LAF at Off-London Book Fair 2020

10 March 2020 — 12 March 2020
Literary Europe Live Plus

As every year, we planned to be present at the Literary Translation Centre, which we were instrumental in setting up ten years ago, and we had organised the following events in cooperation with the London Book Fair, the PEN Salon and the Poets’ Corner as part of as part of the project Literary Europe Live Plus, supported by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

Unfortunately, the book fair was cancelled at the last minute because of the Covid-19 pandemic and so we recorded two podcasts with the international speakers who had travelled to London, Shalim M Hussain and Omid Tofighian, who were interviewed by Marcia Lynx Qualey. You can listen to the podcasts here:

Literary Translation Centre Tuesday 10thMarch, 13:00–14:00

Displaced Voices: Translating Writing by Refugee and Exiled Authors

In recent years, a number of writers escaping conflict and political persecution have gone into exile or find themselves exiled in their own country through discrimination and censorship. Some of them are seen as giving voice to the experience of displacement or outright political protest, as is the case of the Kurdish Iranian award-winning writer Behrouz Boochani, who denounced the inhuman conditions systematically imposed on asylum seekers in detention. Others, already published and widely known before leaving their country, continue to write for readers some of whom are now part of the same diaspora. What are the challenges displaced writers, their publishers and translators face and how do we ensure that their writing finds new readers across linguistic and cultural barriers while still reaching their own language communities?

Speakers: Ed Doeger (commissioning editor, Poetry Translation Centre, London), Shalim M Hussain (poet, translator, Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi), Omid Tofighian (academic and translator of Behrouz Boochani, University of Sydney), Marcia Lynx Qualey (editor ArabLit, ArabLit Quarterly, Bulaq podcast, Rabat) Chair: Alexandra Büchler (director, Literature Across Frontiers, University of Wales Trinity Saint David)

PEN SalonTuesday 10thMarch, 17:00–17:30

Behrouz Boochani and the Manus Prison Narratives with Translator Omid Tofighian

No Friend but the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison is a literary work typed using mobile phone text messaging and produced after five years of indefinite detention in the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Behrouz Boochani’s Manus Prison narratives represent the fusion of journalism, political commentary and philosophical reflection with myth, epic, poetry and folklore. By experimenting with multiple genres he creates a new literary framework for his uncanny and penetrating reflections on exile to Manus Island and the prison experience from the standpoint of an Indigenous Kurdish writer. In addition, the narratives he constructs function as political and philosophical critique and expose the phenomenon of Manus Prison as a modern manifestation of systematic torture.

Poets’ CornerWednesday, 11 March, 11-11:30

Poetry of Protest with Shalim M Hussain

Shalim M Hussain – poet, translator and rights activist from Assam visiting the UK – will read from his own work, as well as his translations of poems by Bengal-origin Muslims of Assam collectively referred to as “Miyah poets”, a project he will be working onduring his residency as Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow with Literature Across Frontiers and University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The Miyah community are directly affected by the amendments to the Citizenship Act that have sparked widespread protests across India in recent months.

Speakers’ biographical notes

Alexandra Büchler isdirector of Literature Across Frontiers, European Platform for Literary Exchange, Translation and Policy Debate, based in Wales. She has developed a range of initiatives fostering literary exchange and translation within Europe, and between Europe and other global regions, particularly Asia and the Arab world, and frequently speaks about LAF’s work and literary translation in international forums. LAF’s current project, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, focuses on the refugee literary diaspora in Europe.

Edward Doegar is Commissioning Editor of the Poetry Translation Centre. Poet, editor and critic, and was general manager of the Poetry Society from 2013 – 2017. His poems have appeared in various anthologies and journals, including Grantaand Ten: The New Wave, published by Bloodaxe, and his translations have featured in Modern Poetry in Translation and Poetry London. His pamphlet, For Now, was published by clinic in 2017. He is a consulting editor at The Rialto and a fellow of The Complete Works.

Shalim M Hussain is a poet, translator and rights activist from Assam who is completing his PhD at Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi. His first book of poems Betelnut Citywas published in 2019. Post-Colonial Poems, his translation of poetry by the Adivasi poet Kamal Kumar Tanti came out in the same year. Three more books are forthcoming:  a book of translated poems, a travelogue and a work of fiction titled Noir Parrot. He is also putting together his second book of poems tentatively titled Tigers and Bores on Killing Road. He is the 2020 Charles Wallace India Trust Literary Translation and Creative Writing Fellow at Literature Across Frontiers – University of Wales Trinity Saint David with a project of compiling and translating an anthology of poems by Bengal-origin Muslims of Assam collectively referred to as “Miyah poets”.

Marcia Lynx Qualey is a writer (TLS, Guardian, others) and founding editor of the ‘ArabLit’ website (, which won a 2017 London Book Fair “Translation Initiative” prize. She also publishes ArabLit Quarterly magazine, winner of a 2019 Broken Pencil award, and is co-host of the popular “Bulaq” podcast, a discussion and contextualization of Arabic literature. Her co-translation of the co-authored middle-grade novel Ghady and Rawan appeared from University of Texas Press in the summer of 2019, and her translation of Sonia Nimr’s award-winning novel Wondrous Journeys in Amazing Lands is forthcoming from Interlink Books (2020). She is also a co-founder of the “World Kid Lit” and “ArabKidLitNow!” initiatives, both of which seek to engage more young readers with literature in translation.

Omid Tofighianis an award-winning lecturer, researcher and community advocate, combining philosophy with interests in citizen media, popular culture, displacement and discrimination. He is Adjunct Lecturer in the School of the Arts and Media, UNSW; Honorary Research Associate for the Department of Philosophy, University of Sydney; faculty at Iran Academia; and campaign manager for Why Is My Curriculum White? – Australasia. His published works include Myth and Philosophy in Platonic Dialogues (Palgrave 2016); he is the translator of Behouz Boochani’s multi-award winning book No Friend but the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison (Picador 2018); and co-editor of ‘Refugee Filmmaking’, Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media (2019).

The events are organised by Literature Across Frontiersin with support from the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, Arts Council of Wales and Arts Council England.