latest collection of poetry, Zashto je patuljak morao biti ustrijeljen (Why The Dwarf Had To Be Shot), is being published this month.
The Ithaca City of Asylum is part of a worldwide network that supports writers in exile whose works are repressed and whose lives are threatened. This network is maintained by the International Parliament of Writers, a group based in Paris. Ithaca is the 27th City of Asylum worldwide and the second in the United States (the other is Las Vegas, Nev.).