A day of events with writers from across the Arab world

Join a day of conversation and readings with writers from across the Arab world and diaspora. Leïla Slimani, Inaam Kachachi and many others explore contemporary Arab feminism, the rise of queer memoir and creative writing, Kurdish literature in English translation, the contemporary historical novel and more. A festival book stall featuring works by all the day's writers will be provided by Saqi Books.

Presented in partnership with the International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Leïla Slimani

The Endless Wave

New Feminist Writing


What does it mean to be an Arab feminist in 2019? How does the legacy of previous generations intersect with current creative practice and globalised movements like #MeToo? Three artists using diverse artforms discuss and perform their work.

French-Moroccan journalist, commentator and Prix Goncourt-winning novelist Leïla Slimani's recent nonfiction work on Moroccan women's sexuality generated much debate. Award-winning Egyptian graphic novelist and web comic artist Deena Mohamed is the creator of the veiled female superhero Qahera. Badriah al Beshr is a Saudi journalist, chatshow host and novelist known for tackling women's issues.

Chaired by Bidisha

Malu Halasa

Spotlight: New Arab Writing From London

Malu Halasa


Malu Halasa has co-edited five anthologies on Middle East culture and politics. Her debut novel, Mother of All Pigs, unveils contemporary life in Jordan, as one family confronts its secrets over the course of a weekend's festivities. At times witty and energetic, compassionate and awe-inspiring, an Arabic translation is forthcoming in 2020. Malu Halasa reads from and discusses her novel and practice.

"Halasa exhibits some of the verve and complexity of Naguib Mahfouz's incomparable Cairo Trilogy."

New York Times

Chaired by Jo Glanville

Khaled Alesmael (c) Fadi Khattab

Bold Voices

New Queer Writing


Building on Shubbak's 2017 inaugural queer panel, Bold Voices brings together a new range of artists at the cutting edge of LGBT+ creative expression. Three artists from this exciting and defiant scene present their approach ranging from comics to storytelling and activism.

From Beirut comes poet, playwright and actress Dima Mikhayel Matta, the founder of Beirut's storytelling platform Cliffhangers. Syrian Swedish novelist Khaled Alesmael's Selamlik, a homoerotic depiction of Syria, has sold over 2,000 copies in Sweden. Joseph Kai, whose comics centre around the unspoken, marginalization and gender, is editor at the Lebanese collective Samandal.

Chaired by Puck Khalaf

Dima Wannous

Spotlight: New Syrian Fiction

Dima Wannous


Damascus-born Dima Wannous is a writer and cultural journalist. She has written for multiple Arab and international newspapers, managed the cultural section of the online magazine Modon, and hosted a cultural TV show from 2008-18. Her second novel, The Frightened Ones, focuses on the notion of fear and how central it is to dictatorship. Shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2018, the novel is about to be published in Elisabeth Jaquette's English translation. Dima Wannous reads from and discusses her novel and practice.

Chaired by Bidisha

Bakhtiyar Ali

Spotlight: New Kurdish Fiction

Bakhtiyar Ali


Bakhtiyar Ali is a prominent Iraqi Kurdish novelist and literary critic, essayist and poet, awarded the prestigious Nelly Sachs Prize in 2017. His novel I Stared at the Night of the City was a bestseller in Iraqi Kurdistan and made history as the first Kurdish novel ever to be published in English translation. He is joined by his translator Kareem Abdulrahman, currently completing the translation of Ali's next novel The Last Pomegranate, to read an exclusive extract and to discuss contemporary Kurdish literature in the Arab region and beyond.

Chaired by Bonnie Greer

Ruqata Izzidien

Telling The Past

Contemporary Arab Historical Novels


Many Arab writers create historical novels to recast fraught histories. What are their motivations and methods in approaching history through the creative lens? Twice shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Iraqi writer Inaam Kachachi's novels focus on contemporary Iraqi history. Iraqi-Welsh writer Ruqaya Izzidien's debut novel features Iraqi, Welsh and English characters in WWI Baghdad. Sudanese IPAF-shortlisted author Hammour Ziada's latest historical novel examines cycles of oppression through twentieth-century Sudan. Palestinian novelist Rabai al-Madhoun's IPAF winning Destinies, Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba is a four-part epic of the Palestinian exodus and right to return.

Chaired by Laleh Khalili

Presented with additional support from Cockayne Grants for the Arts and London Community Foundation, Drosos Foundation, Institut français du Royaume-Uni and Qatar Foundation International. Dima Wannous and Bakhtiyar Ali's presence is supported in association with Literature Across Frontiers as part of the project Literary Europe Live Plus co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.


Sun 30 June 2019


More info


Day passes
£18 | £16 | £14


Half day passes
£12 | £10 | £8

12pm–3.30pm or



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