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Searching For The Words: writing the refugee crisis

Searching For The Words: writing the refugee crisis

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Date(s) - 05/25/2021
1:00 pm - 11:30 pm

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Writing on the Wall


Storytelling is a powerful mechanism in putting us in other people’s shoes. The work of Hassan Blasim and Comma Press’ Refugee Tales anthologies create spaces in which the stories of those who have been detained can be safely heard, where listening becomes an act of welcome. From chess-playing people-traffickers and murdereous storytellers to student protestors and Afghan farmers, join WoWFest as we hear from award-winning Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim and Sunday Times bestselling author Christy Lefteri in conversation with Ted Hodgkinson.

Hassan Blasim is an Iraqi-born filmmaker and writer. Blasim settled in Finland in 2004 after years of travelling through Europe as a refugee. His debut collection The Madman of Freedom Square was published by Comma in 2009 (translated by Jonathan Wright) and was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2010. His second collection, The Iraqi Christ, won the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the first Arabic title and the first short story collection ever to win the award. His debut novel, God 99, was published by Comma Press in 2020. Hassan’s work has been translated into over 20 languages.

Christy Lefteri was born in London in 1980 to Greek Cypriot parents who moved to London in 1974 during the Turkish invasion. Contributor to Comma Press’ Refugee Tales Volume 4, and author of the Sunday Times bestseller The Beekeeper of Aleppo, a moving and powerful story born out of her time working as a volunteer at a Unicef supported refugee centre in Athens. She completed a degree in English and a Masters in creative writing at Brunel University. She taught English to foreign students and then became a secondary school teacher before leaving to pursue a PhD and to write. She is also studying to become a psychotherapist.

Chaired by Ted Hodgkinson, broadcaster, editor, critic, writer and Head of Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre. Formerly online editor at Granta magazine, his essays, interviews and reviews have appeared across a range of publications and websites, including the Times Literary Supplement, the Literary Review, the New Statesman, the Spectator, the Literary Hub and the Independent. He is a former British Council literature programmer for the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. He sat on the selection panel for the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Fellowship, the EBRD Literature Prize 2019 for the best novel in translation and the 2019 Orwell Prize for political writing and has judged a number of other awards. In 2018, for a second consecutive year, he was named in The Bookseller’s list of the 100 most influential people in publishing. In 2020, he was made a Trustee of English PEN.

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