Damned Funny: Faith, Fiction and the Hilarity of Hell

PEN Canada


About this event

John Irving and Randy Boyagoda are novelists who love to make us laugh, even as their fiction critiques serious, sensitive and, for some, even sacred matters. From God, faith and family to politics and sex, nothing seems to be off limits in their work. In this conversation, two literary friends—a believer and a nonbeliever—discuss how humour in fiction can challenge our cherished beliefs.

John Irving

John Irving’s first novel was published in 1968. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven. In 1980, Irving won a National Book Award for The World According to Garp. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules. In 2013, he won a Lambda Literary Award for his novel In One Person. An international writer, his books have been translated into almost forty languages. A Prayer for Owen Meany is his biggest bestseller, worldwide. A dual citizen of the United States and Canada, John Irving lives in Toronto. The Last Chairlift, his fifteenth novel, will be published in 2022.

Randy Boyagoda

Randy Boyagoda is a novelist and professor of English at the University of Toronto, where he also serves as Vice-Dean, Undergraduate in the Faculty of Arts and Science. He was President of PEN Canada from 2015-2017. He is the author of six books, including four novels, and his work has been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize, and named Globe and Mail Best Book and IMPAC New York Times Editor’s Choice selections. His latest novel, Dante’s Indiana, was published in Fall 2021. Born to Sri Lankan parents who immigrated to Canada in the 1960s, he lives in Toronto with his wife and four daughters.

Event Details

Start Date January 20, 2022
End DateJanuary 20, 2022
Time7:00pm - 8:00pm