Literature has the power to change lives, whether on a personal level, in relationships or in politics.  It is something that many people turn to in times of turmoil, such as now in a post-Trump and post-Brexit world; we look to our favourite writers to help us make sense of the world around us.

Across genres, writing has been used as a political tool and works such as Dickens’ Great Expectations and Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth have become infamous for making explicit political statements. Conversely, other writers and artists such as Billy Joel have purposely avoided discussing their politics in public.

In this stellar panel, writers Christopher de Bellaigue, Mona Eltahawy and Damian Flanagan discuss how a writer might negotiate their political views within their career and whether their writing can ever and should ever be removed from the world of politics.

About The Speakers

Christopher de Bellaigue

Christopher has worked as a journalist in South Asia and the Middle East, writing for The Economist, The Guardian, and The New York Review of Books. He is the award-winning author of four books and has made several BBC television programmes. His latest book is The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason.

Mona Eltahawy

Mona Eltahawy is an award-winning columnist and an international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues and global feminism. She is the author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. Her commentaries have appeared in several publications and she is a regular guest analyst on various television and radio shows.

Damian Flanagan

Damian Flanagan is an award-winning author and translator. He has published several books on Japanese literature, including three critical studies of Natsume Soseki and a biography of Yukio Mishima. He has also written widely on East Asian politics, arts and society for numerous newspapers and magazines and has a strong interest in diverse literature from outside the English-speaking world.


About The Chair

Anita Sethi

Anita Sethi is an award-winning journalist, writer and critic who has written for publications including The Guardian and Observer, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Times Literary Supplement, Granta and New Statesman and appeared on BBC radio. She has interviewed many writers, musicians and artists, appeared at festivals around the world, and is a Judge of the Costa Book Prize 2018. She was born in Manchester, UK.