Events
  • Follow UCL on social media

    UCL Twitter feed YouTube channel UCL Facebook page UCL SoundCloud UCL SoundCloud
  • A A A

    One Day in the City: In conversation with Kazuo Ishiguro

    By Sophie E Pleterski, on 4 July 2014

    An unmissable event – UCL’s One Day in the City and Harper’s Bazaar came together to host John Mullan, head of UCL English Language & Literature and former Man Booker judge, in conversation with Kazuo Ishiguro in the packed Darwin Lecture Theatre.

    kazuoishiguro1

    Writer Kazuo Ishiguro

    The Booker Prize winning author was on form. In a day devoted to London in fiction, Ishiguro, or Ish, as he was called by John, announced “I came to explain why I don’t set my novels in London… I’m a bit anti-London.” Excellent start.

    The conversation ranged extensively from settings in fiction to Ishiguro’s literary method, writers in London and the peccancy of political naivety in an author.

    Ish established from the start the distinction between a novel’s setting and its world: “every novel should have a strong sense of its own world, whether it be severe, bizarre, dark or noire-ish… and the psychological and physical laws that operate in that world.”

    The setting, meanwhile, has more to do with the public preconception of a place such as London, Paris in the 20s or New York in the 80s. He cautioned against the use of a setting without acknowledging its reverberations – what kind of noise it creates – adding wryly that “a writer who uses a setting like Nazi Germany without taking into account the Nazis is at best naïve.”

    Ishiguro’s antagonistic relationship with settings began with his early novels A Pale View of the Hills (1982) and An Artist of the Floating World (1986). Westerners, knowing little about Japan, tended to take his novels too literally within the context of their Japanese setting. They assumed that he was trying to teach the reader about the Japanese mindset of the time.

    (more…)

    Language machines – An Evening with Abdelkader Benali

    By Guest Blogger, on 7 February 2014

    pencil-iconWritten by Stefanie van Gemert, PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at UCL

    abdelkader_benali_2In the life and work of the Dutch writer Abdelkader Benali (1975) themes of travelling, migration and movement are closely connected. Benali has lived in Beirut, Rotterdam and Rome, and uses these and many other places as backdrops of his literary imaginings.  During the Travelling and Translation event at UCL’s new Centre for Low Countries Studies, the author explains how traveling can set off ‘language machines’.

    An accomplished long-distance runner, Benali is always on the move. Before he came to London, he ran the Marrakech half marathon in an hour and a half. Morocco also provided the scenery for his debut novel Wedding by the Sea (in Dutch: Bruiloft aan Zee (1997)), which launched him into the Dutch literary scene at the age of 21. In the novel Benali created alluring images of migrants returning to, what he calls, ‘their authentic place’.

    Having moved from Morocco to the Netherlands himself at 4 years old, he argues that the impact of migration sharpened his sense of early memories. Whilst learning Dutch at his new school, he intuitively understood that grammar positioned him in a complex society: ‘I am; you are; he is… I soon realised that language is always about social relationships.’

    (more…)

    No Need for the Great Arab Spring Novel

    By news editor, on 3 February 2012

    Abdelkader Benali and Hisham Matar discuss literature and revolutions at an event attended by Stefanie van Gemert.

    With Time Magazine recently choosing ‘The Protester’ as Person of the Year 2011, it seems a relevant question to ask whether art is capable of protest, of revolting against tyranny.

    On 26 January the authors Hisham Matar (In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance) and Abdelkader Benali (Dutch Writer in Residence 2011-12 at UCL, Wedding by the Sea) discussed this topic at ‘Time Travels in Literature and Politics’: literature and its response to political suppression.

    The event was timely – as chair Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship, pointed out: it was exactly a year after the uprising in Egypt. Matar and Benali are both rooted in the Arab-speaking world: Benali was born in Morocco, before moving to the Netherlands in 1979, aged four. His first novel, Wedding by the Sea (1996, English transl. 2000), discusses a theme that he would often revisit, that of the intermingling of East and West, aptly visualised by his latest title Oost=West (2011, ‘East=West’).

    (more…)