Welcome to Free Word. Interested in exploring the political and cultural power of words? Join us at an upcoming event or read about the themes we explore.

At Home in Language?

Past Event

First, second, third language – sometimes it’s surprisingly difficult to tell them apart, especially when creative work is involved. As we acquire a language, we might be tempted to experiment with using it creatively and think about whether we express ourselves in it differently. Jhumpa Lahiri’s recent book In Other Words – originally written in Italian, the author’s third language – is just one example of a writer’s willingness to find their voice anew. Many other writers, such as Aleksandar Hemon and Elif Shafak, also explore the transformative power their writing can exert on English, and vice versa.

Join multilingual writers Vanni Bianconi, Xiaolu Guo and Bohdan Piasecki for a discussion about linguistic mixing and matching, identifying (or not) with a language and self-translation. If you have one, please bring along your own favourite foreign word – we will think about the stories those words tell.

Free Word’s Translator in Residence programme 2015-16 is supported by the Jan Michalski Foundation.

Speakers

Vanni Bianconi was born in Locarno, Switzerland and now lives in London, UK. His poems have been translated into many languages and published in book form, magazines and anthologies. He has published three poetry collections in Italian. In 2016 he published London as a Second Language, his first prose book written in English. Vanni is the founder and artistic director of Babel, a festival of literature and translation, as well as the founder of the multilingual web-magazine Specimen: The Babel Review of Translations.

Xiaolu Guo has published several books in Chinese including essay collections, short stories and film theories. After moving to the UK in 2002, she began to write in English and published 6 books with Random House, including A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers which has been translated into 27 languages. Her most recent novel, I Am China, was longlisted for the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her novelistic memoir, Once Upon a Time in the East, is due to be published in February 2017 by Chatto & Windus.

Bohdan Piasecki is a Polish poet based in Birmingham, UK. He has taken his poems to venues ranging from the upstairs room in an Eastbourne pub to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre; from an underground Tokyo club to a tramway in Paris; from a bookshop in Beijing to an airfield in Germany. In the UK, he regularly features at exciting spoken word nights, festivals, and readings. Bohdan actively seeks out collaboration opportunities with other artists; he is currently working on Palimpsest City, a digital/live project using a virtual metropolis as an anthology for spoken poetry.

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