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Best Reads of 2016 from Free Word

  • By Sophie Freeman
  • 21st December 2016
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As the end of the year approaches, we look back at Free Word's best reads of 2016. Here are eight of our favourite essays and blogs by guest writers from around the world.

This year we’ve shared the work of some fantastic writers from around the world. These writers have revealed their thoughts and expertise on a wide range of issues – from exploring what Brexit might mean for literary translation, to the five best fictional survival guides for a rapidly changing world. These eight blogs and essays are just some of our favourites from 2016 – our Free Word best reads. Take the time to find one you missed or rediscover a forgotten gem.

1. Giddy-up fast, giddy-up slow, to a wondrous land, on we go!

Our event during Refugee Week in June explored stories of migration. Ahead of this event, Wioletta Greg (Grzgorzewska) asked young Polish immigrants in the UK how it feels to be part of two cultures. Their responses – translated by Anna Hyde – are at once touching and humorous accounts of family, friendship and tradition.

I prefer to speak Polish at home but sometimes I run out of words.”
Feluś from Newport, 7 years old

Salma, poet and novelist

2. The Book Inside: My Writing and I

This year, The Literary Consultancy (TLC) celebrated 20 years of work with writers. In November, as part of TLC’s 20th Anniversary Conference, Free Word asked four international writers to explore the theme ‘The Book Inside’. All four are part of our best reads list, but we’ve chosen to highlight Salma, a poet and novelist from a small village in southern India who explored the challenges she has faced as a writer. She shares how the act of writing has allowed her to free herself.

My longing for liberation
became the theme of my poems.”

3. Postcard from a Floodplain Near You

One of our favourite essays from 2016 looks at what happens when flooding (literally) hits home. Rachel McCarthy, a climatologist and poet, writes about her experience of the French floods in May this year. She looks at how we must act now – together – to adapt for the future.

In my years as a climatologist I’ve examined a lot of extreme events,
but this is the first flood 
I’ve been caught in. It’s an experience
no numbers or percentiles can explain.”

4. What Brexit Means for Literary Translation

Fourth on our list of best reads looks at a pivotal moment in the year. Following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, translator Lindsey Ford explored the implications of Brexit for literary translation. We also asked experts on free expression and the climate movement to explain the challenges and opportunities that this outcome brings to these issues.

The potential loss of freedom of movement would have major
consequences on all sides of the translation equation.”

5. Climate Changed: Five Fictional Survival Guides

Photograph: Jared Erondu

Here’s a best read of the best books looking at our environment. Our climate and our world are changing rapidly around us, a fact that can sometimes feel overwhelming. During COP22 in November, Mary Woodbury from eco-fiction.com shared five books to help us harness human nature for the greater environmental good.

There are plenty of ways to stand up,
but one way to cope is to take a breath
now and then and read fiction.”

 6. Free Speech at Universities

Free speech within university settings has been widely debated this year. In April, we asked Robert Sharp from English PEN to explain the concept of No Platform and what it means for freedom of expression.

When the media and free speech campaigners use the phrase
‘No Platform’ as a short-hand 
for more complex controversies,
their arguments 
lose credibility with those on the other side
of the debate.”

7. The Book of Khartoum

Writer and translator Raph Cormack discusses The Book of Khartoum, a short story collection he co-edited, within the context of the political climate in Khartoum, Sudan. This anthology gives English speakers a glimpse into the cultural life of the city.

Very early on, we decided that, as much as would be possible,
our choices would be primarily literary and not political.”

8. The Norwood School Anthology

We return to school for the final blog of our best reads of 2016. Marta Dziurosz, our Translator in Residence for 2015-16, led a multilingual writing project at The Norwood School, London. In this blog, she presents the students’ anthology of bilingual creative writing and reflects on her experiences with the group.

We met for five weeks to talk about translations, words and
to think about communities, cities […]; to suffer writer’s
block and enjoy waves of inspiration; 
and to think about who and
where we are.”

These are just some of our best reads of 2016 but there are even more blogs and essays for you to explore. Make sure you don’t miss out next year; sign up to our newsletter

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