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Where Activism and Imagination Intersect

Past Event

Celebrated Cairo-based novelist and non-fiction writer Basma Abdel Aziz discusses the current moment in Egyptian cultural and political life with English PEN director Jo Glanville. Part of Shubbak Festival.

Cairo-based Basma Abdel Aziz is a psychiatrist specialising in the treatment of victims of torture, a celebrated novelist and non-fiction writer, a sculptor and a poet. The publication of her debut novel The Queue in English translation by Elisabeth Jaquette in 2016 led to her being named one of Foreign Policy’s Leading Global Thinkers for 2016. As an outspoken Egyptian woman working across disciplines and a long-standing critic of government oppression, Basma Abdel Aziz is uniquely placed to comment on the current moment in Egyptian cultural and political life. English PEN Director Jo Glanville hosts this lively conversation.


Basma Abdel Aziz is an Egyptian writer, psychiatrist, and visual artist. Early on, she earned the nickname ‘the rebel’ for her indefatigable struggle against injustice, torture, and corruption. A weekly columnist for Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper, she represents a fresh and necessary female voice in Arabic journalism and fiction. She is the winner of the Sawiris Cultural Award, the General Organisation for Cultural Palaces award, and the Ahmed Bahaa-Eddin Award. She lives in Cairo.

Jo Glanville is director of English PEN. She was an award-winning editor of Index on Censorship and was previously a BBC current affairs producer and documentary maker. She edited Qissat (Telegram), an anthology of short stories by Palestinian women writers. She has written for the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the London Review of Books and the Observer, amongst other publications.

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