Launch of first EUROPEAN WRITERS’ FESTIVAL at the BRITISH LIBRARY in partnership with EUNIC LONDON and the EUROPEAN LITERATURE NETWORK
On 20th – 21st May, almost 30 authors and poets, each representing one European country or territory, will come together at the British Library for a remarkable celebration of the best European poetry and prose translated into English.
Writers including the TS Eliot shortlisted, British-born Cypriot poet Anthony Anaxagorou, bestselling Czech author and playwright Kateřina Tučková, award-winning Scottish journalist Chitra Ramaswamy, Brazilian-born Hungarian novelist Zsófia Bán, Bulgarian poet and novelist Georgi Gospodinov and Ingeborg-Bachmann-Prize-winning Austrian novelist Raphaela Edelbauer will join six unique panel discussions, addressing subjects including history, war, translation and storytelling. The festival will provide a chance to ensure that the cultural networks and exchanges between Britain and Europe continue to thrive. Each panel will be followed by a book signing with South Kensington Books, and readings and performances from the participating authors.
Organised by the European Union National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC) London in partnership with the European Literature Network and the British Library, and with the support of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Kingdom and the European Parliament Liaison Office in the United Kingdom, the European Writers’ Festival is curated by former BBC journalist Rosie Goldsmith, director of the European Literature Network and Editor-in-Chief of the Riveter magazines.
Saturday opens with a panel on the topic of Stories from the New Europe, discussing how the preoccupations of European literature have changed in the last 30 years. It will be followed by Stories of Freedom, a panel about the reality of fighting for freedom of expression; and Writing About War, exploring what how literature can help us make sense of conflict with a panel of authors including award-winning Ukrainian author Olena Stiazhkina.
Sunday begins with Writing About History, discussing the best of historical writing – from pure escapism into the past, to teaching valuable lessons for the future. In the afternoon, Stories of Language and Translation will explore different approaches to language, dialect and translation. Finally, the festival will end on an optimistic note with Looking Forward: European Odes to Joy,focussing on how the best of art and culture can create hope, happiness and a valuable sense of community.
The panels will be chaired by Rosie Goldsmith, festival curator and journalist; Tahmima Anam, author of The Startup Wife; BBC Radio 4 Open Book presenter Chris Power; journalist Claire Armitstead; writer and translator Daniel Hahn; and the British Library’s Bee Rowlatt.
Mathias Rambaud, Attaché for Books and Ideas, Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, and co-president of EUNIC London said:
“We, at EUNIC London, advocate a prominent role of culture in international relations. In a post-Brexit context, it seems even more important to create the conditions for a new cultural dialogue crossing European and British perspectives in the UK. Therefore, we are very proud to bring 29 writers from all over Europe to meet their British audience for engaging discussions on current topics. We hope to attract all the curious minds of a rich and diverse literature in a true spirit of multicultural exchange and to strengthen the place of translated literature in the UK publishing market. Long live the European Writers’ Festival!”
Rosie Goldsmith, Artistic Director of the European Literature Network, said:
“The European Writers’ Festival is both personally and professionally a dream come true. For this very first EWF to be held at such an important venue as the British Library, to be supported by the leading European arts umbrella, EUNIC London, and, for us to be hosting so many great writers from all over Europe makes my heart soar. This is just the festival we need after the isolation of Covid and Brexit, and I can’t wait for us all to gather together to discuss literature, translation and ideas; to foster new relations with the European mainland and to nourish older ones. Ever since my first job, at the BBC in 1989, reporting on the fall of the Berlin Wall for its new European current affairs programme, Eurofile, I’ve been motivated by nurturing UK-European relations. I chaired the annual European Literature Night for nearly a decade at the British Library, I founded the European Literature Network and Riveter magazines to promote European literature and languages in the UK, and now we are holding the first European Writers’ Festival – so you can imagine how incredibly thrilled and proud I am.”
Bee Rowlatt, Cultural Events Producer at the British Library, said:
“We are thrilled to be hosting this ambitious festival at the British Library as one of our core purposes is to work with partners around the world to advance knowledge and mutual understanding. The Library is custodian of an extensive collection of material from continental Europe and this is a great opportunity to showcase and develop these collections, making them more accessible to everyone. Do not miss out!”
The programme can be found here and tickets will go on sale on 9th March.
About EUNIC London
EUNIC London (European Union National Institutes for Culture) is the network of the cultural institutes and embassies from the member states of the European Union in London. A branch of EUNIC Global, the London network was established in 2007 and has at present 34 members who share knowledge and resources in order to promote greater cooperation and develop partnerships between European nations and UK organisations. EUNIC London is a proud initiator, organiser and supporter of creative projects highlighting Europe’s fantastic diversity in arts, culture and language.
EUNIC London is grateful for the support of the Delegation of the European Union to the UK, the European Parliament Liaison Office to the UK and our UK partners.
About the European Literature Network
The European Literature Network was created with the mission of championing great writing from Europe in the UK – and doing it together. Open to writers, translators, publishers, agents, booksellers, festival directors, arts managers and journalists, ELNet is a free, collaborative hub for sharing news and views. Founded in 2010 by former BBC journalist Rosie (‘The Riveter’) Goldsmith, ELNet spreads the word about European literature and translation on its website and through the Riveter magazines, Riveting Interview podcasts, #RivetingReviews, workshops, events and festivals. ELNet operates without funding or grants (unfortunately) and is therefore dependent on the passion, professionalism and dedication of the core ELNet team and on an extensive network of volunteers, supporters, partners and donors. ELNet is both an online and physical gathering place for sharing content and discussion, with the goal of encouraging the promotion, professionalism and popularity of European literature in the UK.
About the British Library
We are the national library of the UK and we are here for everyone. Our shelves hold over 170 million items – a living collection that gets bigger every day. Although our roots extend back centuries, we aim to collect everything published in the UK today, tomorrow and far into the future. Our trusted experts care for this collection and open it up for everyone to spark new discoveries, ideas and to help people do incredible things.
We have millions of books, and much more besides. Our London and Yorkshire sites hold collections ranging from newspapers and maps to sound recordings, patents, academic journals, as well as a copy of every UK domain website and blog. Our public spaces are a place to research, to meet friends, to start up a new business or simply to get inspired by visiting our galleries and events. We work with partners and libraries across the UK and the world to make sure that as many people as possible have the chance to use and explore our collections, events and expertise. And we’re always open online, along with more and more of our digitised collection.
ROSIE GOLDSMITH is Founder and Director of the European Literature Network and Editor-in-Chief of The Riveter magazine. A BBC broadcaster for twenty years, today an arts journalist and presenter, she was chair of the judges for the EBRD Literature Prize 2018-2020 and host of the British Library’s European Literature Night 2009-2017.
TAHMIMA ANAM is a novelist and columnist. Her first novel, A Golden Age, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and was followed by The Good Muslim, The Bones of Grace, and The Startup Wife, widely voted Best Book of 2021. She was named one of Granta’s best young British novelists and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
CLAIRE ARMITSTEAD is an associate editor at the Guardian newspaper. She writes across culture and is a member of the Leader writing team. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the editor of Tales of Two Londons: Stories from a Fractured City.
DANIEL HAHN is a writer, editor and translator with ninety-something books to his name. Recent books include translations of Brazilian short stories, a Guatemalan novel and a French picture-book, as well as Catching Fire, a translation diary.
CHRIS POWER is the author of a short story collection, Mothers, and the novel A Lonely Man. His criticism has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Sunday Times and the LRB, and he is a presenter of Open Book on BBC Radio 4.
BEE ROWLATT is a writer, and producer of cultural events at the British Library. In Search of Mary won the Society of Authors’ K Blundell Trust award and was the Independent’s biography of the year. Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad was dramatised by the BBC. Bee clocked over two decades at BBC World Service.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIES (alphabetical, by country)
RAPHAELA EDELBAUER – AUSTRIA is a novelist, playwright and essayist living in Vienna. Her five published books have won several prizes, including the prestigious Ingeborg-Bachmann-Prize. Her novel The Liquid Land (Scribe, 2019) was shortlisted for the German Book Prize, longlisted for the Austrian Book Prize and published in English, translated by Jen Calleja. Her second novel Dave (2021) won the Austrian book prize.
CHARLOTTE VAN DEN BROECK – BELGIUM/FLANDERS is a poet and writer with two prize winning collections of poetry to her name: Chameleon (2015) and Nachtroer (2017) – both also in English, translated by David Colmer (Bloodaxe Books, 2020). She is known for her distinctive performances – also in English – in which she searches for a dramatic approach to the ‘speakability’ and physicality of oral poetry. In 2019 she published her prose debut Bold Ventures.
CAROLINE LAMARCHE – BELGIUM/WBI is from Liège, a novelist, poet, scriptwriter and author of radio dramas. She taught Romance Languages in France and Nigeria. She is the author of eleven novels and six collections of short stories, including Nous sommes à la lisière (2019), which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt de la nouvelle. The Memory of the Air, published in English in 2022 (Héloïse Press), translated by Katherine Gregor, is a ground-breaking work of feminism.
GEORGI GOSPODINOV – BULGARIA is a poet, writer of novels and short stories, and a playwright, one of the foremost European writers of our day. Time Shelter, translated by Angela Rodel (W&N 2022) is his third novel about a clinic that helps stop time. His first book of poetry, Lapidarium (1992), won Bulgaria’s National Debut Prize. He became internationally known with Natural Novel (2005) followed by The Physics of Sorrow (2012). His tireless experiments with different genres include the libretto for Space Opera (2015), the graphic novel The Eternal Fly and a collection of essays The Invisible Crises.
NÚRIA BENDICHO– SPAIN/CATALONIA is from Barcelona and has a degree in Philosophy. Largely self-taught, she spent her youth travelling and reading in libraries. Terres mortes, her first novel, published originally in Catalan in 2021, was translated as Dead Lands (3TimesRebel, 2022) by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent.
ANTHONY ANAXAGOROU – CYPRUS is a British-born Cypriot poet, fiction writer, essayist, publisher and poetry educator. His second collection After the Formalities was shortlisted for the 2019 TS Eliot Prize. In 2020 he published How To Write It; a practical guide to the politics of writing as well as the craft of poetry and fiction. His 2022 poetry collection Heritage Aesthetics (Granta Poetry) draws on his family’s migratory histories between Cyprus and the UK to interrogate patriarchy, xenophobia and national divides.
KATEŘINA TUČKOVÁ – CZECH REPUBLIC is a leading prose writer, playwright and art historian, winner of several major Czech prizes, from the Magnesia Litera Award and the Bestseller Award. In 2017, she was also awarded the Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Award by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. Her bestselling novel of witches and family history, The Last Goddess (Amazon Crossing), was published in English in 2022, translated by Andrew Oakland.
HARALD VOETMANN – DENMARK has written novels, short stories, poetry, and a monograph on the Roman poet Sulpicia. He also translates classical Latin literature, notably Petronius and Juvenal. Awake (Lolli Editions, 2022), translated by Johanne Sorgenfri Ottosen, is the first in his series of three historical novels: the second centres on the sixteenth-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, and the final book introduces the eleventh-century German mystic Othlo of St. Emmeram.
KAI AARELEID – ESTONIA is a short story writer, poet, translator and novelist. She made her debut in 2011 with the novel Vene veri (Russian Blood), about the wife of a diplomat stationed in St. Petersburg, interwoven with the history of Kai’s own ancestors. Kai has also translated into Estonian works by (i.a) Bruce Chatwin, Paulo Coelho and Roberto Bolaño. Her novel, Burning Cities, in English translation by Adam Cullen (Peter Owen, 2018), tells the story of a family living in the battle-scarred southern Estonian town of Tartu shortly after World War II.
EMMI ITÄRANTA – FINLAND writes fiction in Finnish and English. She lived many years in the UK before relocating back to Finland in 2021. Her novels have been characterised as lyrical dystopias with strong ecological undercurrents. Her award-winning debut novel Memory of Water (2014) was widely translated and is being made into a film. Itäranta has also published two other novels, The City of Woven Streets (2016) and The Moonday Letters (Titan Books, 2020).
OLIVIER GUEZ – FRANCE is the author of novels and essays translated into over thirty languages. His non-fiction novel The Disappearance of Josef Mengele (Verso, 2023) translated into English by Georgia de Chamberet, was the recipient of the 2017 Prix Renaudot. It has been translated worldwide and is currently adapted for the screen. Guez also co-authored the screenplay der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer (Fritz Bauer, a German Hero), which won the 2016 German Oscar for best script.
MITHU SANYAL – GERMANY is a novelist, academic and journalist. Born in Dusseldorf of an Indian mother and Polish father, she studied German and English literature. She writes on feminism, racism, post-colonialism and identity politics for a wide variety of media. Her books include a cultural history of the Vulva, and, Rape – from Lucrezia to #metoo. Her debut novel Identitti (2021) – “darkly comedic and linguistically inventive” – was shortlisted for the German Book Award and published in English in 2022 (V&Q Books), translated by Alta L Price. She has just finished a book on Emily Brontë.
ELIAS MAGLINIS – GREECE is a journalist and novelist living in Athens. Born in Kinshasa, PRC, to Greek parents, he grew up in Glyfada and studied in England and Scotland. He published his first novel Body by Body in 2005. His 2013 novel The Interrogation (University of Birmingham), was translated by Patricia Felisa into English and made into a film. The non-fiction novel, I am what I have forgotten, a True Story (2019), was awarded the Greek National Prize for Fiction and the Public Booksellers Award. For over 20 years he’s been a writer and editor at the Kathimerini newspaper.
ZSÓFIA BÁN – HUNGARY was born in Rio de Janeiro and grew up in Brazil and Hungary. A writer, essayist, and critic of art and literature, she made her fiction debut in 2007 with Esti iskola (Night School: A Reader for Adults), followed by Amikor még csak az állatok éltek translated by Paul Olchváry (When There Were Only Animals, Dalkey Archive Press, 2012). Her short stories have been widely anthologized and translated. She lives and works in Budapest, where she is Associate Professor at Eötvös Loránd University, Department of American Studies.
UBAH CRISTINA ALI FARAH – ITALY is a poet and fiction writer, born in Verona to a Somali father and an Italian mother. She grew up in Mogadishu, but when civil war broke out in 1991, fled to Hungary and then back to Italy. She has published stories and poems in Italian in several anthologies and three novels, including Il comandante del fiume (2014; The Commander of the River, forthcoming in English, translated by Hope Campbell Gustafson for Indiana University Press). She travels widely and was a resident on the famous University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.
JAN CARSON – IRELAND Jan Carson is a writer and community arts facilitator based in Belfast. Her first novel, Malcolm Orange Disappears, was published in 2014 to critical acclaim, followed by a short-story collection, Children’s Children (2016), and two flash fiction anthologies, Postcard Stories (2017) and Postcard Stories 2 (2020). Her second novel, The Fire Starters (2019), won the EU Prize for Literature and was shortlisted for the Dalkey Novel of the Year Award. Her novel The Raptures (Doubleday, 2022) won the EU Prize for Literature. She specializes in running arts projects and events with older people, especially those living with dementia.
RAIBĪS (OSKARS ORLOVS) – LATVIA is a Latgalian poet, playwright and musician. Latgalian is a Baltic language spoken by 150,000 – 200,000 people mainly in eastern Latvia. Latgalian is attracting growing attention, not only in Latvia but also in translation. Raibīs’s poetry is published in The Last Model (Francis Boutle Publishers), translated into English by the versatile and multi-lingual translator of Baltic languages, Jayde Will.
JURGA VILĖ AND LINA ITAGAKI – LITHUANIA. From Lithuania we have a fabulous double act, the author and illustrator of the prize-winning graphic novel, Siberian Haiku (SelfMadeHero, 2020). This powerful book of exile and war, told through the eyes of a child is based on the true story of the author’s father and the horrific Soviet deportations from Lithuania in 1941. In English translation by Jura Avizienis, the sensitive texts by Jurga Vilé, and beautiful artwork of Lina Itagaki – two established and revered Lithuanian storytellers – make this an unforgettable book.
NACHOEM M. WIJNBERG – NETHERLANDS was born in Amsterdam. As well as being Professor of Business Studies, he’s written five novels and twenty poetry collections. He is one of the most inventive and thought-provoking poets writing today. His 2022 collection published by the New York Review of Books, consists of a new selection of poems (many translated by David Colmer) drawing on all twenty volumes to date, creating the perfect introduction to this wry, spellbinding modern master.
VIGDIS HJORTH – NORWAY has enjoyed a prolific and successful literary career writing award-winning books for both children and adults. She one of Norway’s most interesting and important contemporary writers. Four of her psychologically penetrating ‘family novels’ have been translated into English by Charlotte Barslund, including Will and Testament (2019) and, most recently, the brilliant Is Mother Dead (Verso, 2022).
WITOLD SZABŁOWSKI – POLAND is an award-winning journalist and non-fiction writer living in Warsaw. He was the youngest reporter on Gazeta Wyborcza, covering stories from Cuba to South Africa and Iceland. His features on illegal immigrants flocking to the EU won the European Parliament Journalism Prize; his reportage on the 1943 massacre of Poles in Ukraine won the Polish Press Agency’s Ryszard Kapuściński Award; and his book about Turkey, The Assassin from Apricot City, won an English PEN award. How to Feed a Dictator, Through the Eyes of Their Cooks (Icon Books, 2022), is his latest book; extracts translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.
JOSÉ LUÍS PEIXOTO – PORTUGAL is an acclaimed writer of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s literature, awarded, amongst others, the José Saramago Literary Award. Translated into 30 languages, he’s been shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and Femina Prize. The Piano Cemetery (Bloomsbury Paperbacks, 2011), translated by Daniel Hahn, is an extraordinary story of two generations in a Lisbon family of carpenters and of a father’s attempt to outrun his fate at the Stockholm Olympics in 1908.
ANA BLANDIANA – ROMANIA is a legendary figure in Romania, comparable to Anna Akhmatova and Vaclav Havel in Russian and Czech literature. She has published 17 books of poetry, 2 of short stories, 11 books of essays and one novel. She was co-founder and President of the Civic Alliance from 1990, fighting for freedom and democratic change. She re-founded and became President of Romanian PEN, and in 1993, created the Memorial for the Victims of Communism. She is widely published in English; translations for us by Paul Scott Derrick and Viorica Patea.
CHITRA RAMASWAMY – SCOTLAND is an award-winning journalist and author. Her latest book, Homelands: The History of a Friendship, published in April 2022 (Canongate Books), explores her friendship with a 98-year-old German Jewish refugee called Henry Wuga. Her first book, Expecting: The Inner Life of Pregnancy (2016) won the Saltire First Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Polari Prize. She broadcasts and writes journalism and is the restaurant critic for The Times Scotland.
MONIKA KOMPANÍKOVÁ – SLOVAKIA studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Bratislava and is an incredibly versatile writer, excelling at short stories, children’s books and rock lyrics. Her novel Boat Number Five, translated by Janet Livingstone, was published in English in 2021 (Seagull), shortlisted for the 2022 EBRD literature prize. It tells the story of a lonely little girl, Jarka, who, feeling abandoned by her mother, wanders around the neighbourhood, steals a set of six-month old twins, and, with the runaway boy, Christian, creates her new “family”.
ANA SCHNABL – SLOVENIA is a writer, translator and editor for several Slovenian literary journals. She helped launch the pan-European poetry magazine Versopolis Review. In 2017, her short story collection Razvezani (Disentangling) won Best Debut at the Slovenian Book Fair and her second novel, The Masterpiece, a love story and political thriller, was translated into English by David Limon (Istros Books, 2021). She has translated Donna Tartt and Daisy Johnson into Slovenian.
ELENA MEDEL – SPAIN lives in Madrid and is a writer of poetry, essays, a children’s book and novels, founder of the poetry publishing house La Bella Varsovia. Medel published her prize-winning first collection of poetry, My First Bikini, when she was sixteen. She became the first woman to win the prestigious Francisco Umbral Prize, for her debut novel The Wonders (2020), a ‘poetic portrait of Spanish womanhood’, translated into English by Lizzie Davis and Thomas Bunstead (Pushkin Press, 2022).
DEFNE SUMAN – TURKEY was born in Istanbul, and has travelled the world, teaching, studying and writing in Thailand, Laos, the USA and today Athens. The Silence of Scheherazade was first published in Turkey and Greece in 2016, and in English in 2021, translated by Betsy Göksel (Head of Zeus). Told through the intertwining fates of a Levantine, Greek, Turkish and Armenian family, set in the Aegean city of Smyrna, it’s a novel about a city and culture lost to time.
OLENA STIAZHKINA – UKRAINE is an historian and award-winning writer and journalist. Her fiction includes short stories, novels, and detective stories. She was a professor of Slavic history at Donetsk National University until the Russian occupation of 2014. Writing in Russian up to then, she began writing in Ukrainian. Her books include Ukraine, War, Love: A Donetsk Diary, and the novels, Cecil the Lion’s Death Made Sense (forthcoming in English), and In God’s Language (English by Uilleam Blacker, Apofenie), both depicting life in occupied Donetsk and the terrible choices people face.