Talks & Topics
Talks & debates

World on the Brink: What Can Words Do?

Part of World on the Brink

What role can words, stories and poetry have in seeing us through uncertain times?

From the fate of the natural world to seismic shifts in politics, our collective future appears to hang in the balance.

Leading authors from the Nordic region and Britain talk about what words can do to change the world, including Jonas Hassen Khemiri and Kamila Shamsie.

Is literature a diverting sideshow, or is language and the way we use it – from the mouths of the most powerful to the marginalised – central to preserving a shared sense of humanity?

Hear conversation on these themes and more with the following speakers:

- Jonas Hassen Khemiri is one of the most distinctive authors to emerge from Sweden in recent times. Since his debut in Sweden, Khermiri’s witty and imaginative prose has seen him reach beyond a traditional literary readership, while simultaneously winning critical acclaim and awards, including the prestigious PO Enquist Literary Prize, Borås Tidning Award for Best Literary Debut Novel and the August Award, the highest literary prize in Sweden.

His most recently translated novel Everything I Don’t Remember, was selected by Joyce Carol Oates as a 2016 Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year, and follows a narrator as he pieces together the mysterious details of a young man’s death, tracing . Khemiri addresses the questions of how literature can shine a light on the problems of the present.

- Kamila Shamsie is the author of seven novels: In the City by the Sea; Kartography (both shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize); Salt and Saffron; Broken Verses; Burnt Shadows (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction); A God in Every Stone (shortlisted for the Baileys Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature); and most recently, Home Fire.

Three of her novels have received awards from Pakistan's Academy of Letters. Kamila Shamsie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2013 was named a Granta Best of Young British Novelist. She grew up in Karachi and now lives in London.

This event is being chaired by Ted Hodgkinson, Senior Programmer for Literature & Spoken Word at Southbank Centre.

Part of Nordic Matters

Dates & times

This event has passed.


Royal Festival Hall
Level 5 Function Room, Green Side


Included in Pass
£20, £35

need to know

This event is included in both the World on the Brink Saturday Pass and the World on the Brink Weekend Pass.