European Writers' Festival: The Stories We Tell

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The first European Writers’ Festival at the British Library sees many of Europe’s greatest storytellers gather together for one remarkable, unmissable weekend, to perform and debate the literature and big ideas defining their countries and Europe today.

This event takes place in the British Library.

This is a unique opportunity to come together to enjoy some of the best European prose and poetry in English translation, and to ensure that the cultural networks and exchanges between Britain and Europe continue to thrive as we forge new paths and tackle the challenges of our times. Panels and performances take place over two days, each with different authors and different themes and our dazzling line-up features outstanding writers hailing from over 27 countries.

All events are in English, and will be followed by readings and book signings. 

Organised by the European Union National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC) London in partnership with the European Literature Network and the British Library, and with the support of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Kingdom and the European Parliament Liaison Office in the United Kingdom. The European Writers' Festival is curated by former BBC journalist Rosie Goldsmith, director of the European Literature Network and Editor-in-Chief of the Riveter magazines.

With book sales from South Kensington Bookshop. 

Half price tickets available for Members, Students, Under 26s and other concession groups. 

Programme (also available to download (PDF))


Each panel discussion lasts approximately 75 minutes, followed by readings and book signings.

11:30 Doors open

12:00 – 13:15 Opening Session: Stories from the New Europe

How would we describe the trends and genres of European literature today? Is there still such a thing as European literature (was there ever?) and how has it changed, not only since the fall of the Berlin Wall but since Covid, Brexit and Russia’s war against Ukraine? Should we actually be talking about national or regional literatures instead? And what about that old east-west divide – has it finally disappeared for writers? Do writers believe they have a role in defining the ideas of Europe today - should they be public activists, or can they still just be writers? To open the festival join us for a lively discussion with our first panel of leading voices from Europe.

With Viola Di Grado (Italy), Zsófia Bán (Hungary), Jan Carson (Ireland), Georgi Gospodinov (Bulgaria) and Witold Szabłowski (Poland). Chaired by Rosie Goldsmith.

14:00 – 15:15 Freedom to Write: Writing Freedom

Is freedom of expression under threat? Freedom - to speak, write, read, create, discuss, travel, cross borders and perform in public - is the holy grail of writers. Freedom is also the foundation stone of the European ideal but assaults on these basic human rights are growing, as are the efforts needed to protect them along with the rights of women, disabled people, LGBTQ+, refugees, immigrants and many others. Individual lives and livelihoods are at stake – these are not abstract notions for most writers. So, how should we defend our freedoms and how do writers reflect these issues, not just in their own countries but in their own lives? Join a panel of star European writers.

With Magda Cârneci (Romania), Vigdis Hjorth (Norway), Monika Kompaníková (Slovakia), Caroline Lamarche (Belgium) and Mithu Sanyal (Germany). Chaired by Tahmima Anam.

In partnership with English PEN

16:00 – 17:15 War and its Aftermath
With Russia’s war against Ukraine overshadowing everything, a panel of award-winning writers from Ukraine and across the continent come together to discuss Europe’s wars past and present, and to ask, have we learned nothing? Reaching back centuries, coming-to-terms with the horrors of World War, and placing us at the very centre of war in Europe today, hear how our panel of exceptional European writers tackle the subject of war and its aftermath as they live through it or assess its impact from the distance of decades. Can literature help us to explain and understand war? In the case of Ukraine, is it actually possible to write prose and poetry when you’re in the midst of madness and destruction?

With Kai Aareleid (Estonia), Chitra Ramaswamy (Scotland), Olena Stiazhkina (Ukraine) and Nachoem Wijnberg (Netherlands). Chaired by Claire Armitstead.


Each panel discussion lasts approximately 75 minutes, followed by readings and book signings.

11:30 Doors open

12:00 -13:15 Writing About History

To begin our second day of the festival we take on the mighty topic of history writing. From Ottoman Turkey to Ancient Rome, history is at the heart of today’s European stories. Whether it’s through a gripping multi-generational family saga, a graphic novel about exile and deportations or the story of a first century Roman eccentric, history provides an endless resource for Europe’s writers. But why do we so often look back for our best stories? Does writing about history provide lessons for - and help us understand - the present or is it pure escapism for writers and readers?

With Raphaela Edelbauer (Austria), Jurga Vilė and Lina Itagaki (Lithuania), Harald Voetmann (Denmark), Defne Suman (Turkey) and Katerina Tučková (Czech Republic). Chaired by Georgina Godwin.

14:00 – 15:15 Stories Of Language And Translation

Alongside a healthy boom in most of Europe in modern language learning, translation and dialect, and the positive promotion of minority and regional languages, there is also the unhealthy reality of nationalism, Brexit, MFL decline, lack of investment or risk-taking – and the impact that has on creativity, publishing and cultural relations between the countries of Europe and Britain. We hear from a batch of brilliant writers at the forefront of change and of new approaches to translation and language.

With Núria Bendicho (Catalunya), Elias Maglinis (Greece), Elena Medel (Spain), José Luís Peixoto (Portugal), and Raibīs (Latvia). Chaired by Daniel Hahn.

16:00 – 17:15 Looking Forward

We hope our gathering of remarkable writers from Europe is proof of how the best European culture can create insight, inspiration and entertainment, as well as foster a valuable sense of community – even when culture seems to be running counter to politics. For our grand finale, we survey what we’ve seen and heard over the weekend with some valuable analysis, and focus on the future of European literature, with some fun, festivity, and dare we say, odes to joy! A celebratory final session of reflection, sci-fi, utopia and pioneering poetry.

With Anthony Anaxagorou (Cyprus), Emmi Itäranta (Finland), Charlotte van den Broeck (Flanders), Olivier Guez (France) and Ana Schnabl (Slovenia). Chaired by Bee Rowlatt.

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Please arrive no later than 15 minutes before the start time of this event. We are committed to the safety of our event bookers. Find out how we are welcoming you to the Library safely. 

This event will not be live-streamed.

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Name: European Writers' Festival: The Stories We Tell
Where: Pigott Theatre
The Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: From £5 – £17
Scroll down to book
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546