“Literature is knowledge. Fiction is knowledge. It is a particular kind of knowledge – ambiguous, imprecise, impossible to quantify – but it affords us an understanding of others that is unavailable elsewhere. Ideally, it has the ability to destroy clichés and break down prejudice. If this doesn’t result in connection across borders, I don’t know what will.” Juan Gabriel Vásquez
“I believe that literature helps us cross lines and borders. An author’s sensibility and the emotion that a text creates are stronger than language. Every time a book is translated, a miracle occurs when the intimate experience of reading it is reproduced in the new language.” Faïza Guène
“Writing can offer the global community exactly that – community. By sharing each other’s experiences through literature we are given the opportunity to understand that most of our concerns as human beings are similar even though they play out differently in different environments. In these days of globalisation, climate change and a strange new force in the world that informs us the progress we thought we had made as human beings might not be as admirable as we thought, sharing experiences can lead us to engage seriously with the idea that though the boat is large according to human concepts of space, it is nevertheless a single boat and we are, all of us, in it.” Tsitsi Dangarembga
The Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the UK’s charity for the advancement of literature, has announced the authors honoured in the second year of the RSL International Writers programme. This annual, life-long award recognises the contribution of writers across the globe to literature in English.
Twelve authors from countries all over the world whose work spans essays, literary fiction, plays, poems and non-fiction have been brought together this year in recognition of their work. They are: Anne Carson, Maryse Condé, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Cornelia Funke, Mary Gaitskill, Faïza Guène, Saidiya Hartman, Kim Hyesoon, Yōko Ogawa, Raja Shehadeh, Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Samar Yazbek. They will join the inaugural RSL International Writers, Don Mee Choi, Annie Ernaux, David Grossman, Jamaica Kincaid, Yan Lianke, Amin Maalouf, Alain Mabanckou, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Claudia Rankine, Olga Tokarczuk and Dubravka Ugrešić, who were appointed in 2021. A celebration of literature’s power to transcend borders and bring people together, the programme forms an ever-expanding global community of writers.
The RSL International Writers programme was announced as part of RSL 200, a five-year festival launched in 2020 with a series of major new initiatives championing the great diversity of writing and writers in the UK. Readers and writers were asked to recommend writers outside the UK for nomination. Daniel Hahn chaired a panel of Fellows and Honorary Fellows including Mojisola Adebayo, Nick Barley, Sharmilla Beezmohun, Maureen Freely, Nadifa Mohamed, Daljit Nagra, Nell Leyshon and Katherine Rundell. The panel nominated the RSL International Writers, who were then appointed by Council. The programme is now open for 2023 nominations.
Daniel Hahn, Chair of RSL International Writers Programme 2022 said: “In its second year, the RSL International Writers programme has selected another dozen writers of brilliance and originality, writers who have reimagined the possibilities of their genres and forms. It is a group that ranges widely in preoccupation, in style, in age and in geography; born in ten countries but producing bodies of work that speak to readers and to fellow writers everywhere, transcending borders; and work that, thanks to their translators, now transcends their own languages, too. While many of the names are well known, each of us on the panel encountered new favourites along the way, and so we hope that other readers might similarly be introduced to unfamiliar work that will surprise, challenge and delight. These are twelve great writers, and we’re so pleased to be able to celebrate them.”
Daljit Nagra, Chair of the Royal Society of Literature said: “This list features some of the world’s most exciting authors not only for the light they bear by their writing but also because of the power of their deeds, their ability to bring communities together. They are great writers and they are great ambassadors for the literary community by showing us all that words and actions must work together.”
This year marks the second year of RSL 200 which celebrates the best in British writing past, present and future. The festival examines how writers are remembered, addressing voices lost to history, left unrecognised and uncelebrated in their own time or subsequently. Through RSL 200 the Society is continuing to find new ways to share literature with the greatest number of people across the UK and beyond. Further information can be found on the RSL 200 here and here.
Founded in 1820, the RSL acts as a voice for the value of literature, honouring and supporting emerging and established writers whilst creating a bridge between authors and audiences to engage as many people as possible with the breadth of UK literature.
The RSL is grateful to the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and International Authors Forum for supporting the RSL International Writers programme.