Eliot Weinberger Visits the Nonfiction Writing Program

Oct 30, 2014

The University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program will host a reading by acclaimed writer Eliot Weinberger this Thursday, October 31 at 7:00 pm in Prairie Lights Books.


The author of seventeen books and the translator of twenty others, Weinberger is described by John D’Agata, Director of the Nonfiction Writing Program, as a writer who brings a fresh approach to nonfiction, combining far-reaching curiosity with fearless experimentation.


“He is one of our country’s greatest living essayists,” D’Agata says.  “His essays are rapturously hallucinatory, as well as beautifully outraged. They get at what makes us human, what makes us stupid, and what makes us still tremble in wonder at a time when the world seems to have convinced itself that it knows enough already. I think Eliot Weinberger is one of our very best exports of American nonfiction.”


Larry Yipl, a graduate student in the Nonfiction Writing Program, says that “Whenever I need to renew my faith in nonfiction’s possibilities, I read Elliot Weinberger.  His essays not only remind me about what this form of writing can do, but also about the imaginative ways an essayist is able to listen to the music of facts.”


Beatrice Smigasiewicz, a graduate student from Poland who studies in both the Nonfiction Writing Program as well as the Translation Workshop, says that “so many of Weinberger's essays appear abroad before they are published at home, which shows how restrictive our definition of an essay is in the U.S.—and how refreshing it is to read an essayist like Weinberger, who reaches outside of the American tradition to search for new forms.”


Weinberger is best-known in the U.S. for What I Heard About Iraq, a book-length indictment of the war in Iraq that has since been re-posted on over 100,000 websites.  It was described by The New York Times as “an irrefutable case against the war,” and has subsequently been adapted into an award-winning play, a radio documentary, a piano concerto, a dance performance, and fifteen different art installations.


“The folly, mendacity and vicious stupidity of the war is brought chillingly home in this book,” The Guardian newspaper wrote.  “Every war has its own anti-war book, and here is Iraq’s.”


Weinberger is also an internationally acclaimed translator who has worked with some of the most revered writers in world literature, among them the exiled Chinese writer Bei Dao, the legendary Argentine novelist Jorge Louis Borges, and Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz, for whom Weinberger translated ten books into English.


Christopher Merrill, Director of the International Writing Program, which is co-sponsoring Weinberger’s visit, adds “Eliot Weinberger is one of the most innovative, intelligent, and important writers of our age—a true American original.  It’s a treat to have him visit the City of Literature.”

Among Weinberger’s many awards is the PEN/Kolovakas Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Mexican government’s Order of the Aztec Eagle, of which Weinberger is the only non-Mexican recipient.


Weinberger’s reading is free and open to the public.  His visit is being sponsored by the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, the Spanish MFA Writing Program, the Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the International Writing Program, the Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Provost’s Office, and Prairie Lights Books.