Literature in Exile: Writers and Absence
What does it mean to write ‘in exile’? Find out in this discussion with noted authors Xiaolu Guo, Hassan Blasim and Edmund de Waal.
Chaired by broadcaster Georgina Godwin, the panellists look at what is lost and what is gained when writers are banished from their homelands. How can they engage with their country of origin – and the one that is now hosting them?
This event is part of the centenary celebration of English PEN. The PEN movement has worked with writers forced into exile for many decades, from the German PEN Club in exile, founded in the 1930s, through to current groups dedicated to writers expelled from Eritrea, North Korea and Iran.
Produced in partnership with English PEN.
Hassan Blasim is an Iraqi-born film director and writer. Blasim settled in Finland in 2004 after years of travelling through Europe as a refugee. His second collection, The Iraqi Christ, won the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and was the first Arabic title and the first short story collection ever to win the award. His debut novel, God 99, was published in the UK by Comma Press in 2020.
Xiaolu Guo was born in south China. She published six books in China before moving to London in 2002. Her books include I Am China, which was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction. Her memoir, Once Upon a Time in the East, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has directed several award-winning films and documentaries about China and Britain.
Edmund de Waal is an artist and writer, known for The White Road and his bestselling family memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes. His new book, Letters to Camondo, was published in April 2021. He was awarded the Windham-Campbell Prize for non-fiction by Yale University in 2015. In 2021 he was awarded a CBE for his services to art.
Georgina Godwin is books editor for Monocle 24 and the host of the flagship literary show Meet the Writers, and current affairs programme The Globalist. She is on the board of English PEN and Developing Artists. She has been declared an ‘enemy of the state’ in her birthplace, Zimbabwe, and lives in exile in London.
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