European Writers’ Festival: Authors

EUROPEAN WRITERS’ FESTIVAL

“Transformation”

18-19 May 2024

British Library, London


SPECIAL GUEST

ANDREY KURKOV
Born near Leningrad, Andrey was a journalist, prison warder, cameraman and screenplay-writer before becoming a novelist. His novel Death and the Penguin became an international bestseller, translated into more than 30 languages. As well as writing fiction for adults and children, he is a prominent commentator and journalist on Ukraine for the international media. His work of reportage, Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev (2014) was followed by the novels The Bickford FuseGrey Bees, and Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv (longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023), and further non-fiction Diary of an Invasion (2022). As well as travelling the world to raise support for Ukraine, he lives in Kyiv with his British wife Elizabeth. They have 3 grown-up children.

FEATURED BOOK: The Silver Bone: the Kyiv Mysteries, first in a trilogy of historical mysteries set during the Russian Revolution, tr. Boris Dralyuk, MacLehose, 2024. Our Daily War, reportage, written in English, Open Borders Press, an imprint of Orenda Books, July 2024.


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIES (alphabetical, by country)

AUSTRIA – MILENA MICHIKO FLAŠAR

Japanese-Austrian writer based in Vienna, born in St. Pölten. Studying German and Romance language and comparative literature in Vienna and Berlin, Milena came to fame thanks to multiple national and international prize nominations, including winning the prestigious Austrian Alpha prize for literature and being longlisted for the German Book Prize for her novel I Called Him Necktie, a bestseller in Austria.

FEATURED BOOK: Mr Kato plays Family. Milena’s 4th novel, tr. Caroline Froh, Forge Books, 2023. Pensioner Mr. Kato contemplates life during his walks. Secretly adopting the role of “part-time relative” to those in need, Mr. Kato is profoundly changed by his experiences. 


BELGIUM/WBI – LAURENT DE SUTTER

Born in Brussels, Laurent is a public intellectual and philosopher, Professor of Legal Theory at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He is the author of more than 20 award-winning books, translated into a dozen languages, notably Narcocapitalism, How to get rid of yourself, and, After Law. He has been visiting researcher and professor at universities all over the world.

FEATURED BOOK: After Law. Tr. Barnaby Norman, Polity, 2021. Law is the most sacred fetish of our time. From radicals to conservatives, there is no militant, activist or thinker who would consider doing without it. But the history of our fascination with law is long and complex.


BULGARIA – JOANNA ELMY

Writer and journalist, with degrees in English and international relations. Joanna is among Bulgaria’s most prominent young literary voices. Her debut novel Born of Guilt received the prestigious Bulgarian national prize for emerging literature and was shortlisted for several other prizes. Joanna was recipient of the Per Aspera ad Astra scholarship for literature and is a fellow of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. Joanna is the first UCL European Writer in Residence 2024.

FEATURED BOOK: Born of Guilt. Tr. by the author with Angela Rodel, Faber, 2025. Contemporary history of Eastern Europe – totalitarian dictatorship, democratic transition and immigration Westward – through the fragmented stories of 3 female protagonists haunted by violence, addiction and the impossibility of finding a place to call home.


SPAIN/CATALONIA – JORDI LARIOS

Born in Palafrugell, Jordi is a poet, translator and Professor of Spanish Literature at the University of St Andrews, where he is a member of the Centre for Poetic Innovation. He was previously a lecturer at the universities of Cardiff and London, where he ran the Centre for Catalan Studies. He has translated Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Dorothy Parker, Anthony Powell and Robert Coover into Catalan. Since 1984 he has published 4 poetry collections.

FEATURED BOOK: On Yellow Evenings. Anthology of 100 poems, selected from Jordi’s previous collections, tr. Ronald Puppo, Fum d’Estampa Press, 2023.


CYPRUS – DEAN ATTA

Award-winning British author and poet of Greek Cypriot and Jamaican heritage whose works have received praise from Bernardine Evaristo, Malorie Blackman and Benjamin Zephaniah. His novel in verse, The Black Flamingo, about a Black gay teen finding his voice through poetry and drag performance, won the Stonewall Book Award and was shortlisted for numerous prestigious awards.

FEATURED BOOK: There is (still) love here. Written in English, Nine Arches Press, 2022. Poetry collection exploring acceptance, queer joy and the power of unapologetically being yourself and embracing who you are.


CZECH REPUBLIC – MICHAL AJVAZ

Author of 8 novels, the venerable Czech novelist, poet, essayist and translator with a penchant for magical realism and sci-fi, is widely published in many languages. He won the prestigious Jaroslav Seifert Prize (2005) for his novel Empty Streets (Prázdné ulice) and the Magnesia Litera Book of the Year (2012) for The Luxembourg Gardens (Lucemburská zahrada). In 2020 Michal Ajvaz received the State Prize for Literature for his outstanding body of work.

FEATURED BOOK: Journey to the South. Tr. Andrew Oakland, Dalkey Archive Press, 2023. In a small village on the coast of Crete, the narrator meets a young man who tells him about his journey from Prague to the Libyan Sea to uncover the mysterious deaths of two brothers.


DENMARK – KRISTIAN BANG FOSS

Graduating in mathematics and physics, also from the Danish Writer’s Academy, Kristian’s first novel The Window of the Fish (Fiskens vindue) was published in 2004 soon after graduating, impressing critics with its inventive language, dark humour and depiction of everyday strangeness. Followed in 2008 by The Storm in 99 (Stormen in 99), set in an ordinary workplace which becomes the location of some bizarre power games and absurd events. His next novel Death Drives an Audi (Døden kører Audi) won him the European Union Prize for literature and is his first novel translated into English. 

FEATURED BOOK: Death Drives an Audi. Tr. Caroline Waight, Parthian Books, 2021. Borrowing heavily from the traditional road movie idea, this absurdly humorous novel is a satire on the Danish welfare state, as its characters take a road trip through Europe to Morocco in search of a healer.


ESTONIA – Kristiina Ehin

Leading Estonian poet and short story writer; singer-songwriter-musician in the folk group Naised Köögis. She has 8 books of poetry In English translation, and has published 3 collections of short stories, and a book of Estonian folk tales. The Drums of Silence (Oleander, 2007) was awarded the Poetry Society Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation, and 1001 Winters (Bitter Oleander Press, 2012) was shortlisted for the Popescu Prize.

FEATURED BOOK: On The Edge of The Sword. Poetry, tr. Ilmar Lehtpere, Arc Publications, 2018. “Her work has truly haunted me; it has entered the deepest layer of my being with its rare combination of directness and subtle nuances, ancient traditions and modernity.” (Sujata Bhatt)


FAROES – JÓGVAN ISAKSEN

Both the pioneer and veteran of Faroese crime fiction, rapidly gaining an international recognition; also a publisher and esteemed literary historian and author of several non-fiction books about Faroese literature. Jógvan published his first crime novel in 1990 and has not stopped since. He is a household name in the Faroe Islands, a country of under 53,000 people and very little crime! He has written countless crime novels for adults and children, playing out against the rugged landscape and sea-swept coasts of the Faroes, many dramatised on TV. 

FEATURED BOOK: Dead Men Dancing. His most recent novel in English, in the series about investigative journalist Hannis Martinsson, tr. Marita Thomsen, Norvik Press, 2023.


FINLAND – PAJTIM STATOVCI

Born in Kosovo to Albanian parents, Pajtim’s family fled the Yugoslav wars and moved to Finland when he was two years old. He studied comparative literature at the University of Helsinki and published his first novel Kissani Jugoslavia in 2014, winning several prizes, translated in 2017 as My Cat Yugoslavia. It was staged at the Finnish National Theatre in Helsinki in 2018. His second novel Crossingwas a finalist for the US National Book Award, and his novel Bolla was awarded Finland’s highest literary honour, The Finlandia Prize. In 2018, he received the Helsinki Writer of the Year Award.

FEATURED BOOK: BollaNovel about war and the need for people to change. Tr. David Hackston, Faber, 2022.


FRANCE – ANNE BEREST

Writer, screenwriter, playwright and actress. In 2017, with her sister Claire Berest, Anne wrote a biography of their great-grandmother Gabrièle Buffet-Picabia, drawing long overdue attention to Gabrièle’s often overlooked life and influence in the art world, specifically within the Dada movement. This was followed by Anne’s first novel, based on a true story and years of research, La Carte Postale, nominated for the 2021 Prix Goncourt.

FEATURED BOOK: The Postcard. A fictional enquiry into Anne’s Jewish family history during World War Two, told through the eyes of Noémie Rabinovitch, a 19-old aspiring writer. Tr. Tina Cover, Europa Editions, 2023.


GERMANY – SASHA SALZMANN

Born in Volgograd in 1985, they grew up in Moscow and in 1995 emigrated to Germany with their family. Sasha studied literature, theatre and media at the University of Hildesheim and creative writing for the stage at the Berlin University of the Arts, and is now an award-winning playwright, essayist and curator. Sasha is the co-founder of the culture magazine freitext and was artistic director of STUDIO? (Best Experimental Stage of the Year, 2014). Their work has been translated, performed and awarded in over 20 countries.

FEATURED BOOK:  Glorious People. Tr. Imogen Taylor, Pushkin Press, 2024. A vivid depiction of how the collapse of the Soviet Union reverberated through the lives of ordinary people. Engrossing, unforgettable characters, a captivating love letter to mothers and daughters.


GREECE – CHRISTOS CHOMENDIS

Born in Athens and a law graduate, Christos’ first novel The Wise Kid (1993) was so successful with  readers and the critics that he turned to writing full time. In 30 years he has published 13 novels and 3 volumes of short stories. Several are translated. Christos writes a column for the Greek newspaper Ta Nea, collaborates on the economic-political website “Capital.gr” and is a national podcast host.

FEATURED BOOK: Niki. Novel, tr. Patricia Felisa Barbeito, Other Press, 2023. Greece’s turbulent modern history told through the life of one woman and her family. Awarded the Greek State Literature Prize in 2015 and the European Book Prize in 2021.


HUNGARY – ANDREA TOMPA

Hungarian writer born in Romania under Communism, she studied Russian literature in Budapest, worked as a theatre critic and editor, and today writes and lectures on performing arts. Andrea has published 4 novels. The Hangman’s House (Seagull Books), in Bernard Adam’s translation, was nominated for the 2022 Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize. She lives in Budapest.

FEATURED BOOK: Home. Tr. Jozefina Komporaly, Istros Books, 2024. Having taken the decision to emigrate, Tompa’s unnamed protagonist is caught between two worlds, navigating a journey from one homeland to another, confronting tough emotional revelations.


ITALY – IGIABA SCEGO

Somali Italian writer, cultural activist and academic, born in Rome to Somali parents who took refuge in Italy following a coup d’état in their native country, where her father was foreign minister. Igiaba holds a PhD in education on postcolonialism and has a special interest in migration. She has 3 books in English translation: Adua (2017), Beyond Babylon (2019), and The Colour Line (2020), winner of the Premio Napoli. She was longlisted for the 2023 Premio Strega, Italy’s Booker equivalent and her memoir, My Home is Where I Am, won the prestigious Mondello Prize.

FEATURED BOOK: The Colour Line. Tr. John Cullen and Gregory Conti, Small Axes, an imprint of HopeRoad, 2023. Historical novel inspired by the real lives of two free Black women, both trailblazing artists who lived and met in Rome: Edmonia Lewis and Sarah Parker Remond.


IRELAND – EMMA DABIRI

Irish-Nigerian author, academic and broadcaster, born in Dublin to an Irish mother and a Nigerian Yoruba father. Emma spent over a decade as a teaching fellow in the African department at SOAS. She is author of bestsellers Don’t Touch My Hair (2019), What White People Can Do Next (2021) and Disobedient Bodies (2023). She presents TV and radio, including ‘Journeys into Afro-futurism’ and ‘Britain’s Lost Masterpieces’ for the BBC, and the Cannes Silver Lion award-winning Hair Power for Channel 4. She is a columnist for The Guardian and Elle magazine.

FEATURED BOOK: What White People Can Do Next. Penguin, 2021. Emma argues that we need to talk about racial injustice in a different way: one that builds on the revolutionary ideas of the past and forges new connections. 


LATVIA – NORA IKSTENA

Latvia’s best-known contemporary author has published over 20 books – novels, short stories, essays and biographies – that explore complex themes round women’s lives, identity, history and social change. Highly decorated for her contributions to Latvian literature, Nora helped set up the Latvian Literature Centre and is a major force in literature and publishing in the Baltics. Her ground-breaking novel Soviet Milk, translated by Margita Gailitis, Peirene, 2018, now also a film, has earned Nora an international following.

FEATURED BOOK: A Day in Her Life. Short story, tr. Mara Rozitis, part of the Baltic Belles anthology, Dedalus, 2022.


LITHUANIA – TOMAS VAISETA

Writer, historian and associate professor at the History Faculty Vilnius University. His first collection of short stories The Sleep of Birds (Paukščių miegas) became a 2014 book of the year in Lithuania, as did his 2016 novel Orpheus: A Journey There and Back (Orfėjas, kelionė pirmyn ir atgal). His theatre-based novel, Ch. was selected for the European Union Prize for Literature in 2022. Vaiseta has also written two historical monographs: The Society of Boredom (Nuobodulio visuomenė, 2014) and Summerhouse (Vasarnamis, 2018).

FEATURED BOOK: The Sleep of Birds. Tr. Jeremy Hill, Strangers Press, 2023. Contemporary Gothic. “So it was that a happy historical coincidence came to be: sex came into my life after the fall of the Soviet Empire.”


LUXEMBOURG – LARISA FABER

Born in Romania, raised in Luxembourg and trained at the Drama Centre London, Larisa is an award-winning writer, director and actor. Her dark, surreal and irreverent plays, monologues and stories explore a wide range of political and social issues, such as ageism and elderly abuse in care homes, reproductive issues for women, and immigration. Reflecting on the fragile cohesion of Europe, she’s also been exploring the divisions over land and property ownership in Luxembourg, and the costs to the rural poor. Her short story in English, ‘One and Only Daughter’, is included in Les Cahiers Luxembourgeois, 2021.

FEATURED BOOK: 304x, her latest play, written in English: 3 parallel timelines of a man’s life and trauma, his past, present and future. From the anthology of contemporary Luxembourg playwrights, Hydre Editions, 2023.


NETHERLANDS – SIMONE ATANGANA BEKONO

Poet and novelist living in Amsterdam. Her first poetry collection in 2016, How the First Sparks Became Visible, won several prizes and was widely translated, into English in 2020. She travels widely with her poetry and performances. Her poetry alternates between confrontation and tenderness, showing how the personal can be simultaneously poetic and political. She’s written two novels, Confrontaties (Confrontations, 2021) and Zo Hoog Stond de Zon (The Sun Was This High In The Sky, 2022). She was 2023 writer in residence at UCL Dutch Studies.

FEATURED BOOK: Confrontations. Winner of several major Dutch prizes, tr. Suzanne Heukensfeldt Jansen, Serpent’s Tail, 2024.  Powerful depiction of racism and resilience, the story of Salomé, bullied for years, at the age of 16 she finally snaps. 


POLAND – MAŁGORZATA (MARGO) REJMER

Novelist, journalist and writer of short stories. Margo’s non-fiction Bucharest: Dust and Blood, won Newsweek’s best book of 2013 and the Gryfia Literary Award. In 2018 she was awarded the Polityka Passport for Mud Sweeter than Honey – the most prestigious prize in Poland for emerging artists. Her fiction includes the novel Toximia and a collection of short stories, The Weight of Skin, of which the title story has been translated for inclusion in the forthcoming Penguin Book of Polish Short Stories. Margo’s books have been widely translated. She lives in Warsaw and Tirana.

FEATURED BOOK: Mud Sweeter than Honey. Maclehose, 2021, co-translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Zosia Krasodomska-Jones. Gripping reportage of Albania under communism, told through personal accounts of those whose lives were blighted and crushed by ruthless dictator Enver Hoxha.


PORTUGAL – AFONSO CRUZ

Born in Figueira da Foz, Afonso is an all-round talent: author, illustrator, filmmaker and member of the band The Soaked Lamb, for whom he writes, sings and plays various instruments. He started off studying art and is known for his multidisciplinary approach – and for being exceptionally well-travelled! Amongst his 40 or so books he has published the novels The Books that Devoured my Father (tr. Margaret Jull Costa, Dedalus, 2020), and Kokoschka’s Doll, which won the European Union Prize for Literature.

FEATURED BOOK: Kokoschka’s Doll. Tr. by Rahul Bery, MacLehose 2021. The story of two Dresden families, fractured and displaced by the 1945 Dresden bombing, their fates intertwined and bound to that of a life-sized doll belonging to artist Oskar Kokoschka.


ROMANIA – IOANA PÂRVULESCU

Popular and distinguished literary voice in Romania; an academic, publisher, editor, translator, historical novelist and children’s author. Championed by Istros Books, Ioana is well known in English for her warmth, humour, lyricism and intriguing narratives. Born in Brașov (a city she often writes about), she studied literature at the University of Bucharest, where she is today Professor and teacher of modern literature. She has also translated from French and German: Rainer Maria Rilke, Milan Kundera, Saint-Exupéry and Asterix by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, amongst others.

FEATURED BOOK: Jonah and his Daughter. Tr. Alistair Ian Blyth, Istros Books, 2024. Drawing on the Biblical story of Jonah, this is novel about fathers and clever daughters, about love and our desire to find purpose in life.


SCOTLAND – ALYCIA PIRMOHAMED

Canadian-born poet living in Scotland. Alycia has published two poetry pamphlets, Faces that Fled the Wind and Hinge, won multiple awards, including the CBC Literary Prize for poetry in 2019 and the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award in 2020. She is co-founder with Jay Gao of the Scottish BAME Writers Network (SBWN), “an advocacy and professional development group for writers who identify as BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic), mixed-race or POC (people of colour) with a connection to Scotland”.

FEATURED BOOK: Another Way to Split Water. Alycia’s first full poetry collection, written in English publ. Birlinn Ltd, 2022. An homage to family and the natural world. How identity reforms and transforms throughout generations, through stories told and retold, imagined and reimagined.


SLOVAKIA – ZUSKA KEPPLOVÁ

Journalist, commentator, performer, writer of plays, short stories and novellas. From Bratislava, where she studied dramaturgy and screenwriting, Zuska later got her PhD in cultural and gender studies from the Central European University in Budapest. In 2005 she won first prize in a short-story competition and made her name in 2011 with The Moon in Foil (Buchty švabachom), followed by two novellas, 57 km from Tashkent (57 km od Taškentu, 2013), and Reflux (2015).

FEATURED BOOK: The Moon in Foil. Tr. Magdalena Mullek, Seagull, 2023. Novel formed of linked stories, based in Paris, London, Helsinki and Budapest, describing a Europe undergoing intense change and reshaping itself through migration. More of an emotional travel guide than a geographic one, the characters think of home with longing and nostalgia.


SLOVENIA – SEBASTIJAN PREGELJ

Born in Ljubljana, studied history, lives and works in Ljubljana today. A prolific writer, he made a name for himself initially with short stories, then novels and books for children. Sebastijan has been nominated 5 times for Best Novel of the Year Award (the Kresnik), thanks to a compelling combination of history, legend and modern-day reality, sprinkled with the magical, spiritual and mystical. His novels in English are A Chronicle of Forgetting (Kronika pozabljanja, 2014), longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, and In Elvis’s Room (V Elvisovi sobi, 2019).

FEATURED BOOK: In Elvis’s Room. Tr. Rawley Grau, Sandorf Passage, 2023. A generation grows up during the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. Emotionally charged history, related unsparingly, in all its beauty and horror, as the characters share memories of a country that no longer exists and learn how to carry that immense burden.


SPAIN – ELISA VICTORIA

Born in Seville, Elisa studied Philosophy and Education. She has published two books of short stories, Porn & Pains in 2013, and La sombra de los pinos in 2018, and contributed to several anthologies. Her debut novel, oldladyvoice, was published in Spanish in 2019 to great critical acclaim. Her latest works are the novel The Gospel (El Evangelio), and The Hinge (El quicio), an illustrated book in collaboration with the artist Mireia Pérez, both published in 2021.

FEATURED BOOK: oldladyvoice. Tr. Charlotte Whittle, And Other Stories, 2021. Marina is an anxious but bubbly 9-year-old facing numerous challenges in 1990s Spain. “An unsettling picture of the millennium’s end.” (The Guardian)


SWEDENTONE SCHUNNESSON

Born in Malmö, Tone studied Creative Writing and writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her first novel Trip Reports was published in 2016, hailed by critics as “delightfully rebellious”, “hilarious” and “hard-boiled”. Her first non-fiction book, Tone: Round-Trip Ticket (2022), is a collection of political gonzo essays. Since 2020 she has been a regular cultural columnist on the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.

FEATURED BOOK: Days & Days & Days. Tone’s second novel, tr. Saskia Vogel, Héloïse Press, 2023. Shortlisted for the EU Prize for Literature and for the Sveriges Radio Prize for Best Swedish Novel 2021. Darkly-comic account of a reality TV star called Bibbs reaching the age of 39 and watching her life begin to crumble around her. Funny, witty, sad and uncomfortable.


TURKEY – SELÇUK ALTUN

Writer, publisher, bibliophile and former bank director. He started Yapı Kredi Publications in 1994, amassing a personal library of 9,000 volumes, publishing, amongst others, Louise Gluck and John Ashbery. Since 2004 Selçuk has been writing full-time: “My goal was to write a book by the age of 50…so I read some 4,000 books before I sat down to write. That, more than anything, gave me the confidence I needed.” His first novel Loneliness Comes from the Road You Go Down (Yalnızlık Gittiğin Yoldan Gelir) was published in 2001 and followed by 4 more novels (3 are in English), a book of essays and a monthly books column in the Cumhuriyet newspaper.

FEATURED BOOK: Farewell Fountain Street. Literary thriller set in Istanbul, tr. Nilgun Dungun and Mel Kenne, Telegram Books, 2022. Ziya Bey has 6 months left to live. From his mansion on Farewell Fountain Street, the Ottoman aristocrat plans to tie up some questionable business affairs and say goodbye to the people he loves.


UKRAINE – IRYNA SHUVALOVA

Poet, academic and translator from Kyiv, currently based in Oslo. Iryna has given powerful voice to the experience of war in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion, especially from the point of view of Ukrainians who find themselves in exile during this devastating period. She is the author of 5 award-winning volumes of poetry, including her latest collection Stoneorchardwoods (2020) and Pray to the Empty Wells (2019). In 2009, she co-edited the first anthology of queer writing in Ukraine. Her work has been translated into 25 languages and published internationally.

FEATURED BOOK: Pray to the Empty Wells. Tr. Olena Jennings, Lost Horse Press, 2024. Her first collection in English. Deeply rooted in Ukraine’s folk culture, her poetry re-mixes traditional spirituality with eroticism and an acute awareness of the natural environment. 

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