Violent Phenomena

Celebrating the publication of the new Tilted Axis Press anthology asking questions about whiteness, the canon, and imperialism. Violent Phenomena: 21 Essays on Translation is edited by Kavita Bhanot and Jeremy Tiang.

Frantz Fanon wrote in 1961 that ‘Decolonisation is always a violent phenomenon,’ meaning that the violence of colonialism can only be counteracted in kind. As colonial legacies linger today, what are the ways in which we can disentangle literary translation from its roots in imperial violence? In this anthology, 21 writers and translators from across the world share their ideas and practices for disrupting and decolonising translation.

Hear from four of those writers and translators – Sofia Rehman, Elisa Taber, Sandra Tamele and Nariman Youssef – in a discussion chaired by Kavita Bhanot.

Translation as witness

In this event, Burma-born poet, editor and translator Ko Ko Thett is joined in conversation by Shash Trevett, a Tamil from Sri Lanka who came to the UK to escape the civil war. A poet and a translator of Tamil poetry into English, Shash is currently working on the anthology Out of Sri Lanka: Post-Independence Poetry in Tamil, Sinhala and English from Sri Lanka and its Diaspora Communities.

Discover the importance of translating witness poetry and essays – the politics and ethics, and the challenges, both practical and emotional. Shash and Ko Ko share their own poetry and explore the influence and interconnections between translation and poetry, as well as their relationship to the countries and languages where they were born but no longer live. The event is chaired by So Mayer.

Barcelona, written and translated

This event celebrates the recent publication of The Book of Barcelona, the latest in Comma Press’s city series. The city of Barcelona is a melting-pot of cultures and the stories in The Book of Barcelona tell its myriad truths.

We bring together two Catalan writers – Jordi Nopca and Carlota Gurt – with their translators, Mara Faye Lethem and Mary Ann Newman, to talk about their Barcelona stories, as well as their writing more generally and the translation process.

The event is chaired by Erica Hesketh.

Stitching Stories

We explore how art and craft inform the way we can write and tell stories in a more tactile way.

Lorina Bulwer was a Victorian woman who spent her time in the Great Yarmouth workhouse embroidering angry letters to the world. Ruth Battersby Tooke, Curator of Costume and Textile at Norfolk Museums, gives an illustrated introduction to Lorina, whose samplers remain an inspiration today.

Then, three writers from around the world – Jennifer Anne Champion in Singapore, Mariko Nagai in Tokyo and Sally-Anne Lomas in Norwich – talk about their encounter with Lorina Bulwer’s embroidery and where it has led them in their own literary work. Their discussion is chaired by historical fiction novelist Sarah Bower.

Read how Jennifer Anne Champion explored textile traditions in Singapore and Norwich, to see how this may translate into her poetry →

Read five pieces of useful writing advice from Jennifer Anne Champion →

Read Jennifer’s virtual walk around Norwich →

Crossing Boundaries

What does it mean to be an ‘outsider writer’? The correlation between access and privilege in our societies means that certain narratives get more airtime than others and that whole segments of society—migrant communities, minority groups, working class writers, for example—have to cross boundaries to express and share their experiences.

In this event, three writers from different backgrounds and segments of their society – Liyana Dhamirah from Singapore, Rolinda Onates Española from the Philippines and Eva Verde from the UK – share their experiences, their work and approaches to storytelling, and their journeys towards and with writing as a form of expression and engagement.

The event is chaired by Singaporean author Nuraliah Norasid.

This event was curated with Nuraliah Norasid as part of her virtual residency with NCW, generously supported by the National Arts Council of Singapore.

International Translation Day: Out in the World

This event to celebrate International Translation Day 2021 explores the political and practical challenges of literary translation from the perspective of translators from three countries: Argentina, Vietnam and Nepal.

Our three panellists – Sebastián Gutiérrez, Nguyễn An Lý and Rabi Thapa – share their thoughts on the importance of both literary and theatre translation for opening up inner and outer worlds. They talk about the power of theatre and translation for exploring identity and equality, their work to bring literature from Nepal and Vietnam into other languages, and whether what Sebastián, An Lý and Rabi choose to translate is in some way a political decision.

The discussion is chaired by Olivia Snaije.

Translation as a Creative Act

Fidelity has been hailed as the mark of a good translation. Yet, some of the most popular translations are marked by departures from the original source text – a case in point being Antoine Galland’s French version of the Arabian Nights, which added Aladdin and Ali Baba to the compendium.

Moderated by poet and translator George Szirtes, this session will explore translation as a creative act with panellists Shash Trevett, Sawad Hussain and Nazry Bahrawi. They will share their struggles with taking liberties to make creative changes to an original text, sharing concrete examples of how they had done so and why. They will also discuss the implications of recognising the translator’s right to exercise creative license to the literary arts as craft and industry.

Journeys of Discovery

Meet three exciting European writers – Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida from Portugal, Goran Vojnović from Slovenia and Wioletta Greg from Poland – and hear them talk about their latest books to appear in English translation.

All three books bring us stories of young people who are coming of age and understanding their place in the world. They explore the vagaries of identity and belonging, family, self and history. Their protagonists are discovering own path the world, whether it’s in post-Soviet Poland, post-colonial Portugal or 20th century Slovenia. The authors share an interest in experimenting with form, resulting in a hybrid novel with digressions; a novel composed of intertwining stories; and a short novel making poetry out of daily life.

Djaimilia, Goran and Wioletta are in conversation with our chair Erica Hesketh, chief executive of the Poetry Translation Centre.

Coastlines and waterways

Hear more about how three of our UNESCO writers have spent their virtual residency exploring waterways and coastlands, creating connections between Norwich and their own UNESCO cities of literature.

Lynn Buckle is interested in the shared landscapes of Norwich and Dublin, both built on watery fens – bog or portach as Gaeilge. Tributaries can be followed in and out of both cities and Lynn is interested in the buried canals, rivers, and the stories which they can tell. She has produced a video of written work based on these shared elements, in the form of polyphonic voices, using literary collage as a technique, combining verse and prose, fiction and non-fiction.

Vahni Capildeo’s daily journal entries for ‘Lighthouse and Anchorage’ take various forms: reflections, notes, fragments of poetry. Their method was simple: walking a small part of the north Edinburgh coastline, thinking towards Norwich and sometimes thinking through Julian of Norwich and Robert Louis Stevenson, and other local authors. This sending of the mind outwards and back, while the body moves, weaves the two cities into a relationship over time. Julian the anchorite in her cell, and Stevenson the traveller, helped Vahni tune their lockdown feelings about dwelling, distance, and return.

‘Stark coastal scenes. Incessant North Atlantic winds. Fish, give or take chips. An illustrious literary history, going back to the Middle Ages. And Vikings. On the face of it, Norfolk and Iceland are the same place, separated by a patch of water. Although preliminary research suggests that Norfolk is rather more flat.’  Valur Gunnarsson has been walking along Reykjavik’s coastline, exploring the impact of history and landscape on writers such as W.G. Sebald and Halldór Laxness, who wandered these respective coasts and mused about their heritage.

Lynn, Vahni and Valur are in conversation with Patrick Barkham, whose writing reflects his own fascination with water, coastlines and life on islands.

With thanks to the ACE Ambition for Excellence Fund for supporting the UNESCO virtual residencies, and to our partners in Dublin, Edinburgh and Reykjavik UNESCO cities of  literature.

The View From Afar

What is it like to visit and write about a city that is hundreds (or thousands!) of miles away during a pandemic? How can this distance shape your writing? Hear about how two of our UNESCO writers have been viewing Norwich from afar during their month-long virtual residency with the National Centre for Writing.


In a time when most of us can mostly only travel beyond our known boundaries by means of the internet, we will explore the truths in these virtual views. Modern life is watching us – through webcams and traffic cameras – so Liz Breslin spent a month watching it back, writing what she saw, and sharing her views from the other side of the world.

Marcin Wilk used his virtual residency to enter the unknown space of a foreign city and see how his imagination worked. He explored The Book Hive and other independent bookshops in Norwich, their history and the people who run them, and looked through the prism of bookshops at the local community, the book market, and the city.

Liz and Marcin are in conversation with Megan Bradbury, whose novel, Everyone is Watching, about New York City, was researched mostly in Edinburgh. She also has over ten years’ experience as a bookseller.

With thanks to the ACE Ambition for Excellence Fund for supporting the UNESCO virtual residencies, and to our partners in Dunedin and Krakow UNESCO cities of literature.

European Writers on War and Conflict

We explore how European writers deal with war and conflict. Swedish writer Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde’s novel What We Owe explores the aftereffects of the Iranian Revolution on one family’s life. Belgian writer Jeroen Olyslaegers’ novel Will, set during World War II, explores how we deal with evil, whether we act or don’t, how we are complicit. Cypriot writer Constantia Soteriou’s novel Bitter Country is about the events in Cyprus leading to the creation of the Green Line and uses women’s voices as a chorus talking about the impact of war and the disappearance of their sons.

The writers will be in conversation with our chair, Northern Irish writer Jan Carson.


In partnership with EUNIC, Flanders House, the Embassy of Sweden and the Cyprus High Commission.

Who is This Mythical English Reader?

On the eve of International Translation Day we will bring together four literary translators from around the globe: Jen Wei Ting in Singapore, Anton Hur in Korea, Somrita Urni Ganguly in India and Gitanjali Patel in the UK. Their wide-ranging conversation with chair Daniel Hahn will encompass who we are translating for – that mythical English reader – and how that has an impact on translators’ creativity, as well as translation as activism and the global translation community.

We will also hear about their own routes into literary translation as we announce the winners of this year’s Emerging Translators Mentoring Scheme in its tenth anniversary year.

Download the transcript.

In partnership with the British Centre for Literary Translation.

Verzet: New Dutch Writing Chapbooks Launch

Celebrating the launch of VERZET, a collection of beautifully designed chapbooks published by Strangers Press which showcases the translated work of eight of the most exciting writers working in the Netherlands today. For this event, writer, editor and translator Daniel Hahn was in conversation with VERZET contributing writers Karin Amatmoekrim and Thomas Heerma van Voss, and translators Alice Tetley-Paul and Jozef van der Voort. A live Q&A then follows.

In partnership with Strangers Press and New Dutch Writing.

New Dutch Writing

We teamed up with New Dutch Writing for a series of virtual conversations between writers and their translators. Exploring the most exciting new books of 2020, these events shone a light on the new Dutch masters of fiction and poetry. Watch the full events via YouTube below.


Meet the World: Tommy Wieringa & Sam Garrett

We were delighted to welcome bestselling Booker International longlisted Dutch author Tommy Wieringa and his translator Sam Garrett for a discussion of their latest novel in translation, The Blessed Rita. Set in a remote farming district of the Netherlands, The Blessed Rita centres on a group of misfits left behind by globalisation, unable to escape past tragedies and uncertain about their place in society’s future.

Tommy and Sam Garrett’s conversation was chaired by journalist and critic Suzi Feay.


Meet the World: Charlotte Van den Broeck & David Colmer

After first making her mark as a compelling performer, Belgian poet Charlotte Van den Broeck was acclaimed as one of Europe’s most innovative and original new voices in poetry following the publication of her first collection Chameleon. Her first English translation combines her debut volume with her second book Nachtroer (2017), its untranslatable title the name of an all-night shop in Antwerp where she lives.

Writing on identity, bodies and language, Chameleon / Nachtroer is beautifully translated by David Colmer, who joined her at this event alongside chair Sasha Dugdale.


Meet the World: Rodaan al Galidi & Jonathan Reeder

Rodaan al Galidi’s novel Two Blankets, Three Sheets offers a bleakly humorous account of the Dutch Asylum process. Described as ‘essential reading’ by the Guardian and already a bestseller in the Netherlands, it is a big, existential novel about freedom and belonging based on the experiences of the author as a former Iraqi asylum seeker now settled in the Netherlands.

Joining Rodaan for this event is his translator Jonathan Reeder and chair Rosie Goldsmith.


Meet the World

New Dutch Writing

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